Vet 'threatened', say activists

01 Apr, 2014 01:00 AM
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15
 
If this was a matter of animal welfare, why was the footage withheld?

ANIMALS Australia says the Egyptian vet central to animal cruelty allegations which halted the Australian cattle trade to that market last May, was threatened for bringing evidence to the activist group’s attention.

The Department of Agriculture’s 10-month investigation was handed down this month but failed to resolve lingering questions about the vet’s actions and origins of the video footage he handed to Animals Australia.

When the controversy first erupted, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the vet was employed to oversee animal welfare at the Ain Sokhna abattoir but stood back while the “horrific” acts took place which appeared in the video footage, making no attempt to intervene.

At the time, Egypt’s Ambassador to Australia Dr Hassan El-Laithy said the footage which was shown on ABC TV may have been filmed as far back as 2009.

Dr El-Laithy said there were also claims from some Egyptian officials that the video footage could be linked to “interests within the meat trade that would like to see alternative markets, such as Australia, excluded completely”.

He said the key question was, “if this was a matter of animal welfare, why was the footage withheld?”

“For those whose intention is to achieve a higher standard of animal welfare, it would have been better for this footage to have come forward earlier,” he said.

The vet was interviewed as part of Animals Australia’s investigation and said an abattoir worker and veterinarian took the video footage, “purely for their own amusement and that of others”.

The Department said it received reports the vet had “a number of commercial conflicts of interest” with respect to both the Ismailia and Ain Sokhna abattoirs “that may have influenced the allegations of animal welfare abuse made in his interview”.

The vet’s allegations and that of an abattoir worker were investigated by the Department, based on interview transcripts. But the report said specific allegations about the failings of restraint boxes used at the Ismailia abattoir “could not be substantiated”.

“The Department made a number of attempts to contact the veterinarian and seek further information about the complaint but did not receive a response from the veterinarian,” the report said.

Animals Australia spokesperson Lisa Chalk said after being threatened, it was “entirely understandable” that the Egyptian vet was “reticent to put his family at further risk when the Department had the information they needed to underpin their investigation”.

“Those who have suggested that he was motivated by commercial reasons should hang their head in shame,” he said.

“This vet should be applauded for having the courage to expose the abuse of Australian cattle so that it could be addressed - instead it became the sole goal of some to destroy his reputation.

“It is their motivation that should be questioned, not the Egyptian vet's.”

Western Australian Liberal Senator and former veterinarian Chris Back also expressed disappointment the Department’s investigation failed to resolve key questions about the vet’s alleged links to the video and an ongoing trade dispute over hormone growth promotants (HGPs) in Australian cattle.

While industry imposed a voluntary trade suspension last May, live trade with Egypt had been in hiatus since August 2012 when Egypt advised that imported cattle couldn’t be treated with HGPs.

At recent Senate estimates hearings, Senator Back questioned the vet’s role in first raising the HGP issue in Egypt in July 2012 - when there was no restriction on HGPs for Australian cattle sold into the $25 million per year Egyptian market.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce declined to comment on the unresolved questions about the vet’s alleged involvement in potential commercial sabotage.

“Rather than getting caught in the prickles of whether that is the case or not the case I’m just happy that the trade is up and running again,” he said.

Mr Joyce was also reluctant to say whether the Department’s investigation processes needed to be changed or given more powers to resolve such issues.

“I will deal with issues as they come before me and if further investigations are needed then we are always prepared to take them on, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture,” he said.

“We know the job that we’ve got to do to improve welfare to earn the trust of the Australian public and that’s the job we’re on at the moment.”

Ms Penfold said the government’s move to adopt ESCAS in Egypt and gain clarity around “HGP freedom” allowed industry to move forward, based on the Minister’s decision.

She said ongoing consultation and discussions between Australian and Egyptian governments and industry had helped reach an agreement to support HGP-free cattle going into the Egyptian market.

She also expressed confidence that Australia would be able to supply enough HGP-free cattle to fill demand in Egypt.

Animals Australia did not respond to a request to provide proof of any threats against the vet. Dr El-Laithy was also contacted for further comment and is considering his response after reviewing the Department’s report.

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FarmOnline
Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

rgovett
1/04/2014 3:28:36 AM

Wow, a bit short on news? Interesting that the vet is accused of standing by and allowing the cruelty to occur and made to look like some type of dodgy character. Well, what does that say for our exporters, ALEC and our government? How is this vet more negligent than they are? Seems to me that the trade is very good at finger pointing and character assassination but very, very poor at taking responsibility and ownership. Oh, and can we have more current news please?
Jo Bloomfield
1/04/2014 5:45:36 AM

When do any of Animals Australia's so called informants ever appear before DAFF to back up their so called evidence. Feb 2012 Indo footage was proven false, Giles abattoir woman never supported her own evidence, Gaza tapes were sourced from internet via you tube stating they used Animals Australia supplied cameras.
Lisa
1/04/2014 2:38:53 PM

Hi Jo Bloomfield - can you please provide information to back up each of the claims you have made as they are not correct ... then I'd be very happy to clarify any misconceptions.Thanks, Lisa (Animals Australia)
Cattle Advocate
1/04/2014 6:00:47 PM

When will AA do a 2nd interview with the Vet in question who already has a working relationship with AA to clarify his HGP concerns about Aus cattle sent to Egypt before Ramadan in 2012 that were passed as fit by 8 Egyptian Inspectors in Aus? Under the circumstances if a whistle blower is being suppressed isnt it doubly important that this voice is heard especially if AA says his motives are beyond question? Everyone should be entitled to the presumption of innocence. Uncertainty where people are forced to make assumptions is bad for our cattle.
Orlando Browning
1/04/2014 6:43:45 PM

The brave vet from Cairo, and Animals Australia are inspirations to all who want an end to Live Export. It is a cruel and corrupt industry which profits from animal torture. It makes me ashamed to call myself an Australian. We will stop this corruption. The Live Exporters will be brought to justice. Good will triumph over evil.
Darren
1/04/2014 8:44:16 PM

I find this gross intimidation of someone reporting shocking animal welfare by vested interests VERY disturbing. I wish the live export industry, DAFF and it's supporters would spend even half the time they spend demonising and harrassing witnesses of the inherent cruelty within their industry and animal welfare groups.....on actually making improvements to animal welfare. Your ongoing dishonest and underhanded bulling tactics designed to divert the attention away from your support for torture in 3rd world countries is pathetic
Sue Head
2/04/2014 4:56:55 AM

Oh dear, Jo, got caught out there making slanderous comments. I might point out that Egypt is under the control of a coup at the moment. We have an Aust. journalist being held in a jail there. Just recently 528 people were sentenced to death there without a trial or legal representation. Just to spell it out because the ignorance in this article is just astounding. There are no human rights in Egypt let alone animal rights. You people live in your first world and pass judgement on those trying to do what little they can in a world of turmoil to improve animal welfare. Shame on you.
Sue Head
2/04/2014 5:10:02 AM

Maybe Jo might like to point out where it says that a person is required to front the Dept. of Ag. when giving evidence. I thought that's what witness statements were for? Just so you know Jo it is the the DA now, not DAFF.
rgovett
2/04/2014 7:30:22 AM

Jo, you have been given a very polite, respectful and clear opportunity to provide the proof of your allegations. A response would, not only be fair and reasonable, but essential given the nature of your claims.
Graham
6/04/2014 5:15:05 PM

Another baseless mud slinging story by Colin Bettles. Alison why was this vet not contacted, you have his details? More spin to keep this trade going at any cost.
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