RSPCA Australia says tonight‚Äôs ABC ‚Äú7.30‚Äù program demonstrates the urgent need for a review of Australia‚Äôs live export standards, and the transfer of regulatory oversight from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to an independent authority.
RSPCA Australia‚Äôs Chief Scientist, Dr Bidda Jones, said seven years had passed since the Live Export Standards Advisory Group (LESAG) first supported a review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL), yet the standards remain unchanged.
ASEL covers the selection of animals for export on farm and on board the ship to the point of disembarkation in the importing country. In 2011, the government-commissioned independent review of Australia‚Äôs livestock export trade (the Farmer Review) found that ‚Äòa full review of the ASEL was a priority‚Äô.
A review committee was appointed in July 2012. In September 2012, the Department appointed Dr Lynn Simpson, a veterinarian with outstanding credentials and experience in the live export sector, as its technical advisor to the committee.
‚ÄúIn February 2013, Dr Lynn Simpson‚Äôs submission to the review was published online by the Department. The photographs it contained were a shocking indictment of the conditions endured by cattle and sheep on board livestock vessels.
‚ÄúA few weeks later, Dr Simpson was removed from the committee as a direct result of industry pressure. Since then there has been absolutely zero progress ‚Äì the ASEL remain unchanged since minor amendments were made in 2010‚Äù, Dr Jones said.
Dr Simpson‚Äôs submission was later removed from the Department‚Äôs website.
‚ÄúThe Department of Agriculture and Water Resources still has no processes for receiving independent advice on animal welfare matters relating to live export, and has advised that no resources have been allocated to the long overdue full review of the standards‚Äù.
‚ÄúThe current standards fail to ensure people handling animals are aware of their legal responsibilities and have the competency to carry them out, and allow animals that are sick, injured or otherwise unfit to slip through the inspection process‚Äù.
‚ÄúThe Government has been aware of these faulty practices for years, and has done nothing to raise the standards to best practice‚Äù.
‚ÄúThere is still a failure to agree on even basic standards covering the welfare of animals on live export ships, such as space allowances and bedding provisions‚Äù.
‚ÄúCurrent stocking densities force animals to lie down on top of each other and jostle for access to feed and water points‚Äù.
‚ÄúTonight‚Äôs ‚Äú7.30‚Äù illustrated the inherent conflict of interest in the Department when it comes to addressing animal welfare issues in the live export trade, even in the face of stark evidence of inhumane treatment of animals‚Äù, said Dr Jones
The RSPCA is Australia‚Äôs leading animal welfare organisation and one of Australia‚Äôs most trusted charities. The RSPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.