Australia Investigates Cattle Treatment During Festival of Sacrifice

Credit: ALEC
Credit: ALEC

Published Sep 11, 2019 4:39 AM by The Maritime Executive

Australia's Department of Agriculture is investigating a complaint from Animals Australia about the way cattle were killed in Indonesia as part of this year's Muslim Festival of Sacrifice (Eid).

The Guardian has released an image taken from footage submitted to the government by Animals Australia showing cattle killed in an underground carpark near a mosque in North Sumatra last month. The footage, yet to be released publicly, reportedly shows terrified steers being roped, forced to the ground and held down before having their throats cut in a sawing motion without stunning. They were pulled to the ground by ropes around their legs and rope halters, then dragged by their tails. The slaughter happened in full view, and sometimes within meters, of other cattle. 


Four of the cattle were identified as Australian. International Livestock Exports identified itself as the exporter of the cattle after exporters were shown the footage, and the company has suspended supply to one of its Indonesian abattoirs as a result. 

RSPCA Australia has called for an urgent review into the management of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). The organization says it is highly reminiscent of footage of cattle slaughter screened on ABC’s Four Corners in 2011 which saw a temporary halt placed on live exports to Indonesia at the time. “This new footage would send a shudder down the spine of every northern cattle producer, who expect the welfare of their cattle to be safeguarded under the ESCAS system,” says the RSPCA.

“Every year, thousands of Australian animals are 'leaked' outside of approved supply chains demonstrating the ongoing limitations of the Government’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. This footage graphically depicts the fate that awaits those animals,” said RSPCA Senior Policy Officer, Dr. Jed Goodfellow.

The fact that International Livestock Exports has had 140 facilities approved in Indonesia alone is astonishing, says Goodfellow. Approving multiple slaughter facilities just ramps up the risk of inhumane slaughter and handling and leakage. The Department of Agriculture has already recorded over 20 separate cases of ESCAS non-compliance against International Livestock Exports, including several cases of critical non-compliance, the highest non-compliance rating.

“RSPCA Australia is also concerned about a trend in ESCAS non-compliance investigations where blame is being shifted to the in-market abattoir or facility, which is then periodically suspended to allow the exporter to simply move to the next abattoir down the road,” Goodfellow said.

“Given the number of breaches recorded against this exporter, this shows that there is simply no effective deterrent under the current ESCAS system. It is has become a system of managing animal cruelty incidents rather than stamping them out.

“At the end of the day, the exporter must be held accountable for such breaches, as it is ultimately their decision as to what supply chains the animals are sent into. Better yet, a transition to chilled meat exports would mean Australian animals are slaughtered on Australian soil, instead of being subjected to gruelling journeys only to meet an even more gruelling fate at slaughter.”

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) has said that it is aware of the incident and that the treatment of the cattle was unacceptable.

ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton said: “It is imperative that ESCAS is upheld in market throughout the entire supply chain, that any breaches are identified and resolved and that Australian animals are treated appropriately. As an industry we are committed to upholding the highest standards of animal welfare throughout the entire supply chain. Circumstances of the trade are such that a self-report is not always possible, and we welcome issues being brought to our attention immediately, as this will expedite the protection of animals in a non-compliant supply chain.”

ALEC has welcomed a bill passing Senate this week for an independent Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports to oversee regulation of the industry. “Australia’s livestock export system is world leading and supports thousands of jobs, especially in our regional areas,” says Harvey-Sutton. “The appointment of the Inspector-General will only enhance our systems and improve regulator performance and provide the community with further transparency and assurance around the livestock export industry.”