Australia has been exporting live animals for almost 33 years. Throughout the years, there has been many concerns as to how the animals are handled prior and post-embarkation, the conditions on the ship and the sudden temperature changes. However, there has never been enough evidence to prove so until recently. Navigator Faisal Ullah has finally revealed the horrible conditions millions of sheep face each year. For the first time, there is strong evidence for banning live export trade.
Amongst the 1.9 million sheep that get exported to the Middle East each year, the death toll reaches the thousands- the highest death toll recorded as of late was the 2,400 sheep that have died in one voyage.
Yet this business continues despite the breaching of regulations. Ullah has reported to Australian newsmagazine show 60 minutes that lambs are born during the voyage, despite regulations stating that pregnant sheep should not be exported. Nevertheless, their lifespan remains short as the overcrowded conditions have resulted in these lambs being crushed. This is due to the lack of accessibility to food and water as sheep have been recorded to lunge forward to the food source, a behaviour animal welfare specialist Professor Clive Phillips has described as a behaviour he has read about but ‘never actually seen.’
Nevertheless, the list of regulations breached continues to grow as the ship becomes filled with dehydrated sheep as the ship approaches the Middle East. In Voyage 25, which occurred in August 2017, a five-day heatwave on the Persian Gulf had caused 880 sheep to die on the second day; 517 on the third. The crew members would throw them overboard, breaching the regulation ‘… any sick or injured livestock be given prompt treatment and be killed humanely where euthanasia is necessary.’ As for the rest of the sheep, many have appeared to have given up as they suffer from heat stress. Despite these sheep suffering from temperatures reaching up to 36ºC, the designated vet has not been reporting these death tolls. The on-board vet on Voyage 25 has been reported for shirking his duties by leaving the ship a day before the completion of unloading the sheep, breaching the regulations.
- Failure to prevent animals being transported in a way that is likely to cause harm (WA State Animal Cruelty Legislation)
- Failure to meet the health, welfare and physical needs of animals on board (Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock)
- Failure to ensure all animals can access food and water on demand (Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock)
- Failure to promptly identify and treat or euthanize sick and injured animals (Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock)
- Failure to ensure ewes are not pregnant (Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock)
- Failure to provide all animals enough space to lie down (World Animal Health Organisation OIE Standards)
- Failure to provide adequate ventilation to ensure animals don’t overheat (World Animal Health Organisation OIE Standards)
- Failure to prevent overcrowding that compromises animals’ ability to regulate their own body temperature (World Animal Health Organisation OIE Standards)
- Failure to cancel shipments during extreme heat conditions (World Animal Health Organisation OIE Standards)
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Australia has been under the scrutiny of the public for live trade export. In June 2011, the then-Gillard Government had placed a ban on live export to Indonesia. However, many farmers have suffered from this ban as many farmers have reported to have had financial losses that reached the millions. Furthermore, the worth of this lucrative sheep-meat industry has reached $250 million as of 2017. Placing a ban on this industry would further exacerbate the financial losses of more farmers.
As of April 2018, both Labor and Liberal government has claimed to discuss suspending or phasing out the industry. However, there are ways you can get involved and make change.
RSPCA Australia has been campaigning against live export. You can write to your local Federal representative to support these three actions: ban May-October exports, half the numbers and end long-haul live sheep export.
Animals Australia are also supporting RSPCA’s campaign. Sign the petition and help Animals Australia reach 250, 000 supporters. As of April 2018, we are at 246, 606 supporters. You are also given the option to write to your Federal MP- the more support, the more we can push for change.
You can watch the full story here for an in-depth investigation. Warning: this story contains graphic content that many will find distressing.
Animals Australia, ‘Live export ships exposed’
Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (Version 2.3) 2011 and Australian Position Statement on the Export Livestock, The Australian Government of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Calcutt, L., ‘60 Minutes Uncovers disturbing video from live sheep export vessel,’ 9 News, 9th April 2018
Dole, N., ‘Australian Government’s ban on live exports to Indonesia ‘irrational’, cattle farmers tell court,’ ABC News, updated 19th July 2017
Hunter, F., ‘Turnbull government MP will introduce a bill to ban live sheep export,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 19th April 2018
Neales, S., ‘Sheep industry forced to take stock of itself,’ The Australian, 14th April 2018
RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase, ‘Why is the RSPCA opposed to the live export trade?’, RSPCA Australia, last updated 8th April 2018
Wahlquist, C., ‘33 years on, a long-term solution to live export trade remains elusive,’ The Guardian, 21st April 2018
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