Australia is facing renewed calls for a live export ban after campaigners released footage of Australian cattle and sheep suffering “shocking abuse” in an abattoir in Israel.
The footage, screened on ABC’s 7:30 programme, showed sheep at the Bakar Tnuva abattoir in Israel being beaten, thrown and dragged to slaughter, and cattle being repeatedly shocked in the face and genitals with electric prodders. Injured animals were seen being dragged out of the holding area with a forklift and pulled of the ground with ropes.
RSPCA Australia chief scientist Dr Bidda Jones described the incident as a “severe case of animal cruelty”, with workers deliberately inflicting pain on the animals to get them to move. A joint statement from the National Farmers’ Federation, the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, the Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia, acknowledged that the abuse shown in the footage was “unacceptable”.
Israel’s government and police force have opened a criminal investigation into the alleged mistreatement. President of the National Farmers’ Federation Jock Laurie said bosses at the abattoir had also acted swiftly, removing both the plant manager and all staff shown abusing animals.
“We understand that CCTV cameras are to be installed and, at the request of the importer, industry-funded training consultants are currently on the ground in Israel to instigate a comprehensive training program at the facility,” he added.
Australia’s government has launched its own investigation into the incident and said it would seek assurances from exporters that they remained in a position to comply with the exporter supply chain assurance system (ESCAS). It added that the exporter had been ordered to conduct an additional audit of the Bakar Tnuva abattoir, which was found to meet ESCAS standards when it was audited in July 2012.
However, animal welfare campaigners claimed the incident provided yet more evidence that ESCAS is failing to protect the welfare of exported Australian livestock.
“The footage shows this abattoir does not meet even basic OIE Guidelines in terms of the competency of the workers or the arrangements for the handling and slaughter of cattle or sheep,” said Jones.
“The fact that a facility like this, with such entrenched problems, can pass an ESCAS audit casts a huge shadow over the entire supply chain assurance system. The entire process rests on the veracity of the auditing arrangements.
“This is proof that no scheme or agreements can fully safeguard the welfare of animals exported live overseas for slaughter. No matter how much industry or government involvement there is, the live export trade presents an unacceptable level of risk for the animals and is inherently cruel.”