GAZA, CANBERRA––Amateur videos posted to social media by witnesses to Eid al Adha slaughters in Gaza on October 15, 2013 appear to have provided some of the most damning evidence yet of the failure of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System to protect Australian livestock from abuse after arrival in foreign nations.
Collected by Animals Australia from social media, the Gaza videos show tethered cattle being chased off a truck to fall heavily upside down in the street, cattle being stabbed in the eyes, a bull being “knee-capped” with an assault rifle, and being killed so ineptly that one bull with a distinctive Australian ear-tag reportedly suffered 102 separate cuts to his throat before bleeding to death, remaining conscious all the while.
The videos show at least 50 different men abusing 22 cattle, at more than half a dozen locations, in several instances before large crowds.
Animals Australia said the cattle in the videos were identified as Australian through their ear tags, “which are of a type, size and shape that is unique to Australian exporters to Israel, as well as through the presence of National Livestock Identification Scheme tags. A number of ear tags directly correlated with ear tags of Australian cattle arriving in Israel in June 2013 aboard the livestock vessel Bader 3, which is operated by the Australian exporter Livestock Shipping Services,” Animals Australia elaborated.
The Australian government introduced the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in 2012, after many previous Animals Australia undercover video exposés of abusive handling and crude killing of livestock shipped to slaughter in the Middle East and southern Asia. The Gaza incidents together constituted the 24th reported systemic failure of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in 20 months, and the third in two months, following reports of violations in Jordan and Mauritius.
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council acknowledged receiving copies of three of the videos long before Animals Australia in early December 2013 distributed them to Australian media and legislators.
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council “took the decision that we would report the most serious incident involving a man shooting at the legs of a bull, which was first published on YouTube on October 22, 2013,” the council said in a prepared statement.
The Australian cattle reached Gaza after being unloaded in Israel. Livestock Shipping Services, the largest Australian cattle exporter to Israel, self-reported potential violations of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in November 2013, but hedged that, “Many of the identifiable features in online photos and footage are not exclusive to Australian cattle.”
Fumed Western Australia Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam, “It always seems to come from Animals Australia, and we don’t seem to hear them having much of a problem with how animals in the rest of the world are treated. They always seem to be able to come up with some dreadful footage and I’m not so sure that a lot of this stuff is not set up.”
That Gaza, Indonesia, Egypt, and the many other places where Animals Australia has documented abuses of livestock are “in the rest of the world” appeared to have eluded Gillam. Neither did he explain how Animals Australia might have “set up” videos posted by dozens of different people using many different social media, in a place not easily accessed by outsiders.
Animals Australia sent the videos to media and legislators after an Australian Department of Agriculture investigation dragged on without consequence for more than a month.
“I’m calling upon the department to seriously consider very quickly issuing ‘just cause’ notices to any company it is investigating as a result of these allegations,” said Labor Party agriculture spokesperson Joel Fitzgibbon. “The ‘just cause’ notice will put the onus on the company to show cause why their license should not be suspended until the investigation is complete,” Fitzgibbon explained. “My concern is that there is no indication that the investigation will be complete by the end of this year and indeed it’s likely to be well into the new year before the department comes to any conclusions.”
Said Green Party member of parliament Adam Bandt, “I think anyone who watches this footage would understand that now is the time to end the live export trade.”
“Gaza is just the latest in a long line of revelations which show clearly that Australia’s so-called supply chain assurance is failing,” said independent member of parliament Andrew Wilkie. “If the government doesn’t have the backbone to stop the trade altogether,” Wilkie added, “then it should at least commit to ban or refuse permits to all companies that have demonstrated a continuing disregard for animal welfare.”
“Any politician or industry supporter who has propagated the industry’s line that we can improve animal welfare by being in the market should be locked in a room and forced to watch an hour of footage from Gaza,” said Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White.
At least 125 Palestinian residents of Gaza were reportedly themselves injured during the Eid al Adha slaughters. Gaza has five official slaughterhouses, Palestinian media said, but rather than wait for hours to have trained butchers kill their cattle, many Gazans did it themselves.