The Australian government has once again come under fire over live exports after a news report revealed that exported breeding cows and sheep are suffering abuse in the Middle East.
The report, screened on ABC Television earlier this week, included eye witness accounts from livestock professionals, who revealed that 60 pregnant dairy cattle and 7,000 sheep, exported from Australia to a location in Qatar earlier this year, died from malnutrition, thirst and heat stress.
Additionally, the report suggested that a significant number of the pregnant females calved within days of their arrival, which is a breach of the Australian Standards for Exported Livestock (ASEL).
The RSPCA said Australia’s government and live export had “yet again failed Australian animals” by failing to put systems into place to ensure that all livestock are cared for properly at export destinations.
“Australia’s livestock exporters should hang their heads in shame. Yet again they have sent Australian animals into totally unacceptable conditions overseas. Once more it has been shown how the live export industry cannot be trusted,” said RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil.
“No animal should be sent overseas for breeding or dairy purposes unless the facility they are going to has the capacity to care for them. What we have seen in Qatar is gross animal neglect, something that could have been avoided had appropriate government regulation been in place.”
The group was joined by other welfare groups, including Animals Australia, in calling for the government to urgently review the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which currently only covers the live export of animals for slaughter, to include protection for breeding animals.
“The urgent need to put regulations in place around the export of breeding animals is an issue Animals Australia has raised consistently with the Minister and his Department,” said a spokesperson for Animals Australia.
“Dairy cattle and breeders have been put in the ‘too hard’ basket. If the government believes regulatory measures cannot be put in place to protect their welfare on an ongoing basis, then clearly they should not be exported at all.”
Australia’s live export industry first came under scrutiny after a series of animal welfare investigations revealed abuse of Australian cattle in abattoirs in Indonesia. The industry has since tightened standards, but critics claim that these standards are not being met and continue to call for a total ban on live exports.