Australian ranchers whose animal abuse was exposed on Israeli television will not not be criminally charged and the investigation into their actions has been shut down, the Western Australian government told local media on Monday.
“As part of an investigation, DPIRD has assessed all footage and determined that there is no case under Western Australia’s Animal Welfare Act 2002 to proceed to prosecution,” the Department of Primary Industries, which oversees agriculture and food production, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
According to ABC, the footage may have been broadcast after the statute of limitations for the recorded incidents had already expired. It cited a DPIRD spokesman as saying that “any prosecution action relating to animal welfare offenses under the Act must be commenced within two years of the date of the alleged offense.”
“The Department promotes the timely reporting of animal welfare complaints to assist investigators, as the immediate provision of information can assist in the investigation in a number of ways,” the spokesman said.
Harrowing footage of abuse and torture at Australian cattle farms that send live animals to Israel for fattening and slaughter was aired by state broadcaster Kan (Hebrew) last December.
The footage, which was filmed secretly by two Israelis who secured jobs at several cattle farms in western Australia, showed an animal protection manager kicking and punching a cow; workers standing on, electrocuting and even shooting “for fun” at animals; dying cows being left to die slowly when there weren’t enough guns to finish them off and — in one instance — a cow still alive on the ground after someone who had never previously held a weapon fired four bullets into her body.
Calves were filmed dying for lack of water or mother’s milk, sick animals were not treated and anesthetics were not given to calves prior to dehorning — a painful practice to prevent them bruising people or one another.
Ronen Bar, founder of the Sentient organization and one of the two Israelis to document the abuse, said he “was virtually the only person there who thought that what was happening was crazy.” Farm owners were often located great distances away from the farms, workers did whatever they wanted and enforcement of animal protection laws was “a joke,” he added.
Anthony Wilkes, the CEO of Yeeda Pastoral Company, one of the companies featured in the films, told ABC that “all staff identiﬁed as being cruel towards cattle in the footage no longer work with the company and haven’t been working for the company for some time.”
Yeeda’s “focus is on further improving our processes and practices to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare,” he said.
The Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association, a local industry association, said that activists ought to be required to disclose evidence of animal cruelty rather than “sitting on the footage for political gain.”
“If it’s down to the footage not being made known in a more timely fashion, then that’s a really important thing that needs to be understood,” KPCA head Emma White told ABC.
Despite Tel Aviv’s reputation as a vegan capital, Israel is the fourth-biggest beef and veal consumer in the OECD, after Brazil, the US and Argentina, with annual per capita beef consumption in 2018 standing at 20.5 kilograms (45.2 pounds). The country imports some 90 percent of its beef, around a quarter of it from Australia, according to Greenpeace.
Australia is regarded as one of the more enlightened suppliers of cattle for the meat industry.
In November 2018, just weeks before the Knesset was dissolved, MKs green-lighted a bill in its preliminary reading to stop the live transports of hundreds of thousands of lambs and calves from Australia and Europe to Israel each year for fattening and slaughter. The bill, which could not proceed further because Israel has since been without a fully functioning government, sought to gradually reduce livestock numbers being imported into Israel and to stop them completely within three years, moving entirely to the import of chilled meat.
Speaking with ABC, Bar, one of the animal rights activists who documented the abuse, said that publicizing the footage “was never about making individual workers scapegoats” but rather “about exposing practices, such as dehorning without pain relief, that were having negative impacts on both animals and the employees tasked with inflicting them.”
He added that he was working to end Israel’s importation of live cattle from Australia.