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RSPCA Australia is calling for an immediate suspension of the use of Mark IV slaughter boxes in approved live export supply chains, following the release of a long-overdue report into their use for the slaughter of cattle in Indonesia and other live export markets.

The report, a Review of modified and copy Mark IV restraint boxes released today by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), identifies serious risks to the welfare of cattle. It indicates that unless these devices are designed, maintained and operated exactly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, they will not provide a humane outcome.

“It’s clear from the Australian Chief Veterinary Officers’s report that multiple conditions, including daily monitoring of equipment and a high level of operator training and competency, must be continuously in place for Mark IV boxes to come close to humanely restraining cattle,” said Dr Bidda Jones, RSPCA Australia’s Chief Scientist. “There is absolutely no evidence that these conditions are achievable in most Indonesian abattoirs.

“In the 12 months since this Review was commissioned, thousands of Australian cattle slaughtered in these devices have been exposed to animal welfare risks, including excessive pressure resulting in broken ribs, injury from sharp protrusions, head slapping as well as the intense pain of having their throats cut while fully conscious.”

Shockingly, the Department’s response to the Review is to once again hand control back to the exporters - it will be up to them to assess whether the boxes in their own supply chains are up to scratch.

“Exporters already know the problems with Mark IV boxes, yet they continue to use them,” said Dr Jones. “Until there is clear and consistent evidence that these boxes meet minimum animal welfare requirements, they must be immediately removed from the supply chain.”

The Review reiterates the importance of encouraging the global uptake of pre-slaughter stunning, yet the recent Government funding announcement of $1.8 million to the live export industry made absolutely no reference to stunning.

“I have grave concerns that the continued use of Mark IV boxes will do little more than further entrench un-stunned slaughter in Indonesia.  Following the recent lift on quotas to the region we’ll see a surge in the numbers of cattle entering the market, including heavier animals, making it vital that efforts be focused on improving slaughter practices that include stunning.”

Media contact: Elise Meakin, 0419 748 907, emeakin@rspca.org.au

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