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The issue

Australian cattle live exported for slaughter are subject to stressful transport conditions, high stocking densities, and often suffer cruel slaughter and handling practices on arrival at their destination.

The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) is supposed to ensure oversight and traceability of Australian cattle from ship to slaughter. And yet, time and again, we see footage showing Australian cattle suffering horrendous treatment and slaughter conditions, having leaked from the approved supply chain.

In September 2019, footage emerged of terrified Australian steers in Indonesia being roped, forced to the ground and held down before having their throats cut in a sawing motion without stunning. This followed footage from June 2019 of Australian cattle live exported to Israel subjected to poor handling practices, including excessive electric prodder use and workers standing on the backs of cattle and painfully twisting the tails of cattle as they were being offloaded from the ship.

These incidents join numerous others that have shown the inability of the ESCAS to truly protect cattle welfare in live export.

What needs to change

The export of live animals for slaughter is inherently high-risk, with decades of repeated evidence of suffering and cruelty. The RSPCA believes live animal export should be phased out in favour of an increased trade in boxed and chilled meat from animals that have been humanely slaughtered here in Australia.

For as long as live export continues to exist, there must be improvements to welfare standards including significant reductions in stocking densities on-board vessels, a prohibition on sending southern cattle over the equator, and an urgent review of the ESCAS to ensure that stunning is mandatory and further ‘leakage’ of Australian animals from the approved supplier chains is reduced.