ACCC institutes proceedings following alleged egg cartel attempt

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against industry services body, the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL), along with two egg producing companies for allegedly attempting to create an egg cartel.

The ACCC alleges that the AECL along with other corporate and individual respondents, attempted to persuade egg producers who were members of AECL to enter into an arrangement to cull hens or otherwise dispose of eggs, for the sole purpose of reducing the amount of eggs available on the Australian market, therefore driving up prices.

The government watchdog alleges that the AECL board communicated the proposed arrangement via member publications in November 2010. It is also alleged that, in February 2012, AECL held an ‘Egg Oversupply Crisis Meeting’ where it sought to arrange a coordinated approach by egg producers to reduce the supply of eggs, in response to a perceived oversupply of eggs.

Managing director of AECL, James Kellaway and Zelko Lendich, director of AECL and a former director of egg producer Farm Pride both spoke at this meeting, with Jeffrey Ironside – director of AECL and Twelve Oaks Poultry, acting as chair.

The ACCC has instituted proceedings against:

  • The Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL);
  • Mr James Kellaway, the managing director of AECL;
  • Two egg producing companies, Ironside Management Services Pty Ltd (trading as Twelve Oaks Poultry) (Twelve Oaks Poultry) and Farm Pride Foods Limited (Farm Pride);
  • Mr Jeffrey Ironside, a director of AECL and Twelve Oaks Poultry; and
  • Mr Zelko Lendich, a director of AECL and a former director of Farm Pride.

“Retail egg sales, one of many sales channels, were valued at over $566 million in 2012* and eggs are a staple food product for Australian consumers. Indeed, egg consumption per capita has increased in the past 10 years leading to an increase in the demand for producers’ eggs. The ACCC is concerned that the alleged attempt sought to obtain agreement by egg producers to reduce supply, which if successful could have impacted on  egg prices paid by consumers,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said. 

“Detecting, stopping and deterring cartels operating in Australian markets remain an enduring priority for the ACCC, because of the ultimate impact of such anti-competitive conduct on Australian consumers who will pay more than they should for goods.”

 

RSPCA wants livestock export report made public

The RSPCA is calling on the Federal Government to act on recommendations of a report completed in May last year on Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).

The report was only made public last week, after the RSPCA lodged a freedom of information request, ABC Rural reports.

The report endorses draft recommendations that list strict guiding principles for selection, transport and handling of livestock.

The RSPCA's chief scientist, Bidda Jones, who was a member of the committee that reviewed the standards, wants the draft recommendations released for public consultation.

"The committee agreed to a number of significant changes, from the previous version, but there are also options in that draft, so there are some issues that the committee didn't reach agreement on."

She says the RSPCA wanted standards on stocking density changed to give animals more space, but the industry disagrees.

"We feel that if you put that out to public consultation, with those options, you've got a chance for people to express their views and then end up with a better standard," Jones said.

In a statement, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, which was also represented on the review committee, says any changes to the standards must be based on science.

The council's CEO Alison Penfold said some of the proposals put by the RSPCA would make the live export trade uneconomical or uncompetitive without benefiting animal welfare.

"By way of example, RSPCA's claims about stocking densities are incorrect, demonstrate a lack of practical understanding of animal behaviour and manipulate animal welfare motives to make the trade unviable," Penfold said.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the government was looking to improve the live export trade, but in a way that wouldn't shut it down.

"My department is currently at work investigating the issues that they believe need further investigation, but I'm not going into detail as to what our outcomes will be," Joyce said.

He said he wanted to see the live cattle and sheep trade expanded.

"It's vitally important for the price of cattle that we keep the live trade growing, otherwise we will be totally reliant on the processing sector and that means we get a depressed price.

"No matter how far I go there are some groups that will never be happy until we shut the industry down, and I'll tell you right now, I'm not going to do that," Joyce said.

Mining billionaire, Andrew Forrest said that Australia has fallen behind other export nations such as Brazil in the race to cater to China’s demand for beef.

Forrest said that Australia is at risk of repeating the same mistakes made within the iron ore industry which enabled countries such as Brazil to capitalise on billions in export sales.

Forrest said that as it stands, Australia is not properly playing to its strengths or competing strategically in the international marketplace.

Forrest bought Harvey Beef earlier this month in a deal believed to be worth $40m.

