Howard Smith, president of the CCA, said improvements to the live export trade through the development of more robust animal welfare requirements had been integral to Australian cattle producers, particularly over the past two years.
Following footage of mistreatment of Australian cattle in some Indonesian abattoirs in June 2011, the former Australian government temporarily suspended trade to Indonesia of cattle for slaughter until new safeguards were in place. The system was first implemented in Indonesia, before being rolled out to all of Australia’s export markets during 2012.
"The initial implementation of ESCAS, in reaction to appalling animal handling of cattle in Indonesia, seemed tough, but when you look at the overwhelming improvements of conditions for Australian cattle in market, it was a necessary step," he said.
In the foreword to the report, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Minister for Agriculture, said that since ESCAS had been introduced that same year, the country had exported eight million head of livestock to 18 countries, with only 22 incidents of animal welfare concern.
"In light of this, government and industry are working together to open new export markets and to improve market access for Australian livestock to existing markets," said Joyce.
ESCAS is designed to make sure livestock exported for feeder or slaughter purposes are handled in accordance with World Organisation for Animal Health standards, and to provide a mechanism to deal with any issues when they occur.
Expanding on previous systems, exporters are now required to account for how their animals are treated from their arrival in the importing country, right through to slaughter.
Thirty-six stakeholder submissions were taken into account in the development of the report. Views were varied, it said, however the majority of stakeholders believed ESCAS has been a step in the right direction to improve animal welfare, and that significant outcomes had been achieved.
However shortfalls were highlighted. The system was designed and rolled out in a short space of time, so it can at times be "clunky, rigid and complex", while it is also an administratively burdensome regulatory arrangement for both government and industry, said the report.
Smith said the industry was striving for continual improvement under ESCAS, seeing it as "the responsibility of all people in the Livestock Export supply chain to work diligently to improve animal welfare outcomes globally".