PRESS RELEASE: 'Vietnam': Animal welfare groups demand inquiry into Agriculture Department

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PRESS RELEASE: By ANIMALS AUSTRALIA On JUN 28, 2016

'VIETNAM':  ANIMAL WELFARE GROUPS DEMAND INQUIRY INTO AG DEPT

In the wake of the horrific sledgehammering of Australian cattle in Vietnam, Australia's leading animal welfare groups are demanding an independent Inquiry into the live animal export regulatory system and its policing by the Department of Agriculture.

In an unprecedented initiative, the RSPCA, Animals Australia, World Animal Protection, Humane Society International and Voiceless have placed a full-page open letter to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in The Weekend Australian calling for the Inquiry and the establishment of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare.

"All available evidence reveals that the system is broken and the Department is either incapable or unwilling to reign in offending export companies due to their conflict of interest," said Animals Australia's Campaign Director Lyn White.

RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil stated "There are millions of Australians who are appalled that the live trade retains government support. But they are further outraged that breaches of regulations, resulting in egregious cruelty have not seen a single licence suspension or prosecution of an export company."

Voiceless Legal Counsel Emmanuel Giuffre stated "the scale of this regulatory failure warrants nothing less than a full independent inquiry by a senior judicial officer. The regulations are weak and ineffective and clear evidence of corruption and criminal behaviour is being ignored by the Department of Agriculture."

The animal protection groups cite the removal of experienced live export veterinarian Dr Lynn Simpson from her position with the Department of Agriculture as further evidence for the need for the removal of regulatory responsibility from DA.

"That export companies wield so much power over the Department that they can secure the removal of a senior Veterinarian who had been employed to assist with shipboard welfare reforms, is outrageous," said Nicola Benyon, Head of Campaigns for World Animal Protection.

The animal groups state that major political parties are failing to acknowledge the high priority that Australians place on animal welfare. Under the current Coalition government long-standing animal welfare committees have been dismantled and cruelty in the live export trade has increased.  New import markets have been opened despite animal cruelty being endemic to those countries.

"Live export companies are afforded a level of government protection that is obscene. Time and time again we see cruelty rewarded with more funding.  In comparison, cruelty in the greyhound industry resulted in prosecutions, government inquiries and regulatory reform,' said Lyn White.

"The gravity of ongoing cruelty in the live trade warrants no lesser response by the Federal government if they are genuine in their desire to address it."

Verna Simpson, Director of Humane Society International concluded "Our groups represent the many millions of Australians who care deeply about animal welfare.  A fully Independent Office of Animal Welfare and an independent Inquiry into live export regulations are not only warranted but a critical first step in responding to community concerns."

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