Harvey beef is WA’s biggest beef exporter, and the only one accredited for exports to China.

 

Australian pork industry calls for tougher penalties against animal activists illegally filming on farms

The Australian Pork industry is calling for tougher penalties against animal activists who illegally film on farms.

Australian Pork Limited (APL) chief executive Andrew Spencer said an increase in activity over the past 18 months has seen animal rights activists target properties in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, ABC News reports.

"These activists are illegally entering farms, they're illegally taking footage, they're illegally leaving, in some cases, surveillance devices to spy on people," Spencer said. "Those farm raids have been extremely distressing for the farmers involved, as you could imagine. It's like having your house burgled."

The pork industry said it wants better legal protection for farmers who are being "viciously" defamed by material posted on the internet by animal rights groups.

Spencer argued the aim of these campaigns is not to improve animal handling practices, but to shut down the entire pork industry.

"In some cases we've seen that they actually set up negative shots, they move dead piglets around for example," he said.

APL is calling for a review of trespass, defamation and filming laws, relating to surveillance devices.

"[Current laws] absolutely do not provide a deterrent to these radical anti-animal farming groups," Spencer said. "[Animal rights activists] are prepared to take the risk on the law because they know that it is very weak in being able to hand out penalties."

APL would like to see legislation change to make it easier to prosecute trespasses, as well as to increase penalties.

However, the industry acknowledges that pursuing changes to current laws could generate negative publicity.

"There is absolutely that risk and, as an industry, we have to be as transparent as we possibly can be," Mr Spencer said.

"We will never have done enough, we need to continue to work to make sure that people understand what we are doing, understand our motivations, and understand that we are part of the food industry.

In June last year, Australian Pork released a video questioning the intentions of animal activists and shedding light on its own animal welfare standards.

The video followed recent scrutiny of the Australian food manufacturing's animal welfare standards and questioned the activists’ commitment to animal welfare.

The video said "Animal activists break into a farm, trespass and terrorise pigs at night. They break strict biosecurity protocols, putting the animals' health and wellbeing at risk. If activists were serious about animal welfare they would work with industry."

 

Banrock Station partners with WWF-Australia

Banrock Station has announced a partnership with conservation organisation, WWF-Australia to help preserve the Great Barrier Reef and its wildlife.

Through the Banrock Station Environmental Trust, Banrock Station will contribute approximately $750,000 to the Rivers to Reef to Turtles research initiative, a four year program that will seek to identify and measure the key pollutants in rivers, the Great Barrier Reef and in green turtles themselves.

Since 1995, Banrock Station has supported vital conservation efforts across the world. To date, the Banrock Station Environmental Trust has donated approximately $5 million (AUD) to more than 130 projects in 13 countries.

Banrock Station Environmental Trust panel member, Dr Christophe Tourenq said the research will be critical to understanding potential impacts on the Reef and for turtle conservation.

“This new partnership is an incredibly rewarding opportunity to support WWF-Australia in an effort to understand the threats to one of the most iconic Australian ecosystems and its native marine wildlife, and help to find solutions to protect it,” Tourenq said. “Key to our philosophy is helping consumers make a genuine contribution to conservation projects, and this particular project is something everyone in Australia can relate to.”

Initiatives the project hopes to address include:

  • Identifying and measuring priority pollutants in rivers, the Great Barrier Reef and turtles
  • Contributing to the understanding of how sources and impacts of pollution are likely to put turtles and wider ecosystem health at risk.

WWF-Australia’s National Manager for Species, Terrestrial and Indigenous Partnerships, Darren Grover said pollution is a key threat to the Great Barrier Reef.

”Our World Heritage listed Reef has lost nearly half of its coral cover since 1985, and pollution has been a major driver of this decline,” Grover said. “This new initiative will help us better understand the links between water quality and green turtle health in the Great Barrier Reef. It will also inform baseline data for turtle health and help to improve efforts to manage runoff into the Reef.

For more information on the research project, and other projects funded by the Banrock Station Environmental Trust, click here.

 

Abattoir workers sacked over mistreatment of pigs

Rivalea, Australia’s largest pork producer has dismissed two of its workers following evidence of the mistreatment of pigs at the company’s abattoir in Corowa.

The footage which shows pigs being ‘excessively prodded and kicked by staff', was supplied anonymously to Animal rights group, Aussie Farms and released last week. The footage has since sparked an investigation by the company’s management and New South Wales police, ABC News reports.

