ANIMAL rights activists fear there will be more revelations of cruelty to Australian sheep exported to the Middle East with the upcoming Muslim festival of sacrifice Eid al-Adha.
The Department of Agriculture is investigating alleged breaches of strict new animal welfare rules that were implemented after last year’s cattle slaughter controversy in Indonesia.
Animals Australia investigators last month filmed sheep being sold in non-approved markets and slaughtered in a sub-standard and cruel manner in Kuwait.
The celebration of Eid al-Adha in the Middle East involves the slaughtering of an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat to commemorate Abraham’s act of faith in preparing to sacrifice his son. It runs from the evening of October 25 to the next night.
Animals Australia has previously uncovered cruelty during the festival, including sheep being dragged along the ground and stuffed into car boots.
The group’s lead campaigner, Lyn White, said the festival was the peak period of animal suffering across the region and called on the government to implore exporters to have staff in every market place to ensure animals are not sold to non-approved facilities.
”Animals [are] being bought en masse for sacrificial slaughter by families and individuals. We hold grave concerns that Australian exported animals will continue to find their way into markets, in breach of regulations,” Ms White said.
Many in the industry are also worried about the potential for more cruelty in October.
Labor backbenchers Melissa Parke and Kelvin Thomson have led a vocal campaign against the trade, both seizing on the latest revelations as evidence the industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate.
Ms Parke and Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, backed calls for Australian officials to be in the Middle East to monitor welfare during the festival.
Ms Parke has singled out Emanuel Exports, one of the companies alleged to have breached rules, saying its export licence should be revoked – she has previously criticised the company’s directors in Parliament for their poor track record and the department’s lack of action against them.
The Fremantle MP yesterday said the department had a conflict of interest because its primary concern was supporting agriculture not the welfare of the animals.
”I believe the responsibility for the welfare of animals needs to be given to an independent office. It is Labor Party policy to establish an independent office of animal welfare and this needs to occur sooner rather than later,” Ms Parke said.
Senator Rhiannon said the Greens would move an ”urgency debate” in the Senate next week to discuss all recent developments in the trade.
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the system was working but was ”not perfect”, conceding slip-ups would occur.
”But we now have the provisions in place to act on those slip-ups and hold exporters accountable for their actions and supply chains.”
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