Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Australian cattle were slaughtered with sledgehammer in Vietnam

    Investigation launched into claims Australian cattle were slaughtered with sledgehammer in Vietnam
Man prepares to slaughter cow
Animals Australia footage shows cattle being slaughtered with a sledgehammer in Vietnam abattoir.
Animals Australia has included this photograph, taken inside a Vietnamese abattoir last month, in its complaint to the Department of Agriculture. Photo: Animals Australia

By Anna Vidot, Dan Conifer and staff

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey says the Government will not overreact to claims Australian cattle have been slaughtered with sledgehammers in Vietnam.

Australia's live export trade is caught in a fresh controversy, with Animals Australia saying it has "shocking and distressing" footage showing animals having their skulls repeatedly smashed at an abattoir in Vietnam's north.

The animal rights group is yet to release the vision but lodged a complaint with the Agriculture Department last week.

Speaking in Darwin this morning, Mr Hockey said the live trade export industry would not be completely shut down due to animal cruelty complaints in one region.

"Frankly if there is one country or one place that is actually undertaking an inhumane treatment or terrible treatment of animals, then it is proper to react to that one instance," he said.

"But you don't close off the food supply to many countries where they have very low income, or don't have the supply of protein, on the basis of a single report alone.

"That was the mistake the previous government made, we are not going to make that mistake. We are going to investigate that thoroughly."

Animals Australia launched an investigation in Vietnam "after admissions by industry representatives in April that thousands of Australian cattle had been slaughtered outside approved supply chains," a statement from the animal rights group said.

"The killing of cattle and buffalo through repeated blows to the head with a sledgehammer is the traditional method of slaughter in Vietnam."

Vietnam has quickly grown to become Australia's second largest live export market for cattle, with Animals Australia saying 178,000 animals were exported there last year.

Animals Australia said there had been eight complaints over the past two years about the killing of cattle in Vietnam.
Agriculture Department investigating three potential breaches

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said reports of cattle being killed with sledgehammers in Vietnam, outside of approved abattoir facilities, were first raised months ago by the live export industry itself.

In March, industry notified the Department of Agriculture of several incidents. The department then launched three investigations, which are ongoing.

It is not clear whether the images released by Animals Australia relate to instances already identified by industry.

Mr Joyce said self-reporting by livestock exporters proved the system is working, and the industry was serious about addressing welfare breaches in its export markets.

He also said Animals Australia should reveal when it first became aware of the incidents it reported to the Government.

"I imagine they've known about it since March [too]; do they release things for humanitarian effect or for media effect?" Mr Joyce asked.

"We knew about this because the industry itself has reported on it, and we are making sure that our investigations go through the proper process.

"If prosecutions need to take place, they will."

Pastoralist Murray Grey from Western Australia's Pilbara region sends 40 per cent of his cattle to Vietnam and was relieved to hear the Government had pledged to keep the trade going.

"We're very concerned to hear of any mistreatment, but there's a zero tolerance now from exporters, or from Australia, for anything like that happening," he said.

"And if it is true there's been a breach of ESCAS [Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System] protocol, those importers will be scratched straight off the import list and won't be receiving Australian cattle again."
RSPCA calls for live cattle trade with Vietnam to be suspended

The RSPCA said there had been problems in Vietnam for some time.

"The Government is doing nothing to stop more cattle going into that market," RSPCA chief scientist Bidda Jones said.

Australian animals are traced to their final slaughter destination under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme.

The RSPCA said the scheme was not working for Vietnam and exports needed to stop until it was working.

"This is a serious problem, we should not be allowing more cattle to be exported until these issues have been sorted out," Dr Jones said.

"An assurance scheme that provides no assurance is not effective and not working."

Travis Dillon, the acting chief executive of agribusiness RuralCo, said the live export industry was a growing part of the company and the latest incident was not a good look.

"For us, our understanding is it's definitely not our animals involved at all, but any stories like that are not good for the industry and the investigation will continue into that," he said.

"But clearly it's not what we want to see."

New rules will prevent use of sledgehammers: industry

Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) said it had identified the issue of Australian cattle leaving approved supply chains in Vietnam and ending up in "very basic slaughterhouses".

The industry body said it was rolling out six tough new measures, including CCTV in Vietnamese feedlots and abattoirs.

"We have to stamp out any idea that it's easy to remove livestock from our supply chains, we don't stand for it," ALEC chief executive Alison Penfold said.

"These new conditions that exporters put in place six weeks ago make it very clear to anyone who breaches our conditions they will not receive Australian livestock," she said.


Have your say:
    xanh 1:55 PM on 20/05/2015
    Joe Hockey's crude emotional blackmail about denying protein to 'the poor' in Vietnam is wrong. Those who can afford imported beef are not the poor. There is wealth in Vietnam (Bentleys and Rolls Royces can be seen on the streets) and a large middle class. This is as crude as their "coal is good for poverty" line they get from the current coal industry campaign (they haven't sunk to using Ebola like one of the coal companies yet though.) Neither coal, nor the live animal trade, are charities. I don't like the live animal trade - it is inherently cruel. And why live trade to a country with no religious reason for it (as flawed as the religious reason is). Vietnam and lots of Asia is perplexing as to the poor treatment of animals, it is a major blind spot there. That is a cliche with more meaning than Hockey's "help the poor by selling them expensive meat and coal". Animals don't get any ethical status in the cultures, I guess, although some people differ in that. Although it seems in exporters and politicians, at least, Australians are as cold to the suffering. There has to be a proper response. We are told endlessly there are standards and rules, but everywhere they fail and fail. It isn't good enough and a strong government response is correct. Refuse the live trade to Vietnam. There is no reason for it, but we know it produces animal cruelty well beyond normal farming and slaughtering and that is proven now.
      dpete 2:07 PM on 20/05/2015
      Yes, imported beef is an expensive luxury item in Vietnam that is irrelevant to the 'supply of protein' for all but the wealthy. In northern Vietnam where this story comes from, you can also find restaurants that offer dog meat as an expensive delicacy. We can't do much about that from here, but we can do something about our exported cattle.
      wildfire2013 4:50 PM on 20/05/2015
      "Vietnam and lots of Asia is perplexing as to the poor treatment of animals, it is a major blind spot there." I take your point xanh. It's interesting how as we bear witness to the horror coming out of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse we can point fingers at Vietnam for possible cruelty to animals. Some criticize them and other south eastern Asian countries for eating dogs yet we eat kangaroos. Don't get me wrong I detest cruelty to animals or humans but we should be careful about how we put our fingers as it were. I would like all animals to be treated humanely and with respect. I wonder whether maybe this method that is purported to being used in Vietnam may also be due to the developing country status of Vietnam. Maybe it's a bit rich of us to expect Vietnam to be ABLE to afford to implement all the standards a rich country like Australia has. Maybe I'm wrong in that statement but whilst I am horrified at the notion of using a sledgehammer on an animal I am also more than aware of our own double standards.

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