Chris Delforce, spokesperson for Aussie Farms said that before slaughter, Rivalea stuns pigs with carbon dioxide – a method that he says is inhumane. Delforce says that while the group may not be able to successfully gain a prosecution against the processor due to the likeliness of the footage being obtain illegally, he hopes that the incident will draw attention to the methods that Rivalea use.

"As far as we can tell these cameras were installed illegally and that does make it difficult to gain a prosecution against Rivalea," said Delforce.

"But I suppose in this instance we're not so much looking for a prosecution because this is just one of many abattoirs that uses this system.

"Really what we're trying to do is show people that this is how it happens."

Managing director Mick Hewat of Rivalea said that the company dismissed the employees in question following an investigation of the incident.

"We were distressed and shocked to see the footage," said Hewat.

"We are actively working to assess and reinforce the effectiveness of our animal welfare systems."

 

Shareholders to benefit from Woolworths cage eggs phase-out: VFF

Shareholders will benefit most from Woolworths’ decision to phase out caged eggs, according to Victorian Farmers Federation egg group president Brian Ahmed.

The supermarket plans to remove caged eggs from its shelves by 2018,  a move welcomed by animal welfare lobby groups as a win for battery hens.

According to The Weekly Times, Ahmed said the move is simple a way for Woolworths to capitalise on welfare concerns and increase their return to shareholders.

“They want to sell more free range eggs because there is more money in them,” Ahmed said. “That’s what it basically comes down to — $3 for a carton of cage eggs versus $5 or $6 for free range.”

Ahmed said the cage egg industry had introduced major changes in the past 10 years, in line with concern from animal welfare organisations.

“That’s what frustrates me more than anything else. People need to know the amount of work farmers do — the work that goes in to producing the eggs that are put on those shelves. It is a passion, it’s a big commitment and we don’t like being portrayed as these cruel people that are taking the advantage of animals to reap the rewards,” Ahmed said.

The plan to phase out eggs by 2018 was criticised in January as “no longer achievable” by a NSW Farmers spokesman, due to a 2013 bird flu outbreak. The outbreak near Young saw all 400,000 hens from a Langfield Pastoral Company property, as well as 50,000 from a neighbouring property destroyed, seriously affected the supply of free range eggs.

 

PETA dubs Christensen’s campaign ‘Happy Heart Attack Week’

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has written a letter to Liberal MP, George Christensen following his move to launch a counter campaign to Meat Free Week, titled Free Meat Week.

In the letter, campaign coordinator for PETA Australia, Claire Fryer says that a core reason that many people across Australia are participating in Meat Free Week is to improve their cardiovascular health, and suggests that “Happy Heart Attack Week” would be a more appropriate name for his counter campaign.

"'Happy Heart Attack Week' is a fitting moniker… since heart disease is often caused by diets that are high in animal products,” writes Fryer.

“…Coronary heart disease is, as I'm sure you're aware, the leading cause of death in Australia, claiming a life every 24 minutes.”  

Christensen said that he ‘ran out of meat’ at a free parliamentary barbecue that he hosted in Canberra yesterday where he served up lamb, pork and beef.

“When Aussie farmers and graziers are doing it so tough, a drive to convert people to vegetarianism is just un-Australian,” Christensen told Stock Journal.

“…I am running a counter-campaign called 'Free Meat Week' and encouraging families around the country to support their mates in the bush by purchasing good Aussie meat and put on a free barbecue for their mates at home.

“We will allow bread and sauce and even make a special concession on onion, but definitely no Greens.”

Fryer suggests that Christensen may have never gotten past a “childhood aversion to vegetables,” pointing out that his comments relating to the campaign’s alleged “un-Australian” angle are somewhat contradictory.

“You have said that your barbecue will include no greens. But what of the farmers who raise crops rather than animals for food? Are they undeserving of support simply because you haven't gotten past your childhood aversion to vegetables?

“You've called Meat Free Week "un-Australian," but a 2010 Newspoll survey found that 99 per cent of Australians are opposed to cruelty to animals. It seems to us that anyone who is so strongly against a healthier, more financially stable, greener and more compassionate Australia might want to re-examine the definition of patriotism,” wrote Fryer.

