Animal activists have claimed that the Australian sheep are being mistreated overseas, defying government regulations to keep supply chains clean from abuse.
Lawyer for Animals Australia Shatha Hamade journeyed to Oman in May for a “six-week operation” to capture footage of Australian sheep who she says are suffering in local markets and slaughter houses.
“Trussed Australian sheep, their front legs are tied together, their back legs are tied together and they‘re basically just all over the ground in between buyers, cattle, goats,” she said on 7.30.
“Being trampled on, as you can see, being dragged into the back of car boots.”
The videos she claims are of Australian sheep in the Middle Eastern country allegedly show the animals “being slaughtered basically right next to each other” on bare concrete inside sheds.
If the videos are of Australian sheep, the vision would reveal issues with the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) set up in 2011 to prevent the abuse of sheep headed for live export.
ESCAS requires exporters to ensure animals are handled, sold and slaughtered in approved facilities.
Ms Hamade alleges Australian sheep are being sold in unapproved facilities and that the animals inside some approved facilities are being mistreated.
The animals were also shown being put into the boots of cars for private slaughter.
The activists say the Department of Agriculture has not acted swiftly enough to investigate the allegations, an accusation Agriculture Minister Murray Watt denied.
“My understanding is that the independent regulator has been undertaking this investigation quickly and properly,” he said on the program.
“It has already taken some regulatory action against the exporters who are involved. That is pending the final results of that investigation.”
However, Senator Watt did agree that the images were “very concerning” if proven to be involving Australian sheep.
“The figures show that there’s a very small percentage of cases in which the ESCAS regimen is not complied with and in the overwhelming majority of cases it is,” he said.
Live exports have long been a contentious issue in Australian politics, with the federal government once suspending all live exports to Indonesia for six weeks following a Four Corners investigation that showed animal cruelty.
As activists call for live export bans, WA farmers and the state government have warned the Commonwealth that ending the trade would cost $123m annually and cut 400 jobs across the chain.