Despite being embroiled in controversy with allegations being made about their general manager and investigations into their ongoing end destination welfare issues, Livestock Shipping Services has had the go ahead from DAFF to open up yet another export trade. Yep, LSS are reportedly loading 35,000 live young Angus cattle in Adelaide and Portland and sending them to Russia, a journey that can take 6 weeks. It is the first contract for cattle that are to be fattened in Russia and eaten for meat, with all past shipments of live cattle to Russia having been for breeding purposes.
Apparently, executives from Livestock Shipping Services, owned by Jordanian company Hijazi and Ghosheh Group, were unwilling to speak with The Australian. We are guessing DAFF would be unwilling to make comment also.
Check out the article "Animal welfare of Australian livestock transported by sea" in the prestigious The Veterinary Journal. This was written in response to a Guest Editorial by Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp. Dr Schipp was chairing a review committee into the Australian Standards for Export of Livestock at the time of his editorial.
Police vs DAFF
Animals Australia has reportedly contacted the Australian Federal Police regarding the allegations of falsified documents for the Ocean Drover disaster in Pakistan in 2012.
What is interesting is that Wellard provided a media release yesterday saying that they had referred the matters to both police and DAFF last year after they identified irregularities in March and again more recently. We are used to DAFF doing nothing.....but why hasnt this been taken up by the police? What is happening here? Did the police just leave it up to DAFF? These allegations are of a serious criminal nature, not a matter for the Department of Agriculture, which we know do not act when export laws are broken (see DAFF correspondence on VALE website).
A news report today states that "Documents revealed on the ABC's 7.30 program suggest that key live export documents may have been falsified, flouting strict national and international laws designed to protect countries from importing diseased animals."
In this case, the export company involved was Wellard and the person in the spotlight is the company's former Middle East manager, Garry Robinson. Mr Robinson is currently a director of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) and now works for another export company, LSS (the company being investigated for numerous breaches of ESCAS). Before Wellard, he was the export manager for Emmanuel Exports.
Is this a "one-off" or is this symptomatic and systemic? Evidence provided in last year's court case over the Hereford Express high mortality voyage in 2008, certainly indicated that documents have been altered by exporters in the past. DAFF knew about the Hereford Express documents and chose not to act. Did they also know about the Ocean Drover documents and emails?
Saudis want no "stupid tricks"
SAUDI Arabia wants assurances there will be no "stupid tricks" such as a live export trade ban before it signs a deal accepting Australian cattle, according to Barnaby Joyce. Mr Joyce has been in talks with Saudi government aiming to get the Middle Eastern nation to import Australian livestock.
Answer is quite easy: look after our animals at your end and no "stupid tricks" aka bans due to animal cruelty, will occur. Couldnt be simpler!
Of course, there is still the issue of a long-haul voyage, no independent vets on ships and a heat stress risk assessment model that is clearly inadequate....but
Another glitch for LSS? The Bader III bound for Israel with 10,000 cattle was reportedly stopped at Freo because of an alleged breach (another one???? another one by LSS?) of ESCAS.
LSS general manager Garry Robinson suggested the delay was linked to the leakage of the handful of cattle from the approved supply chain in Gaza. Interesting... given that DAFF has not approved consignments of cattle for Gaza since November when it began investigating allegations raised in the Israeli media.
Mr Robinson warned a zero-tolerance approach to leakage could cost lucrative live trade markets. We havent noticed that zero tolerance approach Mr Robinson. It seems that where LSS is concerned, nothing is an obstacle (well at least not for very long).
The Bader III eventually left Fremantle on Friday.
All that is changed is the name
Australia will restart its live export trade to Egypt under the ESCAS welfare regulations, the Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has announced.
The Minister says Australia and Egypt have agreed to implement the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which makes Australian exporters responsible for the welfare of Australian livestock up until the point of slaughter. Under ESCAS, exporters can only send Australian livestock to feedlots and abattoirs that have been approved by the Australian Government, because they've been found to comply with international (OIE) welfare standards.
So, whats new? All that was in place, under a MOU in 2013. Thats right....legally, nothing has changed at all. So for the animals and their care.....nothing is likely to change until the next incident and the next ban....and nothing is more certain than that.
Western Australian Liberal Senator and former veterinarian Chris Back expressed disappointment the Department’s investigation into the cruelty in the Egyptian live export slaughterhouses failed to resolve key questions about the Egyptian vet’s links to the video and an ongoing trade dispute over hormone growth promotants (HGPs) in Australian cattle.
One would think that any veterinarian in the abattoir industry should have as their duties a) concern about animal welfare during slaughter and b) food safety (including presence of inappropriate numbers of HGP pellets in slaughtered cattle). Whilst HGPs were not excluded from cattle exported live to Egypt, finding more than one pellet in the ears of some cattle is indeed a serious issue for any veterinarian in food safety. These products are registered in Australia under the APVMA as "A single implant per animal in all cases".
So we criticise an overseas vet for doing a job in a manner that we would applaud if he worked in Australia. Worse still we criticise that vet when his life has been endangered by his professionalism and compassion.
Barnaby Joyce inspected the loading of the MV Al-Shuwaikh in Fremantle on Monday 31st March as a ship load of sheep set sail to Bahrain after the resumption of trade.
“Every sheep on this boat is a reflection of someone who is getting a cheque back to their kitchen table,” he said. “It is a good trade and I stand behind it.”
Guess it helps him to think of sheep as "cheques" rather than living sentient beings given how the last 22000 sent to Bahrain suffered. But as for a good trade....good for who Mr Joyce? Certainly not the sheep. Certainly not the chilled meat trade that has flourished to Bahrain since the live export cessation (to the tune of about 10000 tonnes). That last shipload didn't do the exporter (much good either.
Australia’s March beef exports have reached another all-time record for any month, pushing to a new high of 106,297 tonnes (more).
Given the welfare advantages of not exporting live, the economic advantage to Australia of processing in Australia and the environmental advantage (energy/ much higher with export of live animals compared to their carcases), shouldnt this be the aim? Why are we looking to export live to China when China is one of our biggest and growing chilled meat customers?