In addition to the letter, PETA send Christensen a vegetarian/ vegan starter kit.

 

Liberal MP launches counter campaign to Meat Free Week

In response to Meat Free Week, Liberal MP for Dawson, George Christensen has launched a counter campaign titled Free Meat Week – encouraging people to consume meat.

Christensen said that he ‘ran out of meat’ at a free parliamentary barbecue that he hosted in Canberra yesterday where he served up lamb, pork and beef, the Daily Mercury reports.

"There haven't been any calls to the office or emails directly attacking me," Christensen said of his counter campaign.

"But there certainly has been a fair bit of criticism from animal rights groups and supporters on Twitter."

Meat Free Week is a national campaign designed to expose factory farming practices and encourage consumers to think about how much meat they consume, as well as the impact that the industry has on the environment.

Organisers of the event Lainie Bracher and Melissa Dixon, have received criticism from the meat industry with many people labelling them as ‘anti-farming’.

“Very few people are talking about responsible and ethical meat consumption and that is what we aim to do with Meat Free Week,” Bracher and Dixon told Food Magazine last year.

“We are not suggesting people give up meat entirely; rather we hope that by understanding the benefits of eating less meat, consumers will choose to make a serious commitment to reducing their meat consumption.”

Christensen says that his ‘meaty’ campaign has generated a lot of support from the rural sector.

"I've had a lot of support from the rural sector because I suppose they felt, like I did, that while the people behind Meat Free Week try to cloak it in terms of health, the reality is it is a campaign saying meat is bad for us, is bad the environment, is unethical and we shouldn't eat it."

 

Animals Australia launches new tongue in cheek egg campaign [video]

Animal welfare group, Animals Australia has released a set of videos that encourage consumers to purchase cage free eggs with the help of high profile comedians including Arj Barker, Peter Rowsthorn of Kath and Kim fame, Mick Malloy and Carl Barron.

Titled ‘How to treat a lady’, the videos take a tongue in cheek approach to discussing the realities behind battery egg production, stating that keeping a hen couped up in a tiny cage ‘ain’t no way to treat a lady’.

“I like to treat them right, take my ladies out,” says Arj Barker while stroking a ukulele. “You know if you love something, set it free… You got to give the ladies space.”

“Who wants to be cooped up in such a tiny environment for their entire lives?” says Rowsthorn. “Think about if you got caught on a really crowded train and the doors shut, and there you were, for the rest of your life. That’s not good – what if the person next to you was a knob?”

Taking a more serious tone, the video’s voiceover states that most eggs in Australia are laid by hens confined to battery cages.

“Choose kindly and help make caged eggs history,” the voiceover says.

Last year supermarket giant Woolworths announced that it will be phasing out caged eggs as part of a new partnership with British celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.

The move angered the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) who stated that many farmers converted to new cage systems only five years ago which were then fully compliant with industry standards.

President of the VFF’s egg group, Brian Ahmed said that he doubts that farmers will receive any compensation to move away from caged systems.  

“We want to all go free range but it's costly. They are going to take away a good protein source from consumers that can't afford it," he said at the time.

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ACT passes ban on factory farming practices

The ACT Government has passed legislation that bans sow stalls, battery cages and the de-beaking of chickens throughout the territory.

The move has been welcomed by Greens minister, Shane Rattenbury, who stated that the legislation has sent out an important message to producers that employ factory family practices in the rest of the country.

'To ban these elements of factory farming gives me great joy but I understand there is more to be done,'' he told The Canberra Times.

Although the legislation is only enforced within the ACT, Rattenbury says that 70 percent of laying hens across the nation are still confined to battery cages, often in spaces no larger than an A4 piece of paper.

''These are living feeling creatures capable of experiencing fear, pain and distress,'' he said. ''I find these statistics shocking.''

In contrast, the Liberal deputy leader Alistair Coe voted against the bill, stating that it was ‘redundant’ as the ACT had no intensive pig farms, or battery egg farms. He also said that Labor’s support of the bill demonstrated that the party’s agenda had been influenced or ‘hijacked’ by the Greens, SMH reports.

The new legislation will attract fines for up to $35,000 for corporations and $7,000 for individuals.

 

ACT expected to ban battery cages and sow stalls

The ACT is expected to pass a vote today that will see an end to certain factory farming practices.

