The Islamic festival of Eid Al Adha offers an annual upswing in Australian livestock exports to the Middle East. And while the risks of animal cruelty and black market meat sales are small, Crean warned there was “no room for complacency”.
On a visit to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on the eve of Eid, running from 12-15 September, Crean said he was “impressed” with the meat systems he examined. But with Australia’s AU$2 billion livestock export trade in the spotlight during Eid, Crean said parties needed to work together to control any fallouts.
“The ongoing focus of exporters is to work with other stakeholders in the supply chain to identify and control any welfare risks, and respond as quickly as possible to any breakdowns in our market systems,” he said.
“Not only does Eid place considerable pressure on our world-class control and traceability systems, it also puts the integrity of our Middle East supply chains in the public spotlight.”
The biggest concern for the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) is the welfare of sheep and cows in the Middle East. Slaughter standards that conform with requirements set out by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) must be adhered to during the period of high pressure and demand.
There has been good progress made on this front since the years gone by, when livestock were transported in the boots of cars, according to a spokesman from the ALEC. Australian exporters have for many years been working with parties in the Middle East to ensure staff understand livestock logistics standards, heat stress, slaughter practices and access to feed and water.
Whilst a slender percentage of livestock ends up on the black market, Australia is taking no chances by encouraging more vertical integration in Middle East supply chains. Closed-loop systems in feedlots and abattoirs helps minimise interaction between customers and livestock, limiting the risks of animals being stolen and sold on illegally.
While no system is bullet-proof, Crean said his visit to the Middle East demonstrated the continent was committed to “ongoing improvement”, which will allay concern over welfare and black market sales.