The review of Freemantle Port, which was carried out by a committee comprising government, industry, welfare and veterinary representatives, found that there was considerable confusion regarding who was responnsible for the welfare of the animals at each stage of the loading and unloading process, as well as a lack of training and competency among some of those handling the animals at the port. It also found that records-keeping was “inadequate for proper management of animal health and welfare or to investigate adverse events”.
The report made five recommendations to the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) committee, which is currently conducting a wider review of Australia’s live export trade. These included better definition of roles and responsibilities of those interacting with animals throughout the live export chain, an identification of the competencies required for people who interact the with animals, improvements to record-keeping, and the establishment of inspection procedures and facilities at each point in the supply chain to allow the identification and removal of unfit animals.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, said: “[The] committee has recommended improvements to processes, many of which address broader issues across Australia’s live animal export industry. It is appropriate that those recommendations – five in total – be considered as part of the ASEL review.”
He added that he had extended the reporting deadline for the ASEL Review until 30 April 2013 to allow for the recommendations to be considered.
The committee also recommended that animals should be inspected early in the supply chain, so that unfit animals can be identified and removed, and that animal welfare inspectors should be given free access to inspect livestock throughout the live animal export chain, up to and including the point of loading.
“The remaining two recommendations from the Fremantle Review will be addressed separately in collaboration with industry,” said Ludwig.
Freemantle is one of three major live export ports in Australia, which is the world’s largest exporter of live animals. In 2011, 123,993 cattle and 1,671,357 sheep were shipped from the port.
The review into operations at Freemantle was commissioned on the recommendations of Bill Farmer, who visited the port as part of the Independent Review of Australia’s Livestock Export Trade (the Farmer Review). Farmer raised concerns about the number of sheep he saw that were not fit for export, and the inspection process at the port.
Since Farmer’s visit to Freemantle, Australia has been hit by a number of live export scandals, with unfit animals refused entry to their country of destination and forced to endure poor conditions and brutal slaughter as a result.
As a result, the Gillard government has come under significant pressure to ban live exports. However, it insists that the work it is doing to address the failings in the live export system will resolve the problems while allowing the trade to continue.
“This Government is committed to working with producers and exporters to deliver improved animal welfare outcomes and secure a strong future for the live export trade,” said Ludwig.