The new legislation which was introduced by Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury last year, will ban the use of battery cages for hens along with de-beaking practices, and will also prohibit the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates for pigs.

Rattenbury says that the move to prohibit such practices has largely been driven by a consumer push for higher animal welfare standards and that fines of up to $35,000 will be payable for any breach of the new laws.

"This is an important reform to protect the welfare of farmed animals and will set the precedent for other states and territories to do the same," Rattenbury told Yahoo 7.

"Some of the practices outlawed under this legislation are simply cruel and inhumane and don't have any place in modern food production in Australia."

The move has also been welcomed by animal welfare group, Animals Australia.

Communications director for the group, Lisa Chalk said that the passing of the vote will be a ‘landmark decision’.

"Animals Australia really applauds the ACT government's landmark decision to prohibit what are some of the cruellest farming practices," she said.

"These are practices which see millions of animals around Australia severely confined."

Although the legislation will see an end to such practices in the Territory, NSW Farmers Egg Committee spokesman Bede Burke said that many ACT farmers have already, or are in the process of moving to non-cage systems. He also said that the legislation will not prohibit the sale of caged eggs produced in other Australian states in ACT supermarkets.  

 

Live exports debate reignited over 4,000 sheep deaths

The live exports debate has been reignited following the death of more than 4,000 sheep on a ship bound for Qatar.

The sheep died in August from heat exhaustion, after spending 21 days on-board a live exports ship, which left Fremantle for Qatar.

According to The Newcastle Herald, Jordanian-owned company LSS is based in Perth and is already under investigation for two breaches of live export regulations in Jordan and Gaza.

Details of August’s incident are expected next week.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said the incident was further evidence that the live exports trade in Australia needs to end. "This is the worst animal disaster at sea in recent history and another damning example of how the government continues to fail animals in the live export trade," she said.

"The only solution to end this horrific suffering is to end live exports and rebuild our domestic meat manufacturing by moving to chilled box meat exports."

However, the federal government's Department of Agriculture says these suggestions fail to consider strong cultural preferences for freshly slaughtered meat in Middle Eastern countries.

A statement issued by LSS said the sheep were loaded according to Australian standards but died during an extreme weather event on day 21 of the voyage.

“"Industry and Government supported heat stress risk modelling computer software was used to assess this voyage and is used by the company to assess all voyages to the Middle East and northern Hemisphere destination,” it read.

The statement adds that LSS has abided by government directives to increase space requirements for sheep and that this reduced mortality rates on-board.

"The Department of Agriculture increased the minimum space requirements for sheep by 10 per cent above Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock requirements for the next consignment of livestock on the vessel," LSS said.

"LSS complied with this requirement and the next voyage in November 2013 resulted in a low mortality rate of 0.02 percent."

The live exports trade has been an ongoing point of contention in Australia, following a number of recent incidents including the airing of footage on the ABC of animal cruelty practices at Egypt's Ain Sokhna and Ismailia facilities, as well as the infamous 2011 ban on live exports, also prompted by footage of animal cruelty practices in an Indonesian abattoir.

The ban was heavily criticised by the cattle industry with farmers arguing their livelihood had been threatened – an argument which gained traction once the Indonesian government cut its intake after the ban was lifted.


 

Young farm was not free range: HSI’s letter to Barnaby Joyce

Animal protection organisation, Humane Society International, has responded to claims that a bird flu outbreak on a free range egg farm in Young is threatening the supply of cage-free eggs, arguing the farm isn’t free range at all.

Verna Simpson, director of HSI, contacted Food magazine after it published news that the supply of cage-free eggs is under threat following an outbreak of the H7 Avian Influenza strain on a Langfield Pastoral Company farm in Young in October 2013.

The outbreak saw all 400,000 hens from the property, as well as 50,000 from a neighbouring property destroyed. In the story, Bede Burke, chairman of the NSW Farmers egg committee, said some egg producers will have to walk away from the industry, arguing free range operations are risky business.

''People who have grown and expanded into free range in the last seven years, to be now 35 to 40 percent of egg production base, they are now carrying this risk factor that you cannot insure against and we don't include in our pricing structure for our eggs,” he said.

The farm in question, however, was not free range at all, claims Simpson. “This was anything but a free range facility with massive amount of hens on a small parcel of land. There has NEVER been an outbreak of bird flu traced back to a REAL free range facility,” she said.

