THE Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has begun an immediate investigation into the treatment of Australian livestock at an Israeli abattoir after footage emerged of animals being mistreated.
Footage filmed secretly by Israeli journalist Ronen Bar at Bakar Tnuva abattoir in Beit She’an, which aired on the ABC’s 7.30 program last week, depicts cattle being shocked with electric prodders and dragged by forklifts.
Bakar Tnuva was audited by Australian authorities earlier this year as part of the federal government’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which was implemented following last year’s revelations of livestock mistreatment in Indonesia.
DAFF deputy secretary Phillip Glyde said the new images were distressing. “We understand and share the community’s concerns about humane treatment of animals, which is why we’ve made the world’s most stringent animal welfare standards a mandatory condition of livestock exports,” he said.
Glyde said the investigation would entail a “comprehensive review and analysis of all parts of the supply chain”.
“The Israeli authorities have also commenced their own investigation. DAFF and the Israeli government have been in contact and will be cooperating on our respective inquiries,” he said. “We won’t be prejudged. Once the investigation is complete, a decision will be made about what action to take, if any.”
RSPCA Australia chief scientist Dr Bidda Jones said this was a “severe case” of animal cruelty. “The footage shows this abattoir does not meet even basic OIE [World Organisation for Animal Health] guidelines in terms of the competency of the workers or the arrangements for the handling and slaughter of cattle or sheep,” she said.
ESCAS requires Australian livestock to be treated in accordance with OIE standards.
“This is proof that no scheme or agreements can fully safeguard the welfare of animals exported live overseas for slaughter,” Jones added.
DAFF has stressed that the recent audit, which found Bakar Tnuva up to standard, was merely an initial audit.
It has contacted Australian exporters and industry councils to ensure they are working with their members to have ESCAS requirements met for future consignments of livestock to Israel.
Israeli journalist Ronen Bar in a screen grab from ABC’s 7:30 program.