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All News Updates & Public Comment => Live Export News Updates => : WA Export News March 14, 2013, 03:02:27 PM

: DAFF labelled 'out of touch' over exports. The Veterinarian Feb 2013
: WA Export News March 14, 2013, 03:02:27 PM
DAFF labelled 'out of touch' over exports
 
Veterinarian Lloyd Reeve-Johnson has called for an overhaul of what he labels systemic flaws in the Australian government's live export system.

Reeve-Johnson from Pacific Animal Consulting and Agribusiness visited Mauritius at the request of Animals Australia to report on the status of cattle exported from Australia on the MV Barkly Pearl in October.

Animals Australia became aware of welfare problems on the voyage after being approached by a Mauritian importer. The exporter was Australian company South East Asian Livestock Services.

Reeve-Johnson stated that his investigation revealed problems including misleading paperwork. He is also concerned that the Mauritian slaughter facilities fail to comply with the OIE recommendations sought to be imposed by Australian live export law. 

The primary reason the importer was concerned was that a number of the imported livestock were pregnant and therefore unacceptable for slaughter under Mauritian law.

Australian live export standards also demand that cattle sourced for export as slaughter animals must be determined not to be pregnant by testing no more than 30 days before export and certified by the registered vet or pregnancy tester.

"I have worked internationally with livestock for 20 years and am a great supporter of productivity and commercial enterprise, yet I cannot think of any other commercial situation where there has been less transparency in the paper work or such repeatedly inadequate oversight, "Reeve-Johnson said.

"This is damaging to the livestock trade, to farmers, to the reputation of veterinarians and clearly to the health and welfare of the animals."

Reeve-Johnson said a core issue in the case is "repeatedly flawed and contradictory" paperwork which obscures issues such as pregnancies, deaths of cattle, unaccounted calf euthanasia and poor handling and slaughter facilities.

The Australian Certificate of Health signed by an AQIS-approved vet obtained by Animals Australia states that no female cattle were pregnant at the time of export.

However Reeve-Johnson said two calves were reported as having been born during the voyage; killed and thrown over board but not noted in the onboard veterinarian's report.

He added that four cows were found to be pregnant at slaughter, and nine cows which died in the feedlot in the week after unloading were also found to be pregnant.

According to Vets Against Live Export (VALE),a veterinarian sent by the exporter allegedly told the importer at least 80 further cows and heifers were pregnant before refusing to examine further cattle.

Reeve-Johnson said he witnessed obviously pregnant cattle in the feedlot and noted the ear tag details of four further cows from the shipment with young calves.

VALE spokesperson Sue Foster said the issue of pregnant cattle being exported on live export ships has increasingly emerged as a significant welfare issue in AQIS mortality investigation reports.

"This is the first time independent investigation and veterinary inspection has confirmed the potential extent of the problem," she said.

Reeve-Johnson said there is a systemic fault that has repeatedly recurred since the Cormo Express "and that is a lack of independent veterinary oversight." 

Of high concern to critics of Australian live exports is the fact that AQIS-approved veterinarians are paid and engaged by the exporters. "Inspecting their employer is hardly independent, "Reeve-Johnson said.

"Given these recurring problems one would think that DAFF would ensure veterinary oversight and monitoring of all livestock exports becomes patently independent with no connection to those making profit from the trade.

“Veterinarian reports should be readily accessible to public scrutiny if any degree of public confidence is to be restored in the industry and veterinarians are to avoid [implication] in unacceptable practices."

A further problem identified by Reeve-Johnson was that while the on board veterinarian reported to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) that there had been 18 deaths during the voyage, it appears that the ship's captain reported to Mauritian authorities there were no mortalities during the voyage and two deaths during discharge.

The senior veterinary official in Mauritius noted that there was a discrepancy of 18 cattle between those reportedly carried on the ship (2061) and those unloaded (2043), and requested an explanation.

Reeve-Johnson also noted emaciated Australian cattle in the Mauritian feedlot, an abnormal number of deaths in the feedlot in the months after transportation, and evidence that the onboard veterinarian had no supply of antibiotics well before the end of the voyage.

Documents obtained by Reeve-Johnson also indicate that while there was an approved veterinarian onboard, there was probably no stockman as required by Australian live export standards.

Finally, Reeve Johnson met with Mauritian authorities and discovered that while Mauritian slaughter facilities (which commonly include roping and casting of animals and home slaughter) were unlikely to comply with the new live export regulations, there had been no inspection from Australian authorities.

The Divisional Veterinary Officer in charge of monitoring the abattoir told Reeve-Johnson that there had been no visit by an Australian official for at least two years, despite the fact that Mauritian facilities are required to be approved under the Export Supply Chain Assurance Program (ESCAS). 

In April 2012, the South African program Carte Blanche reported dire conditions for cattle during a Barkly Pearl voyage from the UK to Mauritius, with animals lying in faeces and being subject to violence.
Animals Australia has demanded an inquiry into the voyage.

"DAFF has repeatedly demonstrated it is out of touch with reality in importing countries,” Foster said.

"The prevalence of rope slaughter in Mauritius, unacceptable even under minimal OIE recommendations, shows that it is highly unlikely that there will be compliance with ESCAS requirements.

"DAFF should refuse to authorise shipments to Mauritius until its own officers have been able to verify the adequacy of animal welfare standards in country and on ship."

A DAFF spokesperson said South East Asian Livestock Services Pty Ltd self-reported non-compliances associated with a consignment of Australian cattle to Mauritius.

"DAFF commenced a formal investigation on the day the report was made, "the spokesperson said.

"The investigation will consider a range of issues arising from the consignment, including the role of accredited veterinarians. Any material referred to the department is considered as a matter of course.

"It will take as long as needed to ensure all information is thoroughly examined and a response is made proportionate to the findings."

The spokesperson added that DAFF will report on the outcomes of the investigation when complete.


•SAMWORRAD