PEAK livestock industry bodies supported a live sheep and cattle export vessel tour in Fremantle Port this week as a show of solidarity against the planned phase-out of the sheep trade.
However, the “stage-managed” tour has been described by the Australian Alliance for Animals as “an extremely limited glimpse into the live export journey”.
A Livestock Collective social media post said about 20 people, including farmers, bankers, stock agents, university lecturers and wool brokers walked through a ship loading in Fremantle this week.
In a Facebook post, the collective said the tours provided a transparent insight into part of the supply chain that it knows people have questions about.
“We got to speak to the vets, exporters and crew on board who shared their role in looking after the animals.
“It was great to see the sheep and cattle comfortable in their new environment, already eating and drinking,” the post said.
The tour was also attended by representatives from WAFarmers, Sheep Producers Australia and Cattle Australia.
The collective said the industry group saw changes to conditions on board vessels, including improved ventilation and increased pen space, and discussed the range of animal welfare indicators that are being developed and used by industry covering animal behaviours, management, and environment.
Livestock Collective managing director Holly Ludeman said as a veterinarian, live export has been her gateway to the world.
“My role in compliance in an industry that has an unwavering commitment to improve animal welfare outcomes means that I can collaboratively have an influence in global standards and that is something I am really proud of.”
The collective said studies into Australia’s livestock export trade have confirmed the trade supports more than 10,000 jobs across Australia and contributes an average of $2 billion in export earnings annually to the Australian economy. Millions of people around the world rely on Australia for protein through livestock exports, the collective said.
Sheep Producers Australia chair Andrew Spencer said as well as providing a living for many Western Australians, the trade supports many businesses, including feed suppliers, transport companies, veterinarians, exporters, and livestock agents.
“These businesses have either emerged to support the livestock export industry or have grown in response to it and are largely dependent on the trade for their business.”
WAFarmers livestock president Geoff Pearson said the importance of the tour this week was to demonstrate how the live sheep and cattