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RSPCA Australia calls on the government to stop the use of all Mark 4 slaughter boxes that facilitate the slaughter of fully conscious animals as part of live export supply chains while it reviews their operation.  There could be around 40 such boxes currently in use in Indonesia and 6 in the Middle East.

This comes following the release of the federal Department of Agriculture’s thorough investigation into breaches of the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) in the live export trade to Indonesia.

The investigation has highlighted that the regulatory system is no magic bullet solution for live exports and that the auditing system in place under the ESCAS is clearly failing to protect animals.

Previous audits of the two abattoirs found in breach of requirements did not pick up serious shortcomings with equipment, training of workers, standards and handling of animals. Unless this changes, issues of non-compliance will not be picked up without external investigations such as this, by people willing to enter these abattoirs and take footage.

RSPCA Australia has previously questioned whether the auditors responsible for checking whether abattoirs comply with the ESCAS requirements are proficient in assessing animal welfare: we still do not know how they are trained and if they really know what they are looking for.  Let’s also remember that exporters employ and pay them directly.

The RSPCA, the public and producers cannot have confidence in a system that allows exporters to choose their own auditors and the timing of audits – this is an echo of the self-regulatory systems of the past which have repeatedly failed to protect exported animals from abuse.

The report once again highlights the enormous risks associated with allowing unstunned slaughter. Many of the non-compliances documented in the report would have been avoided if animals were required to be effectively stunned in an upright position prior to slaughter.

The RSPCA supports the Government’s proposal to review the use of Mark 4 restraint boxes.  The RSPCA has previously raised its concerns over the use of these boxes, which rotate cattle onto their sides to facilitate unstunned slaughter, with both government and industry, yet they continue to be installed in both Indonesia and the Middle East.  The review must include observation of Mark 4 boxes in use and the RSPCA should be directly involved if public confidence in the ESCAS is to be built. 

For more than three decades RSPCA Australia has called for a move away from the live export trade to a meat only export industry.  This will support jobs in Australia, regional development and ensure Australian animals are treated according to Australian standards.

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