TV joins abattoir surveillance

Kate PollardCountryman
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International Livestock Exports (ILE) is rolling out closed circuit television (CCTV) in conjunction with Indonesian importers to help improve animal welfare in abattoirs.

Last week the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) released its investigation into complaints and footage made by Animals Australia against ILE and the North Australian Cattle Company (NACC).

Both exporters were found by DAFF responsible for 37 breaches of the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme and the abattoirs were removed from supply chains.

The exporters said as soon as they became aware of the animal welfare issues, immediate action was taken.

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ILE suspended exports to the abattoir identified in the footage and spent two months working to modify and train staff before continuing operations with the importing abattoir.

They installed head restraints on Mark 4 boxes, going beyond World Organisation for Animal Health requirements, implemented stunning at 85 per cent of their supply chain and employed a senior technical adviser and five animal welfare officers.

CCTV was installed at five abattoirs, including the one investigated, and will be rolled out to the remaining facilities and monitored by animal welfare officers.

ILE managing director Mike Stanton said it would put abattoir operators and slaughtermen on notice they were being watched.

Stunning will also be introduced at the abattoir once modifications have been made to existing Mark 1 slaughter restraint boxes.

Mr Stanton believes the mistreatment depicted is not systemic and was an isolated case reflecting teething problems and practical difficulties implementing and enforcing the ECAS system.

The exporter was also able to prove to DAFF that some of the video footage showed eartags not used on animals slaughtered when the footage was made.

NACC, which also exports cattle from WA, immediately sent a representative to confirm the identity of the abattoir captured on camera and monitor the slaughter process.

They reiterated contractual obligations, identified several breaches and arranged for additional training from Meat and Livestock Australia for all staff at the abattoir.

They also engaged an independent auditor with the audit performed on March 6 noting no non-compliances.

But last week, the steps taken by both exporters were not enough and DAFF withdrew both abattoirs in question and said another independent audit was needed.

Mr Stanton has agreed to the audit but believes more benefit will come from "putting people on the ground".

"The Indonesian abattoirs don't know when we are coming but they know when they (auditors) are," he said. "Sometimes, more practical hands-on is better than audits."

Mr Stanton estimated the time to administer the auditing systems had added $20-$40 per head, with many costs unable to be claimed.

Last week, DAFF also released the first independent performance audit report summaries for 11 cattle shipments to Indonesia.

As part of regulatory requirements, exporters must employ an independent auditor to visit and observe processes at each location in the supply chain and look at control, traceability and animal welfare within 190 days from the date of export.

The Investigation *

On February 24, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry received a formal complaint and video footage from Animal Australia alleging non-compliance with animal welfare guidelines at four abattoirs.

The investigation examined if slaughter lines or abattoirs were ESCAS approved, if cattle were Australian, evidence of non-compliance and if there was need for regulatory action.

DAFF found North Australian Cattle Company (NACC) and International Live Exports linked to abattoirs and in breach of 37 non-compliance measures.

Australian Rural Exports and Wellard Rural Exports were also named in the investigation but "neither exporter had breached ECAS requirements".

Breaches by NACC and ILE included not properly restraining heads before killings, not making sure animals were dead and moving or throwing water on them before confirming their deaths.

Regulatory action includes removing both abattoirs from approved supply chains and additional conditions on both exporters.

They will need to have an animal welfare officer present where cattle are slaughtered in modified Mark 4 restraint boxes without stunning and this will be strongly audited.

DAFF deputy secretary Phillip Glyde said if further animal welfare breaches occurred, the exporters would face additional penalities under the relevant legislation, including the possible loss of their export licence.

The Australian Chief Veterinary Officer will also investigate Mark 4 restraint boxes when used without mechanical head and neck restraint.

Since the new framework, 329,722 cattle and 436,164 sheep have been exported under ESCAS to five countries with 288,000 cattle shipped to Indonesia.

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