Australia: Second Live Export License Canceled

Credit: Animals Australia

Published Sep 5, 2018 7:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australia's Department of Agriculture has canceled the livestock export license of a second exporter, EMS Rural Exports.

EMS Rural Exports is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Emanuel Exports, the company at the center of the animal welfare debate that has divided Australia after whistleblower footage of thousands of sheep dying was aired on 60 Minutes earlier this year.

Emanuel Exports had its export license canceled by the Department on August 21, 2018. Under the Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Act 1997, the Department has the power to cancel an export license in cases where a license holder is an associate of a person or entity which has had their livestock export license suspended or canceled. "Cancellation of a license is a serious step that is only taken in the best interests of the industry and for the protection of Australia’s high standards on animal welfare,” said the Department in a statement.

Emanuel Exports director Nicholas Daws has stated that he will appeal both suspensions.

The department is now actively considering applications from other potential exporters to the Middle East, and The Australian reports that National Farmers Federation WA spokesman Tony York said he knew of two companies planning to apply.

In a blog, Vets Against Live Export suggests that Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading (KLTT), trading in Australia as RETWA, may have applied for an export license. The blog states that RETWA operates out of the same address as Emanuel Exports and that KLTT owns the Al Messilah and the Al Shuwaikh, two of the main livestock carriers used by Emanuel Exports. Additionally, in 2003, Daws was Managing Director of  RETWA when its license was suspended due to four high mortality shipments. “During the RETWA suspension, Mr Daws was able to continue to export animals under an export license held by Emanuel Exports Pty Ltd...a license now canceled,” asserts the blog.

Meanwhile, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association has launched a “Support Live Exports” marketing campaign to highlight the economic and social consequences of banning live sheep exports on producers, regional families, regional communities, rural businesses and Western Australia’s international trading partners. President Tony Seabrook highlighted that Emanuel Exports shipped 1.3 million sheep from Western Australian markets to the Middle East last year. 

“Removing our largest exporter from our key markets only serves to destroy an industry which provides much needed jobs.” Stopping Emanuel Exports will lead to overstocking of pastures, a loss of trade to the Middle East and a future drop in prices, he said. “80 percent of the sheep export trade has now been knocked out thanks to the actions of a group of faceless bureaucrats in Canberra.”

Some politicians from both major parties have voiced their belief the trade should be stopped, and over the weekend, animal welfare concerns spread to the live export of cattle. A motion was moved at the Queensland Labor Party Conference held in Brisbane calling for the Federal Government to “transition away” from animal live exports by 2030. The northern Australia cattle industry came under fire when whistleblower footage showed animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs in June 2011. 

Australia is the only live export nation that has enacted regulations that require exporters to be responsible for animal welfare during the journey overseas and up to the point of slaughter. Critics of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) call the regulations a welfare farce, but some supporters say that the controversy that followed the 60 Minutes program subject them to a kangaroo court - a process where key facts are skipped over in order to arrive at a pre-determined judgment: that ESCAS will never work well enough and live exports should be banned. Rather, they say, ESCAS has led to improved welfare and could be used to boost animal welfare globally. A ban on live export by Australia would be a disincentive for other nations to consider similar welfare programs.

ESCAS calls for animal handling and slaughter to meet World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards. The OIE guiding principles call for, among other things, freedom from fear and distress, freedom from physical and thermal discomfort and freedom from pain, injury and disease.

Critics cite a history of whistleblower footage to support their view that the industry should be stopped. The Department of Agriculture currently has over 10 ESCAS-related investigations in progress, and a Government chronology of past ESCAS-related events includes:

February 2006 Suspension of live exports to Egypt

The 60 Minutes program broadcasts footage of the mistreatment of Australian cattle in the Bassateen abattoir in Cairo, Egypt. The government announces a ban on live cattle exports to Egypt whilst the claims are investigated. Exports resume in 2008 following the signing of MOUs which require cattle to be handled and slaughtered in accordance with OIE standards.

December 2010 ABC broadcasts footage of cruelty in Kuwait

The 7:30 Report program broadcasts footage appearing to show Australian sheep in Kuwait being handled and slaughtered brutally during preparations for the three-day festival of sacrifice. 

