Media statement: Investigation into allegations of ‘payment for animal cruelty footage’

In January 2019, the department commenced an investigation into allegations reported in the media that live export workers had been offered money to obtain and leak footage of animal cruelty on export vessels.

The investigation also inquired into allegations that ‘whistleblowers’ had offered to cut off ventilation and switch off exhaust fans to distress sheep on voyages in order to receive payments.

The department sought information from a wide range of sources in relation to these allegations, some of whom cooperated and others who chose not to.

The department has concluded its investigation into this matter and has not found any evidence to suggest that breaches of Commonwealth laws have been committed in relation to alleged payments.

The investigation did not uncover any evidence to suggest that video footage obtained in 2017 by the crew member of the Awassi Express was contrived, or that ventilation or fans had been turned off to distress the livestock.

The investigation was conducted by experienced criminal investigators within the department’s Compliance Division.

These investigators are independent of the Live Animal Export Regulator and conduct investigations into criminal matters across the department’s portfolio legislation, and the Criminal Code Act 1995 as it applies to the department’s operations.

Department investigators consulted the Australian Federal Police during the investigation.

The department is aware that the AFP also received a referral of similar allegations but did not identify grounds to proceed to investigation.

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