The actions of a concerned Egyptian veterinarian have thrown the live export industry in to yet another scandal.
In April Mahmoud Abdelwahab corresponded with animal welfare group Animals Australia, and they subsequently obtained footage of slaughterhouses in Egypt.
The footage shows cruelty in facilities that the live export industry has previously deemed to meet Australian standards.
It was given to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, has described it as “sickening.”
In one segment of footage, an abattoir worker attempts to kill an injured animal by cutting its leg tendons.
A similar incident was documented in an Egyptian abattoir in 2006, leading to the suspension of live export the country until 2010.
It is believed the cattle depicted are Egyptian owned and that the abuse occurred in two abattoirs.
The Live Exporters’ Council has once again suspended exports to Egypt.
DAFF has acknowledged the welfare concerns, and issued a statement which claims it has formally written to Egyptian authorities requesting an investigation “in line with the Memorandum of Understanding of the Handling and Slaughter of Australian Live Animals between our two countries.”
“DAFF has consulted with Egyptian officials and is pleased with the levels of cooperation offered,” the statement said.
Though Senator Ludwig told media that the system established in the wake of animal abuse in Indonesia in 2011 was greatly preferable to self-regulation, he acknowledged the need for greater enforcement.
AQIS accredited veterinary surgeon Lloyd Reeve-Johnson was critical of a statement Senator Ludwig made on the Gold Coast as reported by The Australian: “Now we have a system where the community has confidence that 99 per cent of the animals that are sent overseas…have a good animal welfare outcome.”
Reeve-Johnson argues that there is no way this type of assertion can be substantiated, and questioned what Senator Ludwig viewed as a good welfare outcome.
“We should be working to make the system more accountable rather than attempting to whitewash the facts,” Reeve-Johnson said.
“If 99 per cent of the animals that are sent overseas have a good animal welfare outcome, the live export industry would have no reason to fight efforts for more transparency and would allow independent journalists routinely aboard its ships or into abattoirs abroad to validate this statement.”
Reeve-Johnson once again called for transparency and independent scrutiny.
Sue Foster from Vets Against Live Export (VALE) said the fact that cruelty has occurred despite the industry’s best efforts proves that Australian animals cannot be protected once they leave the country.
“It puts paid to the industry argument that by maintaining a live export trade, Australia improves animal welfare standards in other countries,” she said.
“Australia has been spending money in Egypt and sending people over for nearly a decade and this is the outcome.
“The Egyptian footage shows that despite providing good facilities and education, Australia cannot change a country’s cultural and animal welfare sensibilities by means of a live export trade.”
At the time of writing there are about 3000 Australian cattle in Egyptian feedlots.