Compliance Review Report 24: Cattle exported to the Gaza Strip via Israel in 2013

​​Summary

Australian cattle are regularly exported to Israel and the Department of Agriculture has approved Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) applications for Israel that include facilities in the Gaza Strip.

On 5 November 2013 the department was made aware, by the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC), of a media report alleging that Australian cattle exported to the Gaza Strip via Israel were outside ESCAS approved supply chains. The report alleged that cattle were being managed, handled and slaughtered in a manner not compliant with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recommendations for animal welfare. On 11 November 2013 Livestock Shipping Services Pty Ltd (LSS), self reported that nine cattle were outside the approved supply chain in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, Animals Australia wrote to the department on 25 November 2013 and provided web links to various YouTube clips regarding the above matter.

The department’s review assessed information provided by ALEC, Animals Australia and the exporters as well as YouTube videos and departmental records. The department reviewed records of cattle exported to Israel since ESCAS requirements took effect on 1 September 2012. Three exporters; Livestock Shipping Services Pty Ltd (LSS), Wellard Rural Exports Pty Ltd (Wellard) and AH & R Schmidt, had exported cattle to Israel between 1 September 2012 and 5 November 2013. LSS’ ESCAS included approved facilities in the Gaza Strip.

The review concluded that nine cattle were missing from the feedlot in the approved LSS supply chain in the Gaza Strip and that there was evidence of non-compliance with OIE animal welfare recommendations for cattle at the abattoir.

A major non-compliance has been recorded against the LSS Gaza supply chain for animals outside of their approved supply chain and poor animal handling and slaughter not consistent with OIE recommendations.

A minor non-compliance has also been recorded against the LSS Gaza supply chain for the movement of animals into Gaza facilities prior to receiving approval from the department.

1. Introduction

Australian cattle are regularly exported to Israel and the Department of Agriculture has approved Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) applications for Israel that include facilities in the Gaza Strip.

On 5 November 2013 the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) alerted the department to a media report alleging that Australian cattle exported to the Gaza Strip via Israel were being managed, handled and slaughtered in a manner not compliant with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recommendations for animal welfare. Livestock Shipping Services Pty Ltd (LSS) also contacted the department after being made aware of similar reports. Additionally, Animals Australia provided the department with web links to various YouTube videos regarding the above matter on 25 November 2013.

On 10 November 2013 LSS advised that they had identified two partial tag numbers that may relate to cattle they had exported. On 11 December 2013 LSS self reported that nine cattle were missing from the approved supply chain in the Gaza Strip.

The focus of the review was to determine whether:

  1. the cattle shown in the videos were exported under ESCAS arrangements, and if so, can the exporter be identified
  2. the animal handling and slaughter in the videos was compliant with OIE animal welfare recommendations
  3. there was non-compliance with any other aspect of ESCAS requirements
  4. the results of the review gave reason for the department to take regulatory action.

The department has also received a second complaint about non-compliance with ESCAS requirements in Gaza. This complaint is still under review by the department.

2. Review findings

The department’s review assessed information provided by ALEC, Animals Australia and the exporters as well as YouTube videos and departmental records. The department reviewed records of cattle exported to Israel since ESCAS requirements took effect on 1 September 2012. Three exporters; Livestock Shipping Services Pty Ltd (LSS), Wellard Rural Exports Pty Ltd (Wellard) and AH & R Schmidt, had exported cattle to Israel between 1 September 2012 and 5 November 2013. LSS’ ESCAS included approved facilities in the Gaza Strip.

The department wrote to all three exporters to request information on their supply chains in Israel and Gaza. Wellard provided the requested information, which demonstrated that no cattle had left their approved supply chain, and Wellard was excluded from the review. AH & R Schmidt advised the department they could account for all cattle exported to Israel, and when AH & R Schmidt provided the requested documentation, the department was able to exclude AH & R Schmidt from the review. None of the cattle exported to Israel by Wellard or AH & R Schmidt, were found to have moved outside their approved supply chains.

LSS advised that nine cattle were missing from the feedlot in their approved supply chain in the Gaza Strip. The nine tag numbers were on the tag list for a consignment of cattle exported on 24 May 2013. During the assessment, two of the nine missing cattle were identified in the YouTube videos as their ear tags were visible.

Cattle exported to Israel are identified with a visual tag that indicates that the animals is of Australian origin and also identifies the exporter, the consignment that the animal was exported in and an individual animal number.

