There has been plenty of outcry after an animal welfare group accused Vietnamese slaughterhouse workers of killing cattle imported from Australia with sledgehammers.
While officials and industry insiders in Vietnam conceded that the practice exists, they believe it does not involve Australian cattle nor is it widespread.
“The image of someone using a sledgehammer to kill a cow could only be seen at a small, possibly unlicensed abattoir and thus there’s no chance it was a cow imported from Australia,” said Van Duc Muoi, general director of leading meat supplier Vissan.
Muoi said only the large slaughterhouses in Vietnam meet conditions to receive Australian cattle and they all follow humane killing standards.
Animals Australia last week lodged a complaint to its agriculture department saying it has “shocking and distressing” footage showing slaughterhouse workers in northern Vietnam give Australian cattle repeated blows to the head with a sledgehammer until death.
It has not released the video yet and there’s no published evidence the cattle were Australian.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday that his government will investigate the claims but it will not suspend live cattle exports to Vietnam.
Vietnam imported 178,000 of cattle from Australia in 2014, becoming its second largest cattle market after Indonesia.
Australian cows now supply for 70 percent of beef on local market.
A tweet from Animals Australia shows a picture claimed to have been taken last month in Vietnam
Animals Australia said it looked into the killing after some industry representatives admitted last month that “thousands of Australian cattle had been slaughtered outside approved supply chains.”
Alison Penfold, chief executive officer of the Australian Live Exporters Council, was quoted in a Reuters report as saying that the case “captures our worst fears for welfare – that Australian cattle have been illegally removed from our supply chains for quick-buck processing in non-approved slaughterhouses in northern Vietnam.”
But Muoi said that is not true.
He said Australia since late 2012 has been tightening the slaughtering management in Vietnam with a system set up to ensure animals from Australia are treated humanely.
The system came after revelations of brutal practices led to its suspension of live cattle trade to Indonesia in 2011.
He said abattoirs in Vietnam can no longer receive Australian cattle if they violate the system, which requires the animals be kept in clean cages and killed with minimal pain.
He said the abattoirs dealing with Australian cattle in Vietnam have to use electric shock or anesthesia to kill them immediately or keep them unconscious until death.
Phan Xuan Thao, director of Ho Chi Minh’s Animal Health Department, confirmed that none of the large abattoirs licensed for Australian cattle in the city use sledgehammers.
The 11 slaughterhouses receiving Australian cattle in Hanoi do not practice the traditional hammer method either, officials said.
“The method may only be used at small abattoirs operating in rural provinces out of authorities’ control,” Thao said.
A source from Vietnam’s agriculture ministry said the government only monitors more than a third of the country's small abattoirs.
It said Vietnamese people still keep a small herd in their families and can only afford the traditional method of hammer blows.
Pham Van Dong, director of the ministry’s animal health department, said the government will make efforts to stop this.
New legislation is expected to be passed this year regarding humane treatment in the farming and slaughtering of animals.