​​Media Release

ESCAS review demonstrates success, recommends improvements

21 January 2015

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, today said that Australia has now been established as a clear world leader in the welfare of exported live animals. The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) report released today contains data that indicates more than 99% of livestock exported have experienced a positive welfare outcome since comprehensive welfare standards spanning the entire supply chain we​re introduced in 2011.

The high rate of compliance with international animal welfare standards covers more than eight million exported animals to over 860 facilities across 18 countries.

In nine of our markets there were no incidents that impacted animal welfare, while in the other nine markets the incidents involved between an estimated 0.002 and 1.58 per cent of the animals Australia exported to those markets.

The report shows that since the ESCAS system was introduced, 8,035,633 livestock were exported with just 12,958 animals – or 0.16% – experiencing a potentially adverse animal welfare outcome.

The report also reveals that more than 7,000 people have been trained in animal handling and husbandry skills in destination markets under ESCAS.

“These are very strong results that show that the system is working. However, everyone would agree that improving animal welfare outcomes continues to be a challenge. Recommendations from this report will support continual animal welfare improvement in our live export industries,” Minister Joyce said.

"What this review clearly demonstrates is that Australian livestock exported overseas are treated humanely in almost every instance and in accordance with international animal welfare standards.

“With that in mind, critics of the live export trade should end irrational and misleading attacks on importing countries that welcome Australian cattle and sheep, and who rely on Australia as an important source of high quality, reliable and safe protein.

“Let’s not forget that livestock exports have earned more than $1.4 billion in the 16 months since we have come to office, and provide an absolutely vital market for Australian cattle and sheep producers.

“This industry is directly improving returns at the farmgate through increased domestic competition—indeed the record prices we are seeing in saleyards across the country right now can at least in part be attributed to the strong demand from our live export markets.

“As we head toward our target of $3 a kilo in the yards, a price that brings a return never seen in money terms in the history of Australia, and terms of trade that hasn’t been seen since the 70’s we must remember that this turnaround has not happened by accident. The reinvigoration of live animal export has been vital to bring real competition back to the saleyards and paddocks and a real return to farming families of the nation.

“From Darwin to Mt Gambier better returns are being delivered by this Coalition Government and in so doing assisting our nation towards balancing the books. Continually in this process we have been attacked by those who wish to once more cease the live trade and reduce returns to producers almost as if they want farmers to be poor. The argument has been that they believe that ESCAS has been ineffectual. This review shows in fact that it has been effective.

“We also know that the system is improving welfare outcomes well beyond our shores and well beyond Australian animals.

The report finds that Australia’s high standards of animal welfare in the live export industry and strong levels of industry compliance currently cost government and industry $17.6 million every year.

“The Australian Government made a commitment to reduce red tape for primary producers. Now that we know that the ESCAS system is effective, the government will work to ensure it is delivered as efficiently as possible,” Minister Joyce said.

“Based on the recommendations from this report, we will examine opportunities to implement clearer compliance guidelines, remove duplication of audit activities and introduce greater industry responsibility for risk management.”

“The Coalition Government is fully committed to the trade and I am proud of the fact that since we have been in office we have opened six new markets for live cattle and sheep – Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Cambodia, Thailand and Lebanon – and we are intent on continuing that trend.”

The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System Report delivers the government’s commitment to review the ESCAS system. The report contains data for all animals exported under ESCAS from August 2011 to November 2014.

The report was developed taking into account submissions from industry bodies, exporters, animal welfare organisations, state and territory governments and importing country governments to identify key areas for long-term improvement.

The full report is available online: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/escas-report​.