During the assessment of the YouTube videos, two additional tags were visible that indicated the cattle were exported in an LSS consignment, however the entire tag number could not be read. LSS reported that their records indicated that the two cattle were scanned and slaughtered at the abattoir in Gaza. It is possible that the cattle were removed from the abattoir once they were scanned at the abattoir although this could not be confirmed.

Many of the cattle in the YouTube videos appeared to have Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags consistent with those used for the Australian National Livestock Identification System (NLIS). However, these tags are not readable due to the quality of the videos. Additionally, the department was unable to verify the locations or dates the videos were taken and uploaded onto YouTube. Therefore, the department could not determine which exporter or supply chain was responsible for the animals or whether the other animals were exported under ESCAS requirements.

The department also reviewed the YouTube videos that showed cattle handling and slaughter against the ESCAS Guidance on Meeting OIE Code Animal Welfare Outcomes for Cattle and Buffalo checklist. The videos show a number of different slaughter methods, without suitable animal handling equipment or restraint mechanisms. An assessment against the checklist is provided at Attachment 1.

One of the YouTube videos showed the slaughter of an animal in an inversion box in the Gaza abattoir included in the approved supply chain. Inversion boxes restrain cattle by applying pressure to their sides, the box then rotates 180¿ and presents the animal for slaughter lying on its back with its head restrained. Inversion boxes are typically used without stunning. A number of non‑compliances were identified in this video and are listed in Attachment 1.

A review of departmental records revealed a further non-compliance with ESCAS in the LSS supply chain. In March 2013 LSS applied to the department to vary their ESCAS approvals for consignments of cattle exported to Israel to allow the cattle to be moved to facilities in the Gaza Strip. The facilities in Gaza were audited and found to be compliant in February 2013. The information provided by LSS shows that cattle entered Gaza in March 2013. However, ESCAS approval was not granted until April 2013. LSS reported that the importer mistakenly believed that when the auditor finalised and signed the audit report that the supply chain was approved.

3. Review Conclusions

Nine cattle were missing from the feedlot in the approved LSS supply chain in the Gaza Strip. Two of those cattle were identified in YouTube videos by their tag numbers. The review found there was a loss of control in relation to the nine cattle, leading to unauthorised movement outside the approved supply chain.

The review concluded that it was possible that many of the cattle in the YouTube videos were exported from Australia and may have been exported under ESCAS requirements. However, due to the quality of the YouTube videos, the review was not able to link most of the cattle to a particular exporter or supply chain.

The department identified the abattoir shown in one of the YouTube videos as an abattoir in the LSS Gaza supply chain. The department determined there was evidence of non-compliance with OIE animal welfare recommendations for cattle at the abattoir.

A major non-compliance has been recorded against the LSS Gaza supply chain for movement of the nine cattle outside the approved supply chain and animal handling and slaughter not compliant with OIE recommendations.

A minor non-compliance has also been recorded against the LSS Gaza supply chain for the movement of animals into Gaza facilities prior to receiving approval from the department.

4. Regulatory Actions

Since the department received this complaint in November 2013, no further approvals have been granted to export cattle to Gaza via Israel, however Australian cattle remained in the Gaza Strip.

On 26 February and 3 March 2014 the department suspended use of the Gaza abattoir and required the exporter to prevent further movement of cattle from Israel into Gaza. As of 28 February 2014 there were approximately 600 animals in Gaza feedlots.

On 6 June 2014, the department lifted the suspension on the Gaza abattoir after the exporter put corrective actions in place (see below). This will allow for the remaining cattle to be slaughtered. LSS must comply with a number of additional conditions including:

  • LSS must advise the department when slaughter of the remaining cattle recommences
  • an LSS representative must be present for the entire slaughter process of the remaining cattle
  • LSS must provide the department with fortnightly (starting two weeks after slaughter recommences) reconciliations and reports on the slaughter process
  • an independent auditor must be present for the recommencement of the slaughter and provide an independent performance audit report to the department within two weeks
  • video showing the slaughter process for at least six cattle, including movement from the lairage to the slaughter box, the point of slaughter and removal from the box, must be provided to the department each month until all the remaining animals are slaughtered.   

5. Actions Taken by the Exporter

After finding that nine cattle were missing from the feedlot in the approved LSS supply chain in the Gaza Strip, LSS suspended supply of cattle to the feedlot. Cattle continued to be moved from feedlots in Israel to the abattoir in Gaza up until 2 February 2014.

As Australian cattle remained in the feedlot, LSS advised that the following actions were put in place in the feedlot to prevent unauthorised movement:

  • double fence separation between Australian and other origin cattle

There are no remaining cattle in the feedlot that the leakage occurred from and no cattle have entered the feedlot since the complaint was received.

