Australia halts cattle exports to Egypt over 'cruelty'

Australian cows being exported to Indonesia (June 2011)
Image caption Australia suspended its live exports to Indonesia in 2011 over cruelty concerns

Australia is suspending the export of live cattle to Egypt after video emerged showing extreme cruelty to animals in Egyptian abattoirs.

The Australian Livestock Exporters' Council said the footage, released by animal rights group Animals Australia, was "horrific".

Animals Australia said it had been filmed inside the two abattoirs approved to process Australian cattle.

Exports to Egypt were halted in 2006 for four years over similar concerns.

And in 2011, livestock exports to Indonesia were suspended after evidence of cruelty emerged there.

The Egyptian videos have not been made public, but Animals Australia said they showed cattle believed to have come from Australia being treated in a "vicious, cruel and clumsy" way.

The group is campaigning for a full ban on livestock exports.

"The way that these animals are treated are quite horrific," said spokeswoman Glenys Oogjes.

In one instance, a cow fell off the processing line and was chased through the abattoir before having its legs cut and being stabbed to death, she said.

"It is quite terrible and it shows systemic problems in these abattoirs for our animals. And how Australia ever sent animals back there after a suspension in 2006 is beyond us."

Pressure for ban

The chief executive of the Livestock Exporters' Council, Alison Penfold, said the acts shown in the footage were "exceptionally distressing" and "completely unacceptable to the industry and to Australians".

She told the BBC the trade was undertaken under a memorandum of understanding between the Australian and the Egyptian governments.

The industry was investigating, she said, and working with the Egyptian authorities to ensure the welfare of animals already at the facilities.

Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said in a statement it was "pleased with the level of co-operation" from the Egyptian authorities.

Australia exports more than 700,000 cattle each year, and the industry is worth about A$1bn ($1.03bn: £0.7bn) a year.

But pressure is growing for a total ban on live exports amid a series of cruelty scandals.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said he backed the industry's voluntary suspension.

He said the export industry had "bright future" but that it had to "maintain animal welfare outcomes", The Australian newspaper reports.

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