Live cattle exports to three abattoirs in Vietnam have been suspended after footage emerged of the animals allegedly being killed by sledgehammer.
But rather than the government taking the action, the industry itself has imposed the ban, with the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council deciding to stop exports on June 12, just days after the fifth anniversary of the then-Labor government blocking exports to Indonesia in 2011.
And despite improved monitoring standards introduced in the wake of the 2011 scandal, the circumstances of the Vietnam incident are eerily similar, with the animal rights lobby group Animals Australia capturing the footage last month. It’s due to be aired on the ABC’s 7.30 program tonight. Five years ago, the footage appeared on Four Corners, sending shockwaves through the industry and leading to the government intervention.
But the response today of agriculture minister and deputy PM Barnaby Joyce was vastly different to his comments just over a week ago still maintained that Labor’s month-long ban was unnecessary and “undermined confidence in Australia as a reliable trading partner and supplier of food to our region”.
Joyce said Animals Australia first reported the incident on 9 June and the agriculture department began investigations when they received the footage the following day. It notified the industry on June 13.
“It has not yet been confirmed on the evidence available whether the cattle were originally sourced from Australia, however the Australian industry has already taken action to suspend all exports to identified Vietnamese abattoirs,” Joyce said.
“I am confident their investigations will reveal what has gone wrong and what actions are required to prevent the mistreatment of Australian animals.”
The minister said anyone seeing the footage would be shocked and upset.
“The abattoir at the centre of the most serious allegations is a non-approved facility and it is alleged that Australian cattle were being supplied to this abattoir against Australia’s strict rules,” he said.
More than 180,000 live animals were sent to Vietnam in 2014. New animal welfare laws, developed with assistance from the Australian industry, are due to begin in Vietnam next month.
But Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Alison Penfold said the existing systems in place had failed to detect the breaches and there had been “leakage” of cattle from approved facilities.
The industry suspended supply to the Haiphong feedlot while it investigates, along with the supply of cattle to approved abattoirs in the Bai Do region. Staff were sent to Vietnam to conduct an audit of slaughter numbers.
Today, Penfold announced that CCTVs will be introduced to every feedlot and abattoir receiving Australian cattle
“We’ve already got about 35 cameras operating in the Vietnamese market already. Around 80 facilities will be added,” she told ABC Rural today.
Who will monitor the footage has not yet been decided.
“This market is experiencing growing pains and we’re going to fight to make it sustainable, because it’s such an important market and it’s so important for industry to have markets like Vietnam,” Penfold said.