Israeli Abattoir Abuse - Australia's Live Export in Question
By Mark Biddulph /

Israeli abattoir abuse questions Australia's live export system

Video of Australian cattle being abused at an Israeli abattoir has prompted questions of our live export system given the abattoir was given the all clear in an audit for an Australian exporter two months before the video was taken.


CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: Shocking new video of cattle being abused at an Israeli abattoir has prompted a criminal investigation in that country. A separate inquiry here is trying to determine whether the animals were shipped from Australia. 7.30 has discovered the abattoir was audited for one of Australia's biggest live exporters just two months before the film was shot and given a clean bill of health. The auditing of meat works was forced by last year's outcry over live animal exports, but activists insist the system doesn't work. Conor Duffy has this report - and a warning the story contains disturbing images.

CONOR DUFFY, REPORTER: The workers at Israel's largest abattoir, Bakar Tnuva, are liberal with their use of the electric stun gun. As the cattle bellow and writhe, the workers target the cattle's eyes, genitals and anus.

ABATTOIR WORKER (translated): You have a pipe, the shocker, and you put it in his arse.

RONEN BAR, ISRAELI JOURNALIST: These were the exact instructions of the managers in my first day there. The security manager told me, "You have a probe, you have a stick, you use them to prompt the animals. If a calf doesn't move shove the electric probe in his ass and he will move."

CONOR DUFFY: It's clearly painful and distressing, but worse is to come. An injured animal refuses to move and management watch on as it's dragged by a front leg behind a fork lift.

RONEN BAR: These are the regular procedures, it's not what was shown, is not something special or something that is not everyday regularity.

CONOR DUFFY: This footage was captured on a hidden camera in September by Israeli journalist and vegan animal rights actist Ronen Bar who worked there undercover for 19 days. It was broadcast on Israeli television last week, causing an outcry. The Israeli Government has now launched a criminal investigation.

Mr Bar says most of the animals he filmed are Australian.

RONEN BAR: Some of the cattle I filmed the ear tags and it says AUS, Australian. Also the workers told me that the cows are Australian, and the managers... most of the calves that are slaughtered there are Australian.

CONOR DUFFY: It's impossible to tell from the footage if the animals came from Australia. But the Department of Agriculture says they may well have.

PHILLIP GLYDE, DEPUTY SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: It's a reasonable expectation, and we're conducting an investigation and we're doing that in conjunction with the Israeli authorities who are conducting their own investigations.

CONOR DUFFY: Deputy Secretary Phillip Glide says that three Australian companies previously exported to Bakar Tnuva. Elders International say the cattle in the footage aren't theirs, and Livestock Shipping Services say its last shipment arrived in March.

CONOR DUFFY: Adom Adom owns the abattoir and is in a major beef supplier in Israel. It says it receives cattle from a number of countries and doesn't know if these animals came from Australia.

The vision also shows the cattle being slaughtered. There are no reflex tests to ensure the animals are unconscious and cattle are moved as they bleed to death.

BIDDA JONES, RSPCA CHIEF SCIENTIST: When you've got an animal that is in pain because it is losing consciousness from a cut to the throat, it's losing blood very rapidly, but it is still... this is a painful situation it's in. Anything that happens to that animal adds to the pain that it's enduring while it is still conscious.

FOUR CORNERS (2011): These are the pictures the cattle industry doesn't want you to see. The cruelty and suffering...

CONOR DUFFY: This treatment was supposed to have ended following the outcry over a Four Corners report last year. After that program aired, live exports to Indonesia were suspended and a new export supply chain assurance scheme introduced to ensure better animal welfare outcomes.

The RSPCA's chief scientist has analysed the footage and written to the Department of Agriculture, saying the vision proves the abattoir fails to meet basic guidelines.

BIDDA JONES: But what I've observed in this abattoir breaches the standards that are set by the exporters Supply Chain Assurance Scheme multiple times. So in terms of the way in which animals are moved around in the pens prior to slaughter, the use of the prodder, the number of times the prodder was used, the way in which it was used, the dragging of animals to move animals through the pens, picking up animals and throwing them - all of those things are clear breaches of the SCAS standards and of OIE - that's the international animal welfare guidelines.

