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What happens to breeding and dairy cattle exported overseas?
Each year, Australia exports tens of thousands of dairy cattle and breeding animals to countries all over the world to increase and improve local herds through breeding programs. Unfortunately, there are no laws to protect these animals once they leave Australia. Breeding animals are not covered by the Australian Government Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) as the government believes it does not have responsibility for the welfare of these animals.
A 2013 Government investigation into a breeding facility in Qatar highlighted how completely unprotected Australian breeding animals are once they leave our shores. Despite clear evidence that 7,000 sheep and a number of cows and calves died from malnutrition and heat stress at the facility nothing was or could be done to protect further suffering because of the lack of regulation.
Australian regulations surrounding sheep and cattle exported abroad for breeding pose a huge risk to some of the most vulnerable animals exported – heavily pregnant cattle. Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) state that cattle must be a maximum of 250 days gestation at the scheduled date of departure. However, there is an accepted margin of error in pregnancy testing of late-term cattle of 30 days. This means that cattle can be up to 280 days gestation when they leave Australia and can deliver a full term calf any time from the day of arrival, sometimes onboard ship.
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