The Australian government is investigating yet another animal welfare scandal after heavily pregnant cows were discovered amongst a shipment of cattle to Mauritius.
A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture (DAFF) confirmed to The Australian newspaper earlier this week that it was investigating an alleged breach of live export regulations by Australian exporter South East Asian Livestock Services.
The investigation is based on allegations made by welfare group Animals Australia, which claimed that a shipment of 2061 cattle sent to Mauritius in October last year contained a large number of pregnant animals, despite being accompanied by Australian government paperwork certifying that none of the cows were pregnant.
Animals Australia said that the pregnant cows were not given the special care required by Australian trade regulations, and had to endure a particularly tough voyage, with heavy seas making it hard for them to stand. Two of the cows gave birth during voyage, and their calves were taken and killed at sea. Four other cattle were only discovered to be pregnant when they were slaughtered in Mauritius.
Slaughtering pregnant cattle is illegal in Mauritius, so many of the remaining pregnant animals were left in a feedlot after their arrival. However, 65 of these cattle died mysteriously, with the importer claiming foul play. The deaths are now being investigated by the Mauritian authorities.
Additionally, Animals Australia said that it had evidence that the ship master had made “false declarations” about the number of cattle that had died en route to Mauritius, and that a visit to a Mauritian slaughterhouse had revealed that Australian cattle were “being subjected to roping and hoisting prior to having their throats cut”.
South East Asian Livestock Services has maintained that it was not aware that any of the animals were pregnant at the time of shipping, claiming that the animals had been pregnancy-tested by veterinarians before departure in accordance with regulations.
However, Animals Australia said the evidence relating to the shipment was “damning” and reinforced the need to ban the live export trade.
“Regardless of who is at fault, the recent deaths of these 65 unfortunate animals was wholly avoidable. They should never have been sent to Mauritius in the first place. Once again the ‘system’ has failed to protect the welfare of Australian animals, and exporters have been caught out sending animals to the cruelest of circumstances,” said a spokesperson.