CONOR DUFFY: The RSPCA also says the new auditing scheme to monitor animal welfare standards is not working in practice. 7.30 has learnt Elders commissioned an auditor to assess Bakar Tnuva in July and that the abattoir passed the audit with just one condition. 

ELDERS AUDIT FINDINGS (voiceover): The following noncompliances were identified: rusty gate causing excessive noise.

CONOR DUFFY: After completion of the audit, representatives of the organisation carried out immediate CA with grease on the rusted door and "confirmed as OK".

BIDDA JONES: I just couldn't believe that. After having looked at the footage and understanding how many things are wrong, how could an auditor have walked in the door of that place and thought that it was acceptable? I just don't understand.

RONEN BAR: This report is a joke. It says that they found a rusty gate there or something like that. You can see in the photos the rusty gate is not the first thing you would notice at a place like that. I didn't notice it - maybe because it's not a very sharp-eyed investigator.

CONOR DUFFY: Elders International declined to answer questions about their audit. The company says it will require another independent audit before continuing to ship to Bakar Tnuva, as does Live Stock Shipping Services. The Department of Agriculture's Deputy Secretary says its investigation will look at how the facility passed the initial audit.

PHILLIP GLYDE: Certainly we were appalled by what we saw on that video and what was brought to light by the Israeli TV crew - that's just not acceptable - but it doesn't mean that the system's not working.

CONOR DUFFY: He insists the changes to live export laws are robust, and that this was just an initial audit that would have been followed by others.

PHILLIP GLYDE: People can have faith and people have to understand that you can't get 100 per cent right all the time. Any system can have failures and our job is to try to find out if there's any problems in the system, if there are poor performers in the system our job is to identify them and make sure they're not part of the industry.

CONOR DUFFY: Jock Laurie from the National Farmers Federation viewed the footage today.

JOCK LAURIE, NATIONAL FARMERS ASSOCIATION: Some of that footage, I think, was, you know... pretty difficult to watch because you're seeing animals in distress... you know, people who deal with livestock simply don't like seeing animals in distress being mistreated, and I think in those circumstances it's very disappointing.

CONOR DUFFY: Mr Laurie says the new system is working, and another audit will allow practices like those at the Bakar Tnuva abattoir to be corrected.

JOCK LAURIE: I think watching that footage, it just shows how important it is that the Australian industry continues in those markets and continues working in those markets to increase animal welfare standards. I think once we go out of the system there's not too many other people that are working there to continually improve.

CONOR DUFFY: A spokeswoman for the abattoir's owners said consultants from Meat and Livestock Australia are arriving today to retrain its staff.

ADOM ADOM SPOKESWOMAN (voiceover): We would like to emphasise unequivocally that we condemn the behaviour that was presented in the video. Rude, sadistic behaviour - as presented - is conflicted with the company's procedures. The plant manage has resigned, and all contract workers involved in this case were suspended immediately.

CONOR DUFFY: Overnight, protestors took to the streets in Tel Aviv calling for management at the abattoir to be jailed and for Australia to halt live exports.

PROTESTER: I think the exposure is another proof that live exports should be banned and the sooner the better.

PROTESTER II: Australia must stop shipping this kind of beef to Israel.

CONOR DUFFY: As animal welfare advocates prepare for another round of battle, industry is warning shutting down live exports will just see more suffering.

BIDDA JONES: In my view, no Australian animals or any other animals should be going into this abattoir until the staff have been trained properly and the infrastructure is put in place to let animals be handled appropriately.

Read the responses to 7.30 from Livestock Shipping Services and the abattoir owners Adom Adom.

Elders also responded to 7.30, saying, "Elders will only deal with importers who satisfy ESCAS regulations and given a range of corrective actions that will need to be addressed, Elders will be requiring a further Independent Audit be completed.

"As Elders is not the exporter involved with the cattle shown in the footage we will not be making a comment at this stage.

"We will review the program once it airs this evening and respond if appropriate."

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Israeli Abattoir Abuse - Australia's Live Export in Question