LSS sent a consultant to visit the Gaza supply chain abattoir to undertake a review of the facilities and processes including:

  • the training schedule of slaughtermen
  • the time taken between restraint and slaughter
  • the lack of effective head restraint while the animal is within the inversion box
  • the use of a single, deep, uninterrupted cut for slaughter.

The review produced a number of recommendations to modify the slaughter boxes to ensure they met OIE animal welfare recommendations. The consultant also conducted animal handling training whilst on site and recommended ongoing training to ensure effective animal handling practices are observed.

The consultant also conducted training on standard operating procedures to ensure effective animal handling practices are observed at ESCAS approved Gaza feedlots.

LSS provided the department with video of the slaughter processes at the abattoir, following the training of staff and recommended improvements to one of the slaughter boxes. Animal welfare experts reviewed the video and determined that the slaughter process shown met OIE animal welfare recommendations.

Attachment 1. Summary of non-compliances identified during the department’s animal welfare assessment of all YouTube videos of cattle handing and slaughter against the ESCAS checklist.

Videos of cattle at locations outside the supply chain

Animal welfare performance measure or targetAssessment by the department
Element 1 – Animal Handling
1.1 The movement of animals is carried out calmly and effectively.In many of the videos the cattle are chased, dragged, hit with objects, are restrained with ropes and are seen to trip and fall. Often there are multiple onlookers moving around, noise and other distractions that cause undue stress.
1.8 Animals are handled to avoid harm, distress or injury.In many of the videos, cattle have ropes placed around their legs and necks and are forced to trip and fall to the ground.
1.10 Livestock are not subjected to procedures that cause pain and suffering.

In some of the videos, cattle are struck with objects, kicked, hit or have their tails pulled/twisted. One video depicts an individual shooting an animal in the legs. Another video depicts an animal being stabbed in the eye. Some videos depict an animal being stabbed in the neck prior to slaughter.

Element 2 – Land Transport of Livestock
2.8 Livestock are loaded and unloaded from vehicles in a calm and efficient manner.In some videos, cattle are forced off vehicles without the use of ramps causing the cattle to trip and fall. Some videos depict animals with their legs tied and forced off the back of trucks.
Element 6 – Slaughter without Stunning
6.1 Slaughter of livestock is carried out calmly and effectively.In many of the videos, the cattle are visibly distressed. Cattle are restrained with ropes, tied to poles and are seen to trip and fall.
6.3 The method of restraint employed is appropriate for size and class of livestock being slaughtered.In the videos, cattle are restrained manually with ropes. The cattle are visibly distressed and are seen to trip, slip and fall.
6.4 Animals are presented for slaughter without being unduly stressed.In many of the videos, the cattle are visibly distressed. Cattle are restrained and forcibly tripped. Often there are multiple onlookers moving around, noise and other distractions that cause undue stress.
6.6 The head is restrained for as short a time as possible prior to slaughter, and in no case for longer than 10 seconds.In many of the videos, the head is restrained for periods longer than 10 seconds.
6.7 The head is restrained in a manner which facilitates slaughter.Many of the videos show cattle slaughtered in public places tied to poles and trees without adequate head restraint.
6.8 The head of the animal is kept in extension to prevent the edges of the wounds touching until the animal is dead.In many of the videos the head is not restrained sufficiently, allowing the wound edges to touch.
6.9 The method of restraint employed is working effectively.In many videos are cattle are restrained with ropes and are seen to trip and fall. Some videos show cattle breaking free of restraints.
6.11 Knife used for slaughter is long and sharp enough to sever both carotid arteries.In many of the videos, the knives used for slaughter are blunt or not long enough to sever both carotid arteries.
6.12 The throat is cut using a single, deep, uninterrupted fast stroke of the knife.In many of the videos, multiple cuts are made.
6.15 Animals must not have water thrown on them or be otherwise disturbed prior to confirmed death.One video depicts cattle being hosed with water during and after slaughter.

Video of an animal being slaughtered in the approved abattoir

Animal welfare performance measure or targetAssessment by the department
Element 6 – Slaughter without Stunning
6.4 Animals are presented for slaughter without being unduly stressed.The animal appears distressed, the head is not restrained and the animal thrashes its head while the box is rotating and when inverted.
6.6 The head is restrained for as short a time as possible prior to slaughter, and in no case for longer than 10 seconds.There is insufficient restraint of the animal’s head and the animal is left inverted for approximately 25 seconds prior to slaughter.
6.12 The throat is cut using a single, deep, uninterrupted fast stroke of the knife.Multiple cuts are made.

 

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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