“The Young property was running 420,000 birds on a couple of hectares (with council approval for only 80,000) so I’ll let you do the math.”

In a letter to Barnaby Joyce, federal minister for Agriculture, Simpson claims “The hens on the ‘free range’ farm were stocked at an enormous 80,000 hens/ha which is hardly free range when compared to those who abide by the guidelines of the Model Code.”

Currently, the code states that ‘free range’ can mean stocking densities of up to 1,500 birds per hectare, but last year the Queensland government increased its densities to 10,000 birds per hectare.

Simpson also criticised Joyce for claiming that free range egg production encourages bird flu outbreaks.

“Research shows that there is ample evidence to counteract your statements, instead showing that it is confinement on factory farms that contributes widely to the spread of avian flu,” she said.

In her email to Food magazine, Simpson suggests Bede Burke, who says retailers would be foolish to stop stocking caged eggs, is looking after his own business interests.

“It is in the interests of Bede Burke to discredit free range as he is trying desperately to protect his cage production.”

 

Caged hens are less stressed than free range: UK study

A UK study has found that hens living in "enriched cages" are less stressed and have lower mortality rates than their free range counterparts.

While demand for free range chicken and eggs has grown substantially in recent times, with consumers increasingly concerned about animal welfare standards, Professor Christine Nicol, who led the research at the University of Bristol, said many free range farms in the UK have poor welfare standards.

According to dailymail.co.uk, shoppers concerned about welfare standards should look for caged hens or free range hens that are pat of a farm assurance scheme.

"It would be nice to think the current free-range system gave the birds the best welfare, but the problem is that the management of free-range systems in the UK is so variable. Although you get some brilliant farms, you get some that are really not good," Nicol said.

Battery farming for chickens was outlawed in 2012 and replaced with 'enriched cages' which have 70 or 80 birds living in stacked enclosures with access to food, water and scratching posts.

In regards to the Australian market, Woolworths has committed to phasing out its caged eggs within the next four or five years, after which it will stock RSPCA or other certified fresh chickens. This move has been welcomed by Animals Australia, but president of the Victorian Farmers Federation egg group, Brian Ahmed, said it will be costly for Australian farmers and consumers.

He said many farmers converted to new cage systems only five years ago, which were then fully compliant with industry standards, and is doubtful that farmers will receive any compensation for moving away from caged systems. 

In September this year, the ACT introduced an animal welfare bill to the Legislative Assembly, which if passed will prohibit the use of battery cages, sow stall and farrowing crates. This would make the ACT the first state in Australia to legislate against factory farming.

 

PETA ad rejected by Sydney Ferries

Outspoken animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has had its advertisement that shows sheep jam-packed in ‘filthy stalls’ aboard a live export ship rejected by Sydney Ferries.

A spokesperson for NSW Transport said that the ad was rejected as it did not comply with the advertising contract between Transport for NSW and Harbour City Ferries which stipulates that ‘contentious issues’ in advertising material will not be permitted, The Weekly Times Now reports.

"Under the contract between Transport for NSW and Harbour City Ferries, the operator must not advertise or permit advertising `political, religious or other subject matter which is contentious or offensive'," he said.

Campaign coordinator for PETA, Claire Fryer said that the rejection of the advertisement is preventing Sydney commuters from relating to the horrors that the animals are subjected too during live export.

"It's taking away the chance for commuters to relate to the animals," she said.

"It's obviously confronting to see the reality these animals live in… however, this is the reality of live-exports."

PETA's advertisement comes at a time when live exports have once again hit headlines. 

 Animal welfare group, Animals Australia shot footage earlier this month that shows the serious mistreatment of Australian sheep in Jordan, including roadside sales of the animals which breaches the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). 

ESCAS was set up by the Federal governement in 2011 which made livestock exporters responsible for the treatment of animals during transit, and right up to the point of slaughter.

 

New animal cruelty footage emerges from the Middle East

Animal welfare group, Animals Australia shot footage earlier this month of the serious mistreatment of Australian sheep in Jordan, placing cruelty within the live animal export trade in the spotlight once again.

The footage which was supplied by the group to the ABC, shows sheep being sold individually and then slaughtered in the street in extremely inhumane ways.  The footage also shows other animals having stones thrown at them and sheep being stuffed in to the back of car boots and vans.

