Official investigations have uncovered shocking incidents of cruelty and major flaws in systems supposed to ensure animal welfare involving leading WA-based live export companies.
Four Department of Agriculture investigation reports released yesterday backed complaints from Animals Australia and a member of the public about the handling and slaughter of sheep and cattle in Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritius and Vietnam.
The reports exposed serious breaches of Australia's Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.
Two separate reports detailed the death of scores of cattle sent by air freight to Kazakhstan and China.
DOA deputy secretary Phillip Glyde refused to rule out using the department's powers to cancel export licences if breaches continued. Mr Glyde, under pressure from animal welfare groups to take strong action against repeat offenders, said the DOA was building up an integrity and competency profile on exporters.
"In the last 18 months we have asked seven exporters to provide information to us and demonstrate why their export licence should not be suspended or cancelled," he said.
Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chief executive Alison Penfold said the latest ESCAS breaches damaged the industry's reputation and undermined its efforts to lift standards.
Ms Penfold said the exporters involved - Livestock Shipping Services, Wellard, International Livestock Export, Emanuel Exports and EMS Rural Exports - had taken major steps to prevent a repeat of the breaches.
The DOA found thousands of sheep exported to Jordan were sold and slaughtered in the street during the Eid religious festival in October, with at least 2718 animals exported by LSS disappearing from the approved supply chain.
A critical non-compliance was recorded against Jordanian-owned LSS. It was hit with a major non-compliance ruling after a similar incident in Jordan in June and is the subject of a separate complaint from January.
The company, about to deliver a groundbreaking shipment of 32,000 cattle to Russia, is also facing multiple investigations over cattle exports to the Middle East.
The DOA reports included details of cattle exported to Vietnam being repeatedly hit on the head with a sledgehammer in a facility with no suitable animal handling equipment.
Investigators upheld complaints about the crude slaughter of cattle in Mauritius during the Eid festival.
They also found sheep were illegally sold and slaughtered at what Animals Australia described as a notoriously cruel market in Kuwait during Eid.
Animals Australia said the regulatory system introduced to stop cruelty was flawed.
"We are still seeing cattle beaten with sledgehammers, stabbed in the eyes and sheep being stuffed into car boots," spokes- woman Lisa Chalk said. Gone astray 2718 The number of sheep exported by Livestock Shipping Services that went missing from the approved supply chain in Jordan.