AAP and Neil Keene
May 19, 2015
CLOSING down Australia’s cattle exports is the last thing the government would do after footage of animals being hit with sledgehammers in Vietnam came to light, Prime Minister Tony Abbott say.
Mr Abbott said in Brisbane that the government will carefully investigate any allegations of cruelty and take appropriate action.
“But the last thing we will do is close down this trade,” he said.
Shocking footage emerged yesterday of live export Australian cattle being bludgeoned to death with sledgehammers in Vietnam.
Government authorities have been investigating reports of the sickening slaughter method since March, but Animals Australia said yesterday it was the first time photographic evidence had been made public.
Video obtained by the animal welfare group shows handlers in a Vietnamese abattoir repeatedly striking beef cattle over the head with a sledgehammer to subdue and kill them.
“The cattle shouldn’t have been there and that’s the question: how did they leak into that chain?”
The hidden camera vision was captured late last month in a facility in northern Vietnam.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said that if prosecutions needed to take place, they would.
”If people need to be kicked out of the system they will,” he said.
Mr Joyce said it was yet to be confirmed whether the cattle in question were from Australia, but the abattoirs were operating outside the government’s exporter supply chain assurance system.
“The cattle shouldn’t have been there and that’s the question: how did they leak into that chain?” he said.
Animals Australia spokeswoman Lisa Chalk said Vietnam was currently the second-largest export market for Australian cattle, with 178,000 animals exported there in 2014.
“The industry has called what is happening in Vietnam ‘growing pains’,” Ms Chalk said.
“Most people would disagree. It’s horrific and preventable suffering.”
Animals Australia, the organisation which earlier this year helped expose the cruel practice of live-baiting within the greyhound industry, said video showing the sledgehammer slaughters was “so shocking and distressing that a decision has been taken to not publicly release it at this time”.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said there were already three reviews under way into breaches in Vietnam of a system known as the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme.
The scheme was established in 2011 after the ABC’s Four Corners program exposed widespread cruelty inflicted on live exports to Indonesia.
RSPCA Australia yesterday repeated its call for the live export trade to Vietnam to be suspended.
“Where is the government in this? What new twist on this appalling cruelty will it take to make Minister Joyce step up and take action?” spokeswoman Elise Meakin said.
Mr Joyce said the government was “totally committed” to the industry.