May 30, 2011 Four Corners report: A Bloody Business

The ABC Four Corners program broadcasts footage of the slaughter of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs which depicts traditional rope slaughter, use of slaughter restraint boxes, failure to stun cattle prior to slaughter as well as the kicking and hitting of animals. The Government immediately suspends live cattle exports to the 11 Indonesian abattoirs under investigation.

July 2011 Resumption of trade to Indonesia and introduction of ESCAS

The Government lifts the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia on July 6 and introduces new export permit requirements for Indonesia under ESCAS. 

August 2011 Release of footage from Turkey and Israel

Animals Australia releases footage from Turkish abattoirs depicting slaughtering practices which appear to violate international standards. Footage shot by Israeli group Anonymous for Animal Rights is also released, depicting Australian cattle being hit with spike-tipped poles whilst being unloaded from a truck in Israel.

October 31, 2011 Private Member’s Bill on mandatory stunning

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie introduces a bill which proposes to mandate that all exported livestock be stunned prior to slaughter. The bill is not debated and is reintroduced, unsuccessfully, in 2012.

March 1, 2012 ESCAS applies to first tranche of export markets

ESCAS is implemented for live animal exports to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Turkey, in addition to existing arrangements in Indonesia and Egypt.

September 1, 2012 Second tranche of ESCAS is rolled out

ESCAS is extended to apply to Israel, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Oman, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the UAE.

September 6, 2012 Supply chain breaches in Kuwait

Following the release of footage of 200 Australian sheep being sold in an unaccredited Kuwait City meat market, a government investigation finds evidence of non-compliance with ESCAS requirements. A further investigation is undertaken after a similar complaint is made in January 2013, with the Department of Agriculture finding that ESCAS is unlikely to detect small numbers of sheep leaking from approved supply chains.

December 2012 Footage of cruelty in Israeli abattoir

The 7:30 Report program broadcasts footage of cattle being beaten and poked in the eyes and genitals with stunguns at the Bakar Tnuva abattoir in Israel. The abattoir had passed an audit commissioned by Australian company Elders in July 2012, raising concerns about the auditing process.

January 2013 ESCAS extended to all of live export markets

ESCAS requirements are extended to a third tranche of live export markets which includes Brunei, Mauritius, Russia and Vietnam.

May 2013 Suspension of trade to Egypt

The industry suspends trade with Egypt following the release of footage by Animals Australia of systemic and routine abuse of cattle at the two Egyptian abattoirs accredited under the ESCAS.

October 2013 Supply chain breaches in Jordan

The Department of Agriculture investigates allegations of supply chain leakage in Jordan, finding that 2,718 sheep were moved outside the approved Jordan supply chain.

November to December 2013 Allegations of cruelty in Mauritius and Gaza

Footage of Australian bulls being abused prior to slaughter in Mauritius, and of brutal methods of cattle slaughter in Gaza, prompt Departmental investigations. The Department of Agriculture stops issuing export permits to Gaza and subsequently suspends use of the Gaza municipal abattoir for Australian animals.

October 22, 2014 Footage of slaughter outside supply chain

The ABC broadcasts footage of Australian sheep and cattle being slaughtered outside the approved abattoirs in Kuwait, Gaza and Jordan. 

June 2015 Allegations of cruelty in Israeli abattoir

Animals Australia releases footage taken by hidden cameras inside the Dabbah abattoir in Deir Al Asad, Israel. The footage depicts Australian cattle having their tails deliberately crushed and throats sawn. Animals Australia argues that CCTV cameras installed in the abattoir are not effective deterrents.

October 13, 2015 Supply chain leakages

The 7:30 Report program airs footage of Australian sheep sold outside approved abattoirs in Oman, Kuwait and the UAE. 

June 2016 Footage of cruelty in Vietnam

The ABC airs footage obtained by Animals Australia showing cattle being beaten with sledgehammers in Vietnamese abattoirs. Animals Australia investigators report that large numbers of Australian cattle have been leaving approved supply chains. The industry suspends exports to three abattoirs, and announces additional measures including a three-month independent inquiry into the systems and standards in place to support ESCAS requirements in Vietnam. As part of its ongoing investigation, the Department suspends 21 facilities in Vietnam and directs two exporters to cease supply to the Vietnam market until effective measures are in place to address animal control, traceability and verification processes.