In response to a question in the Senate this afternoon, Agriculture Minister Senator Joe Ludwig contradicted recent answers given by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) in Senate Estimates regarding MLA's role in reporting incidents of animal cruelty in overseas abattoirs.
The Department of Agriculture is currently investigating a suspected breach of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) at Cibinong abattoir in West Java on 28 September where Australian cattle were allegedly slaughtered using roping methods outlawed under ESCAS. The Greens understand that MLA consultants were present during the incident yet it was reported by Animals Australia, not MLA. At the October Budget Estimates session MLA stated it was not their role to report breaches of ESCAS.
"The Minister and MLA clearly need to get their story straight on who has an obligation to report breaches of the ESCAS system" said Senator Rhiannon.
"The MLA receives a significant amount of government funding yet in Senate Estimates, MLA appeared to wash its hands of reporting supply chain breaches.
"Minister Ludwig gave a different answer to my question in the Senate today, stating that he would expect the MLA to report any breaches they observe.
"It should not be up to animal rights organisations to be the watchdog eyes and ears of the government when it comes to reporting animal cruelty in overseas abattoirs.
"This latest breach at the Cibinong abattoir is the third breach this year uncovered by Animals Australia.
"MLA consultants are frequently on the ground in overseas abattoirs, often in the absence of any other government staff, and it erodes the credibility of the ESCAS system if MLA do not see their role as reporting breaches.
"I urge Senator Ludwig to impose an obligation, not just an expectation, on MLA to report incidents of animal cruelty and any suspected ESCAS breaches they observe or learn of", said Senator Rhiannon.
The audio of Minister Ludwig's response to Senator Rhiannon's question in the Senate is here: http://tinyurl.com/cmgudpn
Senator Rhiannon's questioning of MLA from Senate Budget Estimates on 1 November is here: http://tinyurl.com/cccshq2 and extract below
Senator RHIANNON: But are you aware if a report was made to DAFF?
Dr Peter Barnard (General Manager, MLA Trade and Economic Services) : Our role is not as a policeman or regulator. Our role is to assist supply chains with ESCAS compliance and we conduct that role diligently.
Senator RHIANNON: When will that report be finalised and will it be made public?
Dr Barnard : I have no doubt that it will be made public, but you would have to refer that query to the secretary.
Dr Conall O'Connell (Secretary DAFF): I will have to take that on notice, Senator. I do not know the stage of the investigation.
Senator RHIANNON: Have MLA senior management been informed of other breaches of ESCAS in importing markets by MLA employees or consultants that have not been reported to DAFF?
Dr Barnard : Senator, I repeat that our role is not to act as a regulator or a policeman; our role is to assist exporters and supply chains with ESCAS compliance.