An undercover video has surfaced which shows cattle in Vietnam, understood to be exported from Australia, being slaughtered with sledgehammers and being butchered alive.

Investigators from animal protection organisation Animals Australia have documented what it says is extensive live export regulation breaches throughout Vietnam.

These breaches include the sledgehammering to death of Australian cattle and Australian cattle in 11 non-accredited abattoirs, and the routine removal of ear tags so animals cannot be linked back to the exporter legally responsible for them.

Animals Australia’s Chief Investigator, Lyn White, has said that under Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce’s watch, thousands of Australian cattle exported to Vietnam continue to be exposed to brutal sledgehammering and painful water-forcing practices.

Nobody can claim they didn’t know this was happening – the exporters knew, the Department knew and the Minister knew.

“Australians have been shown that the current system does not work and will continue to fail as long as the department of agriculture turns a blind eye to what is in effect ‘organised crime’.

“All export companies are aware of what is going on in Vietnam and yet remain silent to protect their interests,” she said.

White has said that the terror and trauma experienced by Australian cattle being sledgehammered is devastating.

Furthermore, she said that this horrific practice continues to be inflicted on Australian animals three years after the government was first provided with evidence of this occurring.

Animals Australia has said that the department’s own online records reveal the traceability system in Vietnam has been corrupted, yet they continue to allow exporters to flood the country with cattle. It also said that there have been 20 separate reports to the department detailing ongoing breaches.

According to White, Australian cattle found outside supply chains during this investigation would add up to some 10,000 animals over a year being trucked and killed in breach of live export laws.

“Industry informants state that up to 30,000 cattle annually are either being illegally trucked into China or killed in traditional slaughterhouses in Vietnam,” she said.

Investigation into ‘abhorrent animal cruelty’

In response to the video, which can be viewed on Animals Australia’s website, the Australian department of agriculture has launched an investigation into the cruelty.

A statement from the Australian department said that it is undertaking an investigation into video footage of abhorrent animal cruelty at an abattoir not approved to receive Australian cattle in Vietnam.

It said that the department’s first priority is to ensure the humane handling of all animals exported from Australia.

Exporters were immediately informed of the complaint so that urgent action could be taken to protect the welfare of cattle currently in Vietnam.

The department is requiring exporters to review all systems, processes and facilities in their Vietnam supply chains.

To date, it confirmed that four exporters have notified the department that they are suspending exports to some of their facilities in Vietnam while they review their Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) arrangements.

There is no reason to doubt that the animals depicted in video footage were exported from Australia, although the evidence provided to date does not include tag numbers or brands that confirms their origin or links them to individual exporters, according to the department.

Meanwhile, the Australian Live Export Council has said that all abattoirs in the Bai Do region of Vietnam are suspended under the six-point plan for all exporters – meaning that these facilities will not receive Australian animals until the suspension is lifted.