Animals Australia exposes Egyptian slaughterhouses again

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  May/June 2013:

Exposing a bloody business

CANBERRA––The latest Animals Australia undercover videos of slaughter at the two Egyptian slaughterhouses authorized to kill Australian cattle showed “outrageous cruelty” that “left me and my industry colleagues disgusted and horrified,”  Australian Livestock Exporters Council spokesperson Alison Penfold told media.   “We completely support and will assist the fullest possible investigations in both Egypt and Australia of how these events could be possible,  and how to stop a repeat of this behaviour,” Penfold pledged. Said the Australian Department of Agriculture,  Fisheries & Forestry in a prepared statement,  “Upon receiving allegations of animal mistreatment in Egyptian abattoirs on May 1,  DAFF urgently sought assurances about the proper handling of animals under the animal handling and slaughter Memorandum of Understanding with Egypt.  DAFF’s assessment of the footage presented is that the practices depicted were not compliant with international animal welfare standards.  There is currently a voluntary suspension of trade by exporters. There have been no consignments to Egypt since July 2012.” The cattle were shipped to Egypt in July 2012,  Penfold said,  but were not slaughtered upon arrival.  Animals Australia collected some of the slaughter footage in October 2012,  and more in April 2013.  About 3,000 Australian cattle were still awaiting slaughter in Egypt when the Animals Australia videos were released. Like video that Animals Australia obtained from the Bassetin slaughterhouse near Cairo in January 2006,  the new videos––including footage from both the Bassetin slaughterhouse and another at Ain Sokhna––show butchers gouging the eyes of cattle and slashing their leg tendons,  before crudely cutting their throats in a procedure falling far short of meeting the requirements for halal slaughter as prescribed by Islamic doctrine. Australian and Egyptian government representatives affirmed some of the alleged violations at Ain Sokhna.  “The management of the facility is implementing corrective actions to meet required standards,”  said DAFF. “Australian politicians and industry representatives have been quick to condemn the slashing of leg tendons,” acknowledged an Animals Australia statement.  “But they cannot express horror at tendon slashing and deem it unacceptable and not find equally unacceptable the slashing of a conscious animal’s throat.” Animals Australia investigator Lyn White,  a former police officer,  has since 2003 repeatedly directed undercover video operations that have documented mistreatment of Australian sheep and cattle,  as well as other livestock,  at facilities in Egypt,  Kuwait, Bahrain,  Oman,  the United Arab Emirates,  Qatar,  Jordan,  and Indonesia. Time and again Australia has suspended live exports of animals to the nations whose slaughter industries have been exposed.   Time and again the Australian government and the government of an animal-importing nation have promised to reform livestock handling and slaughter procedures. Time and again Andrew Wilkie,  an independent member of the Australian Parliament from Denison riding,  Hobart, Tasmania,  has introduced legislation meant to stop exports of live animals.  Introduced on May 13,  2013,  the latest Wilkie bill appears to have no more chance of passage than any of the others. But repeated failures by the Australian Department of Agriculture,  Fisheries & Forestry to ensure that exported sheep and cattle will be handled and killed according to international standards increasingly call into question whether past pledges of reform have been made in good faith,  and whether reform is even possible. Animals Australia contends that the only effective reform would be to replace live exports entirely with exports of frozen carcasses.  A succession of Australian governments have resisted this suggestion to keep live export market share: Australia leads the world in live animal exports to the Middle East and the Islamic nations of Southeast Asia. Historically,  nations which practice halal slaughter,  meaning slaughter as prescribed by Islamic law,  have insisted that only meat from animals slaughtered under supervision of their own imams would be culturally acceptable.  Frozen carcasses slaughtered according to halal rules in Australia would meet the religious requirements of Islam,  but animals have traditionally been slaughtered close to the time and place of consumption in most of the world,  not just the Islamic world,  due to lack of refrigeration.  Lack of refrigeration is still a problem in many of the nations to which Australia exports live animals,  but increasingly less so,  while frozen meat products have gained popularity. The major political issue behind the live export controversy at present may be the desire of importing nations to keep jobs in the slaughter industry. “The Australian government suspended trade with Egypt in 2006,”  recalled Dowling of the Melbourne Herald,  as result of White’s Bassetin slaughterhouse video, “and only lifted the ban after assurances from the Egyptian government that cattle would not be abused.” Two years after the 2006 suspension,  livestock exports from Australia to Egypt were re-authorized in May 2008.   The Wellard Rural Export vessel MV Ocean Shearer in February 2010 arrived in Egypt with the first livestock sent from Australia since the 2006 suspension.  In October 2010 the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service confirmed that nearly 300 cattle out of 16,460 and 360 sheep out of 40,282 had died in transit. How the animals were treated after arrival in Egypt was disputed. White observed in November 2010,  however,  that Australian-introduced “reforms” in Kuwait were mostly ignored. “In the Shuwaikh abattoir,”  White recounted, “trussed and terrified Australian sheep were dragged up the ramp into the slaughterhouse right in front of a Ministry of Livestock Australia sign saying ‘don’t drag animals.’” Sold for individual slaughter at the Eid,  “Australian sheep were bound with wire and shoved into car boots,”  White continued,  “whilst others were dragged terrified on their stomachs amongst the dead and dying to have their throats cut.” White in March 2011 obtained video of abuses similar to those at Bassetin from eleven randomly selected halal slaughterhouses in Jakarta,  Bogor,   Bandar,  Lampung,  and Medan,  Indonesia.  Australian live cattle exports to those eleven slaughterhouses were suspended for 38 days,  and all Australian live exports were suspended for 30 days. Industry pressure to promptly resume exports to Indonesia was intense:  Indonesia purchases account for about 60% of the total Australian cattle export trade. But the biggest recent losses to the Australian live export industry were not caused by an exposé of cruelty. Bahrain in August 2012 rejected a cargo of 22,000 Australian sheep on arrival,  purportedly due to scabby mouth disease, a stress-related affliction similar to a human cold sore,  which often develops among sheep on shipboard. Leaving Bahrain,  the transporter sought unsuccessfully to unload the sheep in Kuwait,  but Kuwait would not accept them either.  After another failed attempt to leave the sheep in Bahrain,  the transporter left them in Karachi, Pakistan.  Having spent a month at sea,  the sheep were not released for sale in Pakistan,  either,  and were crudely massacred after six weeks of impoundment. —Merritt Clifton

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