Exemption of Saudi Arabia from ESCAS Regulatory Framework
In September 2014, Federal Agriculture Minister Mr Barnaby Joyce proposed to exempt Saudi Arabia from compliance with the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) that was introduced in 2011 to improve the welfare of Australian animals in all live export markets.
• Without ESCAS, how does the Department propose to ensure acceptable animal welfare standards for livestock being sent to Saudi Arabia, where there are no animal welfare laws and where the very basic OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) recommendations would not be routinely practised?
• How can the public have any confidence in the Department of Agriculture’s commitment to animal welfare when Australia has resumed live export trade with a wealthy nation who objects to ESCAS? Given this has set a precedent for further exemptions, does this represent the dismantling of ESCAS?
Recent High Mortality Live Export Flight
On 2 October 2014, a flight from Perth to Singapore resulted in the deaths of 174 Australian sheep from heat stress, reportedly due to ventilation failure on the Singapore Airlines carrier. This mortality rate of 7.9% of the consignment is clearly unacceptable and exceeds the reportable mortality level of 2% for sheep, as prescribed by the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL). Ms Alison Penfold, CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, has described deaths on export cargo planes as ‘rare’. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-08/sheep-deaths-on-plane-flight-investigated/5797906
Despite this claim, there have now been at least four high mortality live export flights since September 2013.
• How does the Department of Agriculture explain such high mortalities given that no definitive mechanical ventilation failures have been identified during airline checks for High Mortality Incidents (Consignment 49 November 2013, 39.3% mortality level, exceeding the 2% reportable mortality level for sheep; Consignment 48 October 2013, mortality level 15.3% and Consignment 47 September 2013, mortality level 6.45%, both exceeding the 0.5% reportable mortality level for cattle)? Has there been any change to stocking densities or conformations of crates in the past 12 months that could account for this drastic increase in high mortality air events? Has there been any change to the Australian freight practices that could account for this? Can the Department rule out excessive heat exposure (eg being left in hot conditions on the airport tarmac) before being loaded?