ESCAS Performance Report Reveals Systemic Neglect of Animal Welfare

The Government’s latest quarterly report into the regulatory performance of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System provides an insight into the shambolic state of the Vietnamese market, during a period in which exporters - with Department of Agriculture approval –pushed for exponential growth.

Fifteen of the 18 reports of non-compliance received during the six-month period from March to August this year concerned Vietnam and involved thousands of Australian cattle.

Many of these animals were sold outside approved supply chains, and likely met the horrific fate of being bludgeoned to death with sledgehammers as exposed on the ABC’s 7.30 report in June this year (*warning – links to video with distressing content*).

In total, the report records 22 findings of non-compliance against seven exporters, including six critical and eight major non-compliances.

Yet again, Livestock Shipping Services features in the critical non-compliances, bringing its total to six critical and seven major non-compliances.

How many more strikes will it take before meaningful sanctions are imposed against exporters?

The continual accrual of critical non-compliances without prosecution or licence suspension makes a mockery of the entire system.

As a live cattle export destination, Vietnam has exploded from 3,353 cattle in 2012, to 311,523 in 2015. That’s an expansion of almost 1,000% in just three years.

What this latest ESCAS compliance report shows is the consequence of that rapid expansion for animal welfare.

Market expansion has clearly been prioritised at the expense of animal welfare. A key question to ask now is: how did the regulator allow this to occur?

Evidently, the Department of Agriculture has failed, not only with respect to applying adequate penalties, but in the way it rubber stamps supply chains.

We would hope this experience would be a wake-up call to the industry, but as exporters push to re-open the Saudi market and expand into China and other developing South East Asian countries, it appears the lessons haven’t been learned and animal welfare will yet again fall by the wayside.

With a reluctant regulator and an industry hell-bent on market expansion, it is clear that a complete overhaul of the regulatory system is required if animal welfare is to receive the attention it deserves.

The RSPCA is Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation and one of Australia’s most trusted charities. The RSPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.