Animals Australia said that the sheep are identifiable as Australian due to the appearance of the animals, and ear tags that identify which farms the animals come from.

Animals Australia raised concerns earlier this month by alerting the Federal Department of Agriculture to the severe breaches of live export regulations occurring in Jordan and Kuwait, where Australian sheep were being sold at roadside markets in the lead up to the Eid Al-Adha festival – a Muslim festival that is celebrated by slaughtering sheep and sharing the meat with those in need.

The Federal Government introduced the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) in 2011 following evidence of animal cruelty in Indonesia which made livestock exporters responsible for the treatment of animals during transit and right up to the point of slaughter.

“One of the primary motivators for the introduction of these regulations was to prevent the brutal treatment of Australian animals documented every year during this religious festival,” said Animals Australia Campaign Director Lyn White in a statement.

White said that she saw over 10,000 Australian animals sold outside the ESCAS system at 32 different locations over the two days that the footage was filmed.

White said that she believes the Department of Agriculture has instigated an investigation into the serious breaches of the system.

"It's the failure of the exporter to respond that I think has shocked the Department of Agriculture and the industry itself, who know that what is absolute contempt for the regulations is completely contrary to the interests of the industry, let alone to the interests of Australian animals, "White told Lateline.

Only two companies export sheep to Jordon from Australia, Livestock Shipping Services and Wellard. Wellard states that none of the animals depicted in the footage were supplied by the company.

"Wellard has viewed the footage and none of the sheep pictured were supplied by Wellard to our Jordanian customer," the company said in a statement.

"In addition, a post-Eid Festival ESCAS audit conducted by an independent, accredited auditor, and the reports from the large team Wellard sent to Jordan to assist our client with animal welfare both indicated that our client's supply chain remained robust and that animal welfare was maintained."

The other exporter, Livestock Shipping Services, confirmed that some of the animals in the footage originated from farms where the company sources.

Livestock Shipping Services said that the treatment of the animals was “unacceptable” and that the company with launch an investigation as to how the sheep ended up being sold outside the ESCAS system.

 

HSI rejects Joyce’s claim that free range farming caused bird flu outbreak

Animal protection group, the Humane Society International (HSI) has rejected federal agricultural minister, Barnaby Joyce’s claim that a recent outbreak of bird flu was the result of free-range production.

The Department of Primary Industries confirmed the outbreak earlier this month and has since announced that the culling up to 400,000 hens will take place to ensure the virus – which is the H7 avian influenza, not the pathogenic H5N1 strain – does not spread.

The detection of the H7 avian influenza resulted in Hong Kong, one of the poultry industries major export markets, placing a temporary suspension of NSW poultry products.

Wambanumba Free Range hen farm located near Young in NSW had council approval for only 80,000 birds and the balance of 400,000 hens which were ordered to be destroyed came from a neighbouring caged egg facility only 800 meters away.

According to HSI, Wambanumba Free Range holds four sheds, silos and outdoor runs for hens, all enclosed in an area of just 1.6 hectares, representing stocking densities for hens of approximately 80,000 birds per hectare. Both Coles and Woolworths allow stocking densities of up to a maximum 10,000 hens per hectare for their private label brands.

According to HSI, Barnaby Joyce declared that free range egg production was the cause of the bird flu outbreak, however HSI says that the hens on the Young property did not meet the general consensus for the term free range, and as such, has angered many genuine free range producers.

HSI also states that there has never been a recorded incidence of bird flu on any genuine free range farm in Australia, and that it is the movement away from high stocking densities and factory farming that will minimise the opportunities for bird flu to spread and mutate.

HSI stated “genuine pasture raised free range birds do not suffer the same disease burden of factory farmed animals and the farming systems employed mean that birds have low stocking rates reducing direct contact, well managed pastures with moveable hutches and a more natural existence that allows them to build immunity to diseases such as bird flu.”

 

Potential live export breaches reported in Jordan and Kuwait

The Australian Livestock Exporters Council has called for an urgent investigation by the Department of Agriculture into allegations that thousands of sheep are being sold outside approved supply chains in Jordon and Kuwait.

Animal rights group, Animals Australia alerted the Federal Department of agriculture to the severe breaches of live export regulations occurring in Jordan and Kuwait, where Australian sheep are allegedly being sold at roadside markets.

