Live Exporters Prepare for Islamic Festival

Simon Crean

By MarEx 2016-09-06 22:42:02

Australia’s $2 billion live export trade has come under heavy criticism for allowing destination countries to slaughter millions of fully conscious animals, condemning them to a painful and prolonged death. Animal welfare agencies such as the RSPCA and Animals Australia want to see the live export trade banned.

Heightened demand during religious festivals increases the danger of inhumane treatment as Australian sheep can be removed, or leaking out, of approved supply chains, fueling the debate on whether or not the trade should continue. 

The Honorable Simon Crean, Chairman of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC), spoke to MarEx about his recent trip to the Middle East to ensure animal welfare outcomes meet Australian standards ahead of the annual Islamic festival, Eid al Adha (Eid), which runs from September 12 to September 15. 

“The ongoing presence of Australian livestock and our industry personnel in the marketplace continues to play a unique and fundamentally positive role in promoting modern, humane slaughter practices and upholding supply chain control and traceability standards – which I believe are the standard-bearer globally in this industry.

Australia is still the only exporting country which puts in place special measures focused on ensuring the welfare of our exported livestock, both for Eid and for normal trading periods throughout the year. However, despite the industry’s best efforts, no system is foolproof, and Crean says the greatest risk to the welfare of Australian livestock during Eid is leakage from approved supply chains. 

“Strong demand specifically for Australian sheep and our efforts to place controls on our supply chains creates the potential for profiteers to seek to illegally procure Australian sheep for re-sale on the black market at a premium price,” he says.

“Poor welfare outcomes can never be condoned nor excused by exporters, and it is important that relevant powers regulating our supply chains are exercised in response to any deliberate breaches.

“Fortunately, the collaborative work being carried out in-market is proof of just how seriously Australian exporters take their responsibilities through to the point of slaughter.”

The presence of additional exporter and Live Export Program consultants leading up to and during Eid is helping to resolve problems as they arise.

“Exporters are working directly with their customers and facility staff to implement livestock management systems to cope with the animal welfare challenges of this peak demand period.” This includes pre-Eid training and support in maintaining ethical slaughter practices.
Australian sheep are traded in restricted supply chains and sales systems. This helps to ensure Australian animals are only slaughtered at approved facilities. These supply chains operate with the aim of minimizing the interaction between customers and the livestock to reduce the possibility of animals being removed unlawfully from abattoirs and mishandled.

“The Mecca Model ticket system in Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, where tickets for carcasses are sold leading up to and during Eid, thus removing all interaction between the livestock and customers, has been expanded to embrace home delivery. This is being backed by the launch of a new home delivery app, with the prospect of free transport and slaughter services also on the horizon for future Eid festivals.”

Investment in modern feedlot facilities which ensure sheep have access to sufficient water, food and shade is being made to avoid heat stress.

The emergence of closed-loop feedlot and abattoir facilities in the market is a great indication of how seriously our partners in the Middle East are about protecting the long-term prospects of the trade in Australian sheep,” says Crean. 

Exporters are also encouraging and supporting charity slaughtering whereby large numbers of Australian sheep are processed at approved facilities and distributed to the poor, thus removing individual sales and selection pressures.

“Learning the lessons from previous years, both in terms of successes and failures, is perhaps the trade’s greatest weapon in achieving ongoing improvement. Australians should be proud of the world-leading role we are playing in the global protein supply chain, especially during culturally significant periods such as Eid.

“From what I have seen in recent days across the supply chain, especially in the commitment to ongoing improvement I have witnessed from increasingly vigilant importers and abattoir operators, I am confident about the future of Australian sheep exports to the Middle East.”