RSPCA Australia is strongly urging Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce to reverse his decision to give Saudi Arabia an exemption from the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).

The Government's horrifying decision to exempt Saudi Arabia, from the already basic regulatory framework that is ESCAS, will endanger Australian animals.

Any nation unwilling to meet ESCAS requirements must not be allowed to import Australian animals as it will allow poor practices to continue.

“Giving special consideration and exemptions for one country is a slippery slope back to the horrors we saw in Indonesian abattoirs in 2011 – what’s to stop others from bullying Australia into the same thing?” said Heather Neil, CEO RSPCA Australia.

“ESCAS was put in place following the exposure of systemic animal cruelty and immense public outcry - it is the bare minimum that should be required.

“57,000 Australian sheep were rejected by Saudi Arabia in 2003, leaving them floating at sea for three months and as a result thousands died. This is not a destination that can be trusted to ensure adequate animal welfare practices will be met.

“The community can expect that Australian sheep will suffer inhumane slaughter as a result of this decision.

“This Government seems fixated on trumpeting the expansion of the cruel live export trade, rather than focusing on increased investment in the boxed meat trade in order to secure new markets for Australian producers, and ensure the long-term welfare of our animals,” said Ms Neil.

Media contact: Elise Meakin, 0419 748 907, emeakin@rspca.org.au