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Written by – Blythe Calnan, Consultant, BMC Consulting.
The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) can be confusing. It is a point of much discussion, and I find that even living, breathing, and working ESCAS for the last two years I can still end up in complex discussions on the finer points. Industry has been looking at the future implementation of a Quality Assurance system, which I support. It is not dropping ESCAS or evading responsibility for animal welfare, but evolving a system put together quickly under immense pressure. The topic can be a little dry, but I hope this gives you an informed platform on which to shape opinions on our industries future.
ESCAS evolved from the recommendations of the Farmer review into the live export trade following televised footage on cruelty in abattoirs in Indonesia. The animal welfare component of ESCAS is based around World Health Organisation (OIE) guidelines for animal handling and slaughter practices. All countries importing Australian livestock are signatories to the OIE, therefore the rules surrounding ESCAS are based on existing welfare standards in these countries. The other major changes to exporting livestock through the ESCAS system involves the exporter/importer having control of all supply chains that the livestock enter up until confirmation of death at the point of slaughter. Through an auditing system the exporter must demonstrate to DAFF that they have a system in place which meets all requirements of ESCAS before Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries (DAFF) will issue a health certificate to Export. The major principles on which ESCAS is based on are:
- Animal Welfare
This section is audited by a series of checklists; the full latest versions of these are available at the DAFF link at the end of this blog, look for ‘DAFF Assessment Checklists for Cattle and Buffalo/Sheep and Goats’. The checklists cover six different sections, with some that cross over multiple areas of the supply chain: Animal Handling, Land Transport, Feedlot, Lairage, and depending on the method used Slaughter with Stunning or Slaughter Without Stunning.
There are 72 different points for auditing, and the document involves a performance checklist point, a target and measure for this to be evaluated against, whether the performance sighted is acceptable, non acceptable or N/A and corrective measures/comments to be made. The points are simple measures to ensure good animal welfare is being applied based upon international animal welfare (OIE) guidelines and are designed as minimum acceptable level. It would be a good experiment to print off some of the checklists and do an audit at home to see how things compare!
Below is an example of an audit point from the handling section.
Checklist example (click to enlarge)
The exporter needs to be able to demonstrate to the independent auditor evidence that they have control over their supply chain. This means having a clear explanation of the flow of a supply chain and supporting documentation. The documentation includes contracts with their importers, trucking records, feedlot inspections, and slaughter records as well as contracts with any third parties that may deal with the livestock, such as transport companies or abattoirs, that ensure everyone is aware of their obligations.
For cattle, all animals in a consignment are to be individually traceable at all points of the supply chain until point of slaughter and subsequent confirmation of death. This can be via the electronically read National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) or by visual tags in the animals ear. All shipments must be kept separate and be traceable through the supply chain. Once a whole consignment of animals have been slaughtered, an end of processing report must be lodged within 30 days. If any animals remain unprocessed for over a year an interim processing report is lodged on the status of the animals. Australia does not have a mandatory national electronic tagging system for sheep, so these are managed on a total numbers mob basis. The type of information assessed to determine control is also assessed to determine traceability.
- Reporting and Auditing
An independent third party auditor is engaged by the exporter to inspect their facilities and records and prepare a report for the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) on the control, welfare, and traceability aspects of the system. The auditing firms engaged must be internationally accredited, independent, have no conflicts of interest, and possess an appropriate level of competence and expertise.
In Australia an example of appropriate qualification would be accreditation with Joint Accreditation System – Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ). The frequency of audits are approached on a risk-based audit schedule, the formats outline below were introduced in September this for supply chains with proven compliance history. For supply chains considered a risk of non compliance, DAFF can schedule audits more frequently on a case by case basis. The full audit of all components is then summarised by the auditing firm into a pre-established format that is submitted by the exporter to DAFF, this form is also available of the DAFF website link below. DAFF then evaluates the report and advises of any changes required before giving permission to export the animals.
Cattle and Buffalo Auditing Schedules: six Audits over two years with less frequency auditing for low risk facilities using stunned slaughter. (click to enlarge)
This is a brief overview of the ESCAS system which is allowing us to continue the live export trade. It is the first of its kind in the world, and a basis on which we can move forward from. With ESCAS some markets may be difficult, due to business models that make traceability, control and welfare difficult to audit, and others that may choose not to partake due to offense at perceived foreign rule imposed in their country.
Remember though, without ESCAS, being involved in the live animal trade becomes difficult, if not impossible. The model will evolve and grow, and needs to do so to remain relevant and reduce the financial and administrative burden on exporters and the Government. The core principals of ESCAS are GOOD and with willingness from stakeholders and due evolution, can work to provide low risk markets for our livestock, give the Australian public assurance that welfare in market is of an acceptable standard and spread the word on the importance of good animal welfare across the globe.
For more detailed information on ESCAS, including full checklists go to: