The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) yesterday (25 July) published the findings of its investigation into the cull, which took place after the sheep were diverted to Pakistan having been rejected by Bahrain on health grounds.
Although the investigation found that the culling of the sheep was not compliant with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) animal welfare requirements, it stated that the intervention of Pakistani authorities and police had taken the situation outside of Australia’s regulatory framework.
It concluded that the exporter of the sheep, Wellard Rural Exports, could not therefore be held responsible.
The Australian Greens said the investigation was a “damning example” of how the government was failing to protect the welfare of animals exported live to foreign markets.
“The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, has cleared exporter Wellard of any wrongdoing, despite evidence being to the contrary,” said Senator Lee Rhiannon.
“DAFF’s inquiry has failed to even investigate the key factors that led to the brutal cull of these animals including whether Wellard’s failure to tell the Pakistan government that the sheep had just been rejected by Bahrain sparked the intervention by Pakistani authorities.”
Animals Australia also expressed concern that DAFF’s investigation did address Wellard’s failure to inform authorities that the sheep had been rejected by Bahrain.
“It is obvious that Wellard’s loss of control of their supply chain and resultant brutal cull of the animals was a direct result of Pakistan not being informed about the history of the shipment,” said Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White.
White added that DAFF’s refused to recognise that the sheep had been formally rejected by Bahrain, and the investigation did not consider how Pakistan could be a legitimate alternative for Wellard when the country had not been approved to import Australian animals at the time the shipment left Australia.
DAFF said that live exports to Bahrain and Pakistan would remain suspended until a revised memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been signed with Bahrain and Pakistan. However, Rhiannon said that DAFF’s failure to investigate the incident demonstrated the need for an Independent Office of Animal Welfare.
She added that Pakistan was just one of a number of incidents that had demonstrated the inability of Australia’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) system to protect the welfare of animals in the live export industry.
“The best way to end the cruelty and to provide Australian farmers with the certainty they need is to stop exporting live animals, process the meat in Australia and increase boxed meat exports,” she said.