Producers beware – ESCAS review is misleading on animal welfare

The Government’s review of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System provides false assurance to Australian cattle and sheep producers about the welfare of animals exported live from Australia.

The Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) was put in place by the Australian Government following exposure by ABC’s Four Corners in May 2011 of the horrific treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesia.

Heather Neil CEO RSPCA Australia said ESCAS has set a low bar and fails to prevent major suffering for Australian exported animals.

“The report has glossed over the fact that ESCAS does not require animals to be stunned at the point of slaughter, nor requires animals to be held upright for slaughter, meaning they will be fully conscious of the pain and suffering associated with the cut of the throat,” said Ms Neil.

 “Allowing unstunned slaughter is much more than just a ‘potentially adverse animal welfare outcome’ – it is horrific cruelty.

“No respectable animal industry in Australia would dare suggest that only 0.16% of animals experience adverse animal welfare outcomes in their production systems - it shows how desperate the Government is to spin the numbers and hide the real facts from Australian producers about the treatment of their animals overseas.”

Lost in the middle of the report is a sentence that acknowledges the Government does not know how well the reported non-compliances reflect the true non-compliance rate.

"It is important to know that our Government does not inspect or even investigate complaints of ESCAS breaches on the ground in importing countries – that has been left largely to animal advocacy groups.  Any claim that there is widespread or ongoing compliance with all of the requirements of ESCAS has no sound basis in fact,” said Ms Neil.

“Despite clear evidence of Australian cattle being tortured in Gaza, scenes of cruelty as bad as we saw in Indonesia in 2011, as well as sheep dragged and being killed in back streets in other countries, the report acknowledges that no exporter has been prosecuted due to failure to meet ESCAS requirements. 

“The report makes no recommendations as to how the enforcement of the system can be strengthened.”

The RSPCA has significant concerns about the ability of the live export industry to deliver the animal welfare outcomes that are expected by the Australian community, with the report flagging the development of an industry quality assurance scheme.

“The live export industry are proven failures in self-regulation – it is why ESCAS was introduced in the first place.

“Rather than continuing to provide false assurance about the welfare of Australian animals overseas, the Government and cattle and sheep industries need to move away from high risk live exports and continue to expand the much more valuable red meat export market, worth almost $9 billion,” said Ms Neil.