The Federal Agriculture Department is investigating an alleged breach of live export welfare regulations in Mauritius, a small island east of Madagascar in the far west Indian Ocean.

Animal rights group Animals Australia has sent video footage to the Department of Agriculture, that it says shows Australian cattle in Mauritius being pulled off trucks, and brutally handled and killed, outside of approved facilities.

The group says the incidents were filmed during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, which is peak demand period for Australia's live exporters.

The Department of Agriculture says just one shipment of Australian cattle have been sent to Mauritius this year, and its investigation will need to determine whether the cattle in the footage are Australian, and are therefore subject to the ESCAS welfare regulations.

ESCAS, or the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, aims to ensure that Australian livestock are only sent to approved facilities in foreign markets, and are slaughtered in line with international welfare standards.

Animals Australia wants the Federal Government to get tough on livestock exporters whose animals end up outside approved facilities. It says companies who're found in breach of ESCAS should be subject to harsh punishments, including the cancellation of their export licences.

The industry's own peak body, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, has also previously called for harsh penalties where companies are found guilty of serious breaches of ESCAS.

The Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says he believes the current system, including the determination of penalties, is sufficient.

"ESCAS can revoke [a company's] capacity to export," he said.

Asked whether he would like to see the threshold for revoking an export licence lowered, given that the Department of Agriculture has rarely taken that step in relation to past breaches, Mr Joyce said he "doesn't want to walk around suggesting that we send organisations broke."

"I've always got to be mindful of the ramifications back to the farm gate. We've got to be mindful that we have to have the capacity to treat the Australian producer fairly and don't diminish them to a state of institutional poverty, by reason of continuing to ramp up the bureaucracy."

"ESCAS has oversight, it pursues issues, it deals with issues and it will continue to do that," Minister Joyce said.

The Minister says he believes the system is working appropriately, and exporters who breach the system are not getting off lightly.

Meanwhile, The Australian newspaper reported on Friday that some live exporters are keen for their industry to once again be self-regulating, and the responsibility for monitoring welfare taken out of the hands of government.

In response, Minister Joyce categorically ruled out scrapping ESCAS.

"That's not going to happen," he said.

"I am not getting rid of ESCAS, and the Federal Government will continue to have oversight over ESCAS.

"Let's put that rumour to bed straight away."


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