20 May 2015

Claims cattle killed with sledgehammers

7:28 am on 20 May 2015

An animal protection group is calling for Australia's live export trade to be suspended after claiming cattle have been slaughtered with sledgehammers in Vietnam

Cattle await auction at the cattle yards in Dalby, west of Brisbane (May 2013)

Cattle await auction at cattle yards west of Brisbane. Photo: AAP

Animals Australia said it had obtained "shocking and distressing" video showing animals killed by having their skulls repeatedly smashed.

The group is yet to release the video but has lodged a complaint with the Agriculture Department about the abattoir in Vietnam's north.

"Animals Australia launched an investigation in the country after admissions by industry representatives in April that thousands of Australian cattle had been slaughtered outside approved supply chains," a statement from the animal rights group said.

"The killing of cattle and buffalo through repeated blows to the head with a sledgehammer is the traditional method of slaughter in Vietnam."

The group said Vietnam was Australia's second largest live export market for cattle, with 178,000 animals sent there last year.

It said there had been eight complaints over the past two years about the killing of cattle in Vietnam.

The Agriculture Department said it would investigate the animal rights group's claims, along with three more self-reported breaches from March this year.

A spokesman for Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the department had been closely monitoring the export of cattle to Vietnam since the March reports.

"[The department] is working with industry to ensure any problems are rectified and that the stringent animal welfare standards required are maintained," the spokesman said in a statement.

"The department continues to seek information from other exporters in the region to determine whether further non-compliance ... has occurred."

It is unclear if the three reports to the department overlap with the Animals Australia case.

'We don't stand for it'

The RSPCA said there had been problems in Vietnam since exports started two years ago.

"The Government is doing nothing to stop more cattle going into that market," RSPCA chief scientist Bidda Jones said.

Australian animals are traced to their final slaughter destination under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme.

The RSPCA said the scheme was not working for Vietnam and exports needed to stop until it could.

"This is a serious problem, we should not be allowing more cattle to be exported until these issues have been sorted out," Dr Jones said.

"An assurance scheme that provides no assurance is not effective and not working."

But Mr Joyce's statement said the Federal Government remained "totally committed" to the live export trade and, when problems arose, the Government did not "shut down an entire industry".

The Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) said it had identified the issue of Australian cattle leaving approved supply chains in Vietnam and ending up in "very basic slaughterhouses".

The industry body said it was rolling out six tough new measures, including CCTV in Vietnamese feedlots and abattoirs.

"We have to stamp out any idea that it's easy to remove livestock from our supply chains, we don't stand for it," ALEC chief executive Alison Penfold said.

"These new conditions that exporters put in place six weeks ago make it very clear to anyone who breaches our conditions they will not receive Australian livestock."

-ABC

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