Exporters welcome ESCAS review

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Livestock exporters have welcomed the Federal Government's long-awaited Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System report, which recommends the further removal of red tape.

The report has come after two years of consultation with more than 60 industry stakeholders and has recommended measures to streamline the system,t which users say is unnecessary and costly duplication.

ESCAS was hastily introduced by the Government amid the 2011 Indonesian animal welfare controversy, during which the former Gillard Government suspended the live export trade.

Key findings underpinning the report have cited several opportunities to implement further reforms that would meet the ESCAS objectives while maintaining animal welfare standards and facilitating trade.

These reforms include separating ESCAS approval from individual consignment approval, adding the option of risk-based auditing for compliant supply chains and consolidating and improving auditor checklists used to assess compliance with international welfare standards.

Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chairman Simon Crean said that in just the two years of full ESCAS application, the Australian livestock export trade had made huge inroads into improving animal welfare outcomes and placed the trade on a stronger footing to support its vital economic and job sustaining role in regional Australia.

"In 2011, the industry was in a difficult and dark place and facing its greatest challenge yet. The implementation of ESCAS - a world-first attempt to manage the welfare of exported livestock along supply chains beyond our borders where significant welfare issues had been identified - was a bold move by the then-government and an incredible test of live exporters' relationship with downstream customers," Mr Crean said.

"But with the support of successive governments, the tenacity and commitment of exporters, the resource support of LiveCorp and Meat and Livestock Australia and the willingness of our customers and their staff to work with us, vastly improved treatment of Australian livestock overseas has been achieved and a steady course for further positive change has been established."

However, the RSPCA has accused the Government of "glossing over" critical points of animal welfare standards relating to slaughter requirements.

Chief executive Heather Neil said ESCAS has set a low bar and fails to prevent major suffering for Australian exported animals.

"The report has glossed over the fact that ESCAS does not require animals to be stunned at the point of slaughter, nor requires animals to be held upright for slaughter, meaning they will be fully conscious of the pain and suffering associated with the cut of the throat," she said.

"Allowing unstunned slaughter is much more than just a 'potentially adverse animal welfare outcome' - it is horrific cruelty.

"No respectable animal industry in Australia would dare suggest that only 0.16 per cent of animals experience adverse animal welfare outcomes in their production systems.

"It shows how desperate the Government is to spin the numbers and hide the real facts from Australian producers about the treatment of their animals overseas."

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