AFTER news broke yesterday of 4179 sheep deaths in August-September 2013, the Department of Agriculture has released compliance investigation reports concerning the handling and welfare of Australian livestock exported to overseas markets.
The reports concern allegations of mistreatment, improper handling and unauthorised movement of animals in importing countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The 4179 sheep died of heat stress during an “extreme weather event” on day 21 of Livestock Shipping Services' (LSS) voyage to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in September 2013. The livestock was carried by LSS vessel Bader III, which loaded another export consignment in Fremantle last Saturday during a heatwave.
Industry members have expressed shock and disappointment about the exceptionally high mortality rate incurred by LSS last year, and also at the treatment of Australian animals in overseas markets outside the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) chain.
LSS - a Jordanian-owned company based in Perth - has already been investigated for two breaches of live export regulations in Jordan and Gaza.
In a statement issued on Friday morning, the Department announced the placement of additional conditions on future live export consignments.
"The Department has determined in some instances handling and slaughter was not consistent with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards or animals left approved facilities demonstrating that an exporter’s ESCAS arrangements were inadequate," the statement said.
The additional conditions on affected exporters include:
restrictions on the use of specific supply chains to reduce opportunities for livestock to exit approved facilities increased supervision of movement of livestock through the supply chain to ensure handling standards are met increased reporting and monitoring obligations to enable for more regular stocktaking of livestock in approved supply chains additional security at feedlots and abattoirs to minimise the risk of theft of livestock.
Exporters have also implemented their own measures, including further training to improve animal handling when animals are being unloaded.
"A strong livestock export industry is a significant contributor to the Australian economy and supports our regional communities," the statement said.
The Department will continue to work with the industry, and the public, and importing countries to ensure the trade continues and animal welfare standards are met."
ESCAS report summaries
Mauritius - Oct 2012
On 21 November 2012, South East Asian Livestock Services Pty Ltd (SEALS) self reported possible non-compliances with the Australian Standard for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) to the Department of Agriculture in relation to the export of a consignment of 2061 slaughter cattle exported to Mauritius.
The consignment departed Australia on 4 October 2012 and arrived in Mauritius on 19 October 2013.
The investigation concluded that three ASEL Standards were not met:
• 1.9 – which requires female slaughter/feeder cattle to be pregnancy tested within 30 days of export and certified in writing not detectably pregnant
• 5.1 – which requires an accredited stockman to remain on board until discharge is complete
• 5.13 – which requires accurate end of voyage reports to be provided to the department.
The Department issued the exporter with a show cause notice. The exporter took corrective actions and the matter was closed. The Department also issued an Exporter Advisory Notice to improve the quality and accuracy of pregnancy declarations.
This consignment was not subject to ESCAS requirements. ESCAS came into effect on 1 January 2013 for slaughter and feeder livestock exported to Mauritius.
Kuwait - Jan 2013
On 30 January 2013, the Department received a complaint from Animals Australia that Australian sheep exported under ESCAS arrangements had been offered for sale and slaughter at locations not included in an approved ESCAS.
Photographs that Animals Australia advised had been taken on 17 and 18 January 2013 at two livestock markets in Kuwait were provided.
The findings of this investigation follow on from those of an earlier investigation into a similar complaint from Animals Australia about sheep being moved to locations outside approved supply chains in Kuwait in August 2012.
The Department’s investigation included assessment of information provided by Animals Australia, departmental records of export consignments, information from the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database and information collected independently by the department.
Three licensed Australian exporters, Emanuel Exports Pty Ltd (Emanuel), EMS Rural Exports Pty Ltd (EMS) and International Livestock Export Pty Ltd (ILE) had received approval to export consignments of sheep to Kuwait under ESCAS arrangements. Those exporters and consignments are the subject of this investigation.
The investigation found that one sheep shown in the photographs was exported from Australia to Kuwait under ESCAS requirements by Emanuel and that it was highly likely many of the other sheep shown in the photographs were also exported from Australia to Kuwait under ESCAS arrangements.
As a result of the investigation and in addition to existing ESCAS requirements, exporters of sheep to Kuwait are required to undertake additional activities designed to strengthen control and traceability within the exporter’s supply chain.
Israel - June 2013
On 21 June 2013, the Department received a complaint from Animals Australia alleging non-compliance with ASEL for sheep and cattle exported to Israel.
Animals Australia alleged that animals exported from Australia were not provided with food and water for 48 hours prior to unloading at Eilat port in Israel. The complaint was based on information provided by a member of the public in Israel.
The department also interviewed three experienced shipboard Australian Government Accredited Veterinarians (AAVs) who have accompanied multiple consignments of livestock to Israel and other destinations.
The AAVs strongly rejected the allegation that livestock are not provided with feed and water for 48 hours prior to discharge.
However, the AAVs reported that feed is routinely withheld from the livestock for up to 12 hours prior to discharge. One veterinarian also reported that on a voyage he accompanied, water was withheld for a period of six hours.
No breaches of Australian regulations were found to have occurred. No regulatory action will be taken.
Jordan - July 2013
On 19 July 2013, Wellard Rural Exports Pty Ltd (Wellard) reported to the department a non-compliance with ESCAS requirements for a consignment of 45,700 sheep exported to Jordan on 2 May 2013.
Wellard advised that 6950 sheep had been slaughtered at an abattoir that was not included in the company’s approved supply chain. The abattoir is on the same site as a feedlot included in the approved supply chain.
The abattoir had been audited on 18 May 2013 and found to be compliant with ESCAS requirements. Wellard applied to the department to have the abattoir added to their approved supply chain on 10 June 2013. On 7 August 2013 the variation to include the abattoir in the supply chain was approved by the department.
Wellard provided details of the corrective actions the company had put in place. The Department accepted these corrective actions and recorded a minor non-compliance against the company as no animal welfare issues were identified.
Israel - June-July 2013
On 28 June and 2 July 2013, the Department received two complaints from Animals Australia alleging non-compliance with ESCAS and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) welfare outcomes, as required by ESCAS, during the unloading of two vessels in Israel.
The first complaint concerned unloading of sheep and cattle from the Ocean Drover at the Port of Eilat in Israel on 18-19 May 2013. The second complaint concerned the unloading of sheep and cattle from the Bader III at the Port of Eilat in Israel on 16-17 June 2013.
Both were supported by video footage that was provided to Animals Australia from a third party.
The Department’s investigation included assessment of information provided by Animals Australia, departmental records of export consignments, information provided by the two exporters and information collected independently by the department.
The Department determined that there was evidence of non-compliance with the ESCAS ‘Guidance on Meeting OIE Code Animal Welfare Outcomes for Cattle and Buffalo’ and ‘Guidance on Meeting OIE Code Animal Welfare Outcomes for Sheep and Goats’ during the unloading of the Bader III and Ocean Drover.
The department implemented the following requirements for unloading of livestock vessels in Israel: Australian Government Accredited Vet to be responsible to ensure that all of the discharge from the vessel is supervised (by the AAV or a stockman). AAV to complete a detailed report on animal handling at discharge in the End of Voyage (EOV) report which is to be supplied to the department.
Malaysia – Aug 2013
On 21 August 2013 the Department received an anonymous report via email alleging that Australian cattle exported to Malaysia were being managed, handled and slaughtered in a manner not compliant with World OIE recommendations.
The Department’s investigation assessed information provided by the complainant, the exporter, departmental records and information from the NLIS database.
The investigation was unable to confirm the allegations of poor animal handling, management and slaughter.
However, the photographs of ear tags enabled the department to identify the relevant exporter, who subsequently reported loss of cattle from the approved supply chain, and loss of control of the supply chain. This was the first consignment exported to this supply chain.
The exporter has committed to not export any more cattle to this supply chain. The Department will take information from this investigation into account should exporters seek to export to this supply chain in the future.
Bader III - Aug 2013
Mortality exceeded the reportable level in two consignments of sheep exported from Adelaide and Fremantle to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in September 2013.
The reportable level for sheep is two percent. In the Adelaide sheep consignment the mortality rate was 7.28pc while in the Fremantle consignment the mortality rate was 3pc.
The main cause of mortality was heat stress.
The Department approved the subsequent consignment on this vessel that departed Australia in November 2013 subject to a condition that the sheep be provided with 10pc additional space over minimum requirements.
The result for the consignment was 182 mortalities of 77,095 sheep loaded, a mortality rate of 0.24pc. The AAV reported that there was no evidence of heat stress during the voyage.