Australia Reviewing Live Export Trade with Saudi Arabia
Australia has released a parliamentary report which recommends the resumption of Australian live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia.
The Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade released the report for its inquiry on Australia’s trade and investment relationships with countries of the Middle East on May 4.
The report included consideration of ongoing and potential livestock export opportunities and the impact that the implementation of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) has had on Middle Eastern markets. This includes Saudi Arabia, which does not participate in ESCAS and, as such, has not imported Australian livestock since 2012.
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the report outlined the Committee’s recommendation for the Australian Government to explore, in conjunction with the Government of Saudi Arabia, the potential to appoint an independent auditor to monitor the implementation of ESCAS to meet Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty concerns.
“Livestock exporters welcome the Parliament’s focus on re-establishing the export of Australian sheep to Saudi Arabia,” Penfold said. “Historically, the Saudi market has played a very significant role in Australia’s sheep export industry. Naturally, we are very keen to get that trade up and running again with the addition of commercial through-chain oversight and control of animal welfare.”
Penfold said that she hoped there is a willingness by governments to consider alternative but equivalent welfare assurance solutions and that discussions could be reinvigorated in the not too distant future in the context of the Memorandum of Understanding on the livestock export trade between Australia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She said it was worth noting that in the absence of any Australian livestock, Saudi Arabia is currently importing eight million head annually from markets like the Sudan, but has indicated strong interest in a sizeable intake of Australian livestock annually.
“I’m confident a mutually acceptable solution can be found which not only respects Saudi sovereignty but is also consistent with welfare assurance requirements, international OIE animal welfare standards and Saudi Arabia’s own animal welfare laws,” Penfold said.
“As the report points out, it is important that we don’t overlook the importance of live exports to the Middle East. Not only is the trade a vital part of the overall success of Australia’s sheep industry, but it also helps ensure the delivery of quality sheep meat to dinner tables of Middle Eastern families.”
“The four pillars of animal welfare assurance – traceability, control, international welfare standards and independent auditing – remain as relevant and important as ever. It is because of that fact, rather than despite it, we are determined to re-enter the Saudi market.”
Cruelty Continues Despite ESCAS
Animal welfare group Vets Against Live Export says despite assurances to the contrary from government and industry, the live export of cattle, sheep and goats results in immeasurable animal suffering. Animal welfare group the RSPCA is also slamming the performance of live exporters, with a report showing nearly 100 complaints have been made in the past five years, including critical breaches.
The report on the ESCAS from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources includes incidents in Gaza of ‘cattle being forcibly dragged or made to jump off trucks,’ ‘slaughter without the use of appropriate restraint facilities’, ‘the use of multiple cuts and stabbing or sawing motions’, and ‘animals still conscious several minutes after first cut made’.
RSPCA Australia’s Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer, Dr Bidda Jones, said Australians and the producers who sold their live animals into the export market would be appalled by the details in the report.
The parliamentary report is available here.