RSPCA calls for urgent action to address major live export loophole

RSPCA Australia has today called for urgent action by the Australian Government to address a loophole in live export regulations that allows the live export of animals for breeding and dairy production purposes with no protection in importing countries.

The call comes as an ABC investigation reveals horrific images and footage of starving, sick, dead and dying dairy cattle exported by Wellard from Australia to Sri Lanka.

“This is truly a tragic set of circumstances in which both animals and Sri Lankan farmers have been let down,” said RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow.  

“Sadly, it’s a case of another day, another live export disaster.

“It shows the inherent risks of sending Australian animals half-way around the world into countries with significantly different climatic conditions and limited means and capacity to handle and raise Australian animals to acceptable welfare standards.

“Australian exporters have a duty of care to animals they’re sending overseas. That duty doesn’t stop at the point at which they get paid.

“There is currently a loophole in Australia’s live export regulation that you could drive a cattle truck through.

“The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (or ESCAS), which the industry and Government laud as a means of protecting the welfare of animals sent overseas, does not apply to the tens of thousands of breeding and dairy cattle exported every year.

“RSPCA highlighted this gaping loophole when ESCAS was first introduced in 2011 and has repeatedly called for the Australian Government to close it.  

“The only reasonable action now is for the Australian Government to immediately halt the export of animals under this deal with Sri Lanka, and for the ESCAS to be reviewed and expanded to better protect exported dairy and breeder animals.

“The industry has been warned repeatedly that the Australian public will not stand idly by as live exporters continue to jeopardise Australia’s international farming reputation, and condemn thousands of animals to slow and painful deaths,” said Dr Goodfellow.

A previous ABC investigation in 2012 also revealed horrific conditions for Australian dairy cattle live exported to Qatar, with hundreds dying as result of not being provided with adequate food, water and shelter in the desert conditions.

In 2017, Australia exported 51,976 dairy cattle to 13 overseas destinations.