Growing demand for Australian cattle has prompted Vietnam’s processing sector to invest millions in abattoir training facilities to improve animal welfare.

In 2016, disturbing footage was released by animal welfare group Animals Australia showing cattle being bludgeoned to death in Vietnamese abattoirs.

Since then Australia has been working with Vietnam, which is the second-largest importer of live Australian cattle, to improve its animal welfare standards to ensure the country complies with the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) so it can continue importing Australian cattle.

Now, two commercial companies in Vietnam have invested millions of dollars to develop training facilities, where staff undergo a three-month intensive program to learn western ways of processing cattle.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) livestock services manager Michael Patching, who is based in Vietnam, described the facilities as high-quality abattoirs.

“They could fit very well into any Australian domestic supply abattoir that you would see in the modern world.”

The push for improved cattle handling and processing standards has come from within Vietnam, according to Dr Patching.

“Vietnam, like many places in the world, need models to help model their development,” he said.

“We are just nurturing that growth.

“To date it [the training] has focused on ESCAS compliance. This is more about positioning Australian beef and cattle at the forefront of the development of the sector here in Vietnam.

“We have done a lot of work in abattoirs, which we and they know is a problem area … [but now] there is potential to shape the industry so that it does grow in line with Australia’s priorities and can become a sustainable industry.

Plan to transition into sustainable model

As part of the beef sector’s development in Vietnam there is also a strong push for improved food safety.

MLA and the Australian Government have supported the industry through this development.

MLA has focused its efforts on educating the industry about opportunities to expand its markets for beef.

The Government has initially funded the training, which will be undertaken by a registered training organisation in Australia.

“The intention is that it transitions into a sustainable model, so we will hand it over to the Vietnamese and train the trainers,” Dr Patching said.

The two facilities in the south of Vietnam are set to open at the end of March.