Australia investigates sheep export allegations

By Carina Perkins

- Last updated on GMT

Australian sheep being taken home for slaughter in Kuwait. Source: Animals Australia
Australian sheep being taken home for slaughter in Kuwait. Source: Animals Australia

Related tags Livestock Export International trade Lamb

Australian officials have launched an investigation into allegations that sheep exported live from Australia are being sold outside approved supply chains in Jordon and Kuwait.

The Department of Agriculture (DAFF) said it had received complaints from welfare group Animals Australia, including the allegation that around 10,000 sheep exported to Jordan under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) were being held in 30 non-approved locations. The complaint also alleged that Australian sheep were being sold at the Al Rai market in Kuwait.

DAFF said it had contacted the authorities in Jordan and Kuwait, as well as the exporters of the sheep. It added that the upcoming festival of Eid was a “high risk period”​ for ESCAS non-compliance.

“The Department of Agriculture, as the regulator of the livestock export trade, has written to all exporters to these markets, asking them to detail additional measures that will be implemented to guard against leakage (animals being processed outside approved supply chains),”​ it said.

“The regulator has also issued an advice notice to all livestock exporters about the increased potential for leakage during Eid.​”

Ritual sacrifice

Animals Australia said its inspectors had documented thousands of sheep being sold illegally for ritual sacrifice in Jordan and Kuwait, with vendors attempting to conceal the identity of exporters though the “mass removal of ear tags from Australian sheep in the region”.

The organisation first warned DAFF that sheep were being sold illegally in Jordon in June. “Now Australian sheep have again been found at many of these same locations, in even larger numbers,”​ it said, adding it had repeatedly warned regulators that Australian sheep were being sold in Kuwait’s Al Rai marketplace, the scene of “some of the worst documented cruelty to Australian animals in the trade”.

It called on the government to impose the “toughest possible penalties”​ on the exporters of the sheep. “Regulations will continue to be deliberately disregarded and animals will continue to suffer unless the exporters responsible face prosecution and severe penalties,”​ it said.
Unworkable system

Australian Greens spokesperson for animal welfare Senator Lee Rhiannon said abuse of live export rules in Jordan and Kuwait was further proof that the ESCAS model was a “failed and unworkable system”​, and called for a total ban on live exports.

She added that she would introduce legislation to ban live exports once parliament resumed.

“The answer to the live export trade is the substitution of chilled boxed meat exports to our overseas markets,”​ she said.

“A highly successful chilled meat export industry will serve to boost the Australian cattle industry by providing greater market certainty, increased employment, as well as improved animal welfare.”

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