The investigation into the treatment of animals at the Bakar Tnuva abattoir in Israel was prompted by a formal complaint from RSPCA Australia, which alleged that footage filmed undercover by an Israeli journalist showed the abattoir had breached standards set out under Australia’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).
However, while the DAFF investigation recognised that the footage showed treatment of animals that was inconsistent with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) animal welfare performance measures and targets, and confirmed that the abattoir was an approved ESCAS facility for exporter Elders International Australia (Elders), it found no evidence that the livestock in the footage were exported by Elders.
“The footage was taken up to and including 24 October 2012. At the time this footage was taken, the only consignment of livestock to be exported to Israel with an approved ESCAS supply chain that included Bakar Tnuva abattoir had not yet departed Australia. The consignment departed Australia on 26 October 2012 and arrived on 13 November 2012,” it said.
“DAFF has also confirmed that no other ESCAS consignments to any other supply chain in Israel were in Israel at that time. The first consignment to any other approved ESCAS supply chain in Israel departed Australia on 20 October 2012 and arrived on 9 November 2012.”
It said that while some of the cattle and sheep seen in the footage might have been of Australian origin at “some point in the past”, they were not exported from Australia under ESCAS arrangements.
“As the livestock were not subject to the ESCAS regulatory framework, no ESCAS non-compliances have occurred and no regulatory action will be taken under Australian law,” it said.
Responding to RSPCA Australia’s concerns that no animal welfare non-compliance had been identified during an indepdent audit of the abattoir in July 2012, DAFF said the initial independent audit was merely to determine whether it was possible for an ESCAS consignment to be processed through the supply chain, with the exporter expected to conduct subsequent audits after they had entered the supply chain.
It added that it had requested an additional independent audit of the facility to determine whether it was able to continue to comply with ESCAS rules, and that the “resulting report demonstrated compliance with ESCAS”.
Urgent action needed
However, the report failed to pacify RSPCA Australia, which responded with demands that “urgent improvements” be made to the ESCAS auditing system. The organisation said that the fact a facility “with such entrenched problems” could pass the initial ESCAS audit had the potential to “cast a huge shadow” on the supply chain assurance system.
“The footage was horrifying; it showed sheep being aggressively beaten, thrown and dragged by a single leg to move them towards the slaughter area. Injured cattle were seen being repeatedly shocked with an electric prodder around the face, eyes and genitals,” said Lynne Bradshaw, president of RSPCA Australia.
“Nowhere in this report is it explained how this facility passed the initial audit, despite DAFF acknowledging that OIE standards were being breached. How did an auditor go into this facility, and approve it when there were serious inherent issues in animal handling and slaughter?”