The group state that Australian sheep are facing brutal treatment and slaughter during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice due to commence tomorrow.

“One of the primary motivators for the introduction of these regulations was to prevent the brutal treatment of Australian animals documented every year during this religious festival,” said Animals Australia Campaign Director Lyn White.

“Australians have been horrified by scenes of Australian sheep being shoved into car boots and brutally slaughtered and now this year, despite the existence of these regulations, thousands of sheep will again face this fate.”

Alison Penfold, chief executive of the Australian Livestock Council said that the council is ‘deeply concerned’ for the welfare of the animals.

"Our gravest concern at any time, but particularly during the religious Festival of Eid al Adha is that Australian livestock could exit controlled facilities where we cannot assure welfare,” Penfold told The Weekly Times Now.

"Should these allegations be proven then we expect nothing less than any failure to comply with the federal regulations (ESCAS) to be called out publicly and tough penalties applied to the exporter or exporters responsible for the supply chains at fault."

Penfold said that exporters have been putting in place a specially designed management program for this year’s festival period which is designed to provide extra control arrangements to ensure the welfare of Australian livestock.

"Additional exporter staff and Australian welfare consultants have been deployed to the Middle East and South East Asia and are on the ground now at facilities to ensure that Australian livestock are treated humanely while respecting the religious and cultural significance of this festival,” she said.

"Unfortunately, this is little consolation in the face of such serious allegations in two supply chains."

 

Emotive video shines light on palm oil production [video]

Californian environmental organisation, the Rainforest Action Network has released an emotive video to promote awareness on the realities of unsustainable palm oil production.

The video which spans just under two and a half minutes depicts a young hearing impaired girl communicating with an organutan, one of the world’s most intelligent primates, through sign language over skype.

After a brief polite conversation, the organutan, named Strawberry picks up a banana and tells the young girl, Lena, that this is the food that it eats. Strawberry then asks Lena what her favourite food to eat is.

Lena goes to her cupboard and pulls out a jar of peanut butter. Strawberry then asks Lena what peanut butter is and what it is made of.

“Peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt,” Lena communicates.

Strawberry’s mood instantly turn sober. She stares downward briefly, then looks up at Lena.

“Your food is destroying my home,” communicates Strawberry.

“Organutans cannot speak for themselves,” says a voiceover, the first human voice to be heard in the video. “But if they could, they would tell us that much of the palm oil used in America’s snack food is being grown by cutting down rainforests that are orangutans only home.”

The video is part of a campaign by the Rainforest Action Network called “In your Palm” and encourages consumers to avoid foods containing palm oil.

Palm oil is the world’s most widely used edible oil with an estimated 50 percent of products on Australian supermarket shelves comprising the ingredient. The widespread popularity of palm oil is due to its attractive price tag and the fact that it promotes a longer shelf life when compared to butter and other oil alternatives.

The controversy surrounding palm oil relates to mass deforestation which is taking place in Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations, with obvious implications for native species, especially the endangered orangutan.

Consumer awareness of palm oil production has heightened in Australia in recent years resulting in the boycotting of particular foods including hot cross buns from Australian retail giant, Woolworths earlier this year

Woolworths has now committed to only use Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 in all private label products. The supermarket giant is now a member of the RSPO and has committed to using only certified sustainable palm in their hot cross buns for Easter 2014, following the consumer backlash earlier this year.

Coles, now also a member of RSPO, has made a similar move by committing to use only certified sustainable palm oil in all Coles-branded products by 2015. The retailer said that it has already removed palm oil from some of its bakery products.

 

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Wally’s Piggery to face court over animal cruelty claims

The owner of Wally's Piggery, based north-west of Canberra at Murrumbateman, has been served with 53 court notices relating to horrific acts of animal cruelty.

Last year animal welfare group, Animals Liberation NSW, released footage of the piggery which showed alleged acts of animal cruelty, with workers seen kicking piglets and beating sows with a sledgehammer.

According to the ABC, the footage led to police and RSPCA investigators raiding the piggery, and now the owner, Wally Perenc, has been served with 53 court notices to attend Yass Local Court under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Wally's Piggery and the connected business of Tennessee Piggery, near Young, closed earlier this year.

This isn't the first time Perenc has been accused of mistreating animals, with similar convinctions being handed down in 1984 and 1994.