: AUSTRALIAN live exporters are “extremely concerned” about the serious nature of fresh allegations of cruelty towards Australian cattle in Gaza, from leaking supply chains in Israel.
Animals Australia says it has made 10 complaints to federal regulators about breaches of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) involving the two countries since last November. Flagrant breaches of the law governing the trade will not be tolerated
Israel is a significant Australian live cattle destination, with almost 100,000 head exported in 2013, valued at $72.8 million, according to MLA statistics.
But exports to Gaza stopped last year when Livestock Shipping Services voluntarily halted trade as a result of animal cruelty allegations.
Animals Australia spokesperson Lisa Chalk said the 10 complaints relating to ESCAS breaches in Gaza had been lodged with the Department of Agriculture and the two most recent two
complaints involved the transfer of more than 1000 cattle from Israel to Gaza, in contravention of a government order.
She said Animals Australia first reported evidence of “horrific abuse” of Australian cattle both in the approved and non-approved abattoirs in Gaza last November.
But since that time, seven further complaints have been made, supported by graphic vision of “shocking slaughter practices, including the stabbing of eyes and slashing of leg tendons.
Ms Chalk said Animals Australia had also presented evidence of Australian cattle being held in Gaza in numerous premises outside of ESCAS-approved supply chains.
“Over the past fortnight, Animals Australia has lodged two further complaints based on information from Israeli and Palestinian sources that over 1000 Australian cattle have been transferred from Israel into Gaza in breach of the Departmental order and ESCAS regulations,” she said.
"It is now eight months since shocking slaughter practices were first reported in Gaza and yet this situation has remained unaddressed.
“Sadly, our fears that ESCAS breaches would continue unless strong regulatory action with commercial implications was taken, have been well-founded.”
Ms Chalk said exporters have been prepared to supply cattle to these circumstances for years, despite the fact local Palestinian people have no capacity to handle large Australian cattle.
She said the blame should not fall on ill-equipped, frightened workers trying to restrain and slaughter animals, but on the wealthy companies supplying animals to them that have no interest in human or animal welfare.
"The fact that there is evidence of ESCAS being blatantly disregarded in Israel and Gaza can mean only one thing - that regulatory action taken thus far against those involved has been ineffective,” she said.
"Cattle producers supplying the Israel trade need to be demanding answers of exporters.
“They had every right to expect that ESCAS would be complied with - now their cattle are once again at grave risk of being horrendously slaughtered."
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive Alison Penfold said the industry was “extremely concerned” but also dealing with the new complaints.
“ALEC is extremely concerned by the content and repetitious nature of the issues at the heart of the complaints which involves Australian cattle moving outside of approved supply chains in Israel to face brutal handling and slaughter in facilities in Gaza,” she said.
“Gross mishandling and slaughter as identified in the complaints has no place in the Australian livestock export trade let alone in any process assuring humane treatment of livestock.
“ALEC is undertaking its own inquiries and will work with the Department on any investigation.
“Flagrant breaches of the law governing the trade will not be tolerated.”
In a statement to Fairfax Agricultural Media, the Department said it had received a number of complaints from Animals Australia regarding Australian cattle in Israel and “possible movement of cattle into Gaza”.
“The Department is committed to thorough investigations - no shortcuts are taken,” the statement said.
“The timely delivery of these reports is a priority for the Department and Minister - this is balanced against the need to ensure a fair and accurate outcome is reached.”
The Department said the investigation reports would be published on its website once complete but there was currently no time frame for their completion and publication.
The Department currently has two investigations under way following a complaint from Animals Australia and a media report, of non-compliance with ESCAS requirements for cattle exported to
Israel and the Gaza Strip, from February and November last year.
Another allegation of non-compliance with ESCAS, and the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock, for unloading a vessel in Israel, is also under assessment.
At Senate estimates hearings in late May, Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon showed photographs to Department officials that she claimed were taken from Gaza.
“I want to show you this very disturbing photograph,” she said.
“It is a cow with a steel rod being stuck into its eye. This one is one with blood all over the ground, also in Gaza.
“The cattle have been shipped in from Israel and then with a small knife the man is going for the throat.”
Western Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back said it was well known there was a black market for ear tags that identify cattle as Australian.
“I ask the question in relation to the apparent cruelty case of an animal in Gaza identified by its Australian ear tag where in fact we understand that the animal had been slaughtered some
months earlier in Jordan in an approved ESCAS facility,” he said.
“As a person well experienced over many years in the live export trade, I reject the assertions that Senator Rhiannon has made - and I want that on record.”
Department of Agriculture deputy secretary Phillip Glyde said as “model regulators” the Department had to verify any information underpinning complaints made against accused exporters.
COLIN BETTLES 10 Jul, 2014 04:00 PMhttp://www.farmweekly.com.au/news/agriculture/cattle/beef/new-live-ex-cruelty-allegations-rattle-industry/2704950.aspx