Government's ESCAS review highlights improvements, misses the point

22 January 2015

The federal government has released its review into the animal welfare framework for live exports – the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS).

Exporting animals live is inherently cruel. Despite ESCAS this fact remains unchanged. Animals suffer on these long journeys… even with full ESCAS compliance.

The review admits to 22 instances of ESCAS non-compliance and 12,958 animals experiencing a “poor animal welfare outcome”.

However, the government also admits it is not possible to know if the recorded non-compliance rate reflects the actual rate.

This is what animal welfare groups have been saying and undercover investigations and repeated exposés of extreme cruelty show.

The review indicates that 99% of livestock exported have experienced a “positive welfare outcome” since the introduction of ESCAS in 2011. It is just not reasonable to claim that just because an animal has survived a long sea voyage it has enjoyed a positive welfare outcome.

Live exports still cruel despite improvements

The review fails to mention the cruelty that is inherent in the live export process, with conditions often becoming unbearable for livestock on board shipping vessels.

Despite improvements ESCAS has brought, the basic welfare of these animals is not being met.

The Minister is disingenuous when he says critics of the industry want farmers to be poor.

World Animal Protection argues for investment in the domestic meat processing industry. Farmers could profit from a move out of live exports to a more humane chilled and frozen meat trade.

A cross party Senate Committee into the development of Northern Australia last year also called for investment in domestic meat processing to provide an alternative to live exports.

If the current government put the same energy into building the domestic meat processing industry in northern Australia as it does into live exports, there could be a genuine win-win for farmers and animals. 

Animals suffer on these long journeys… even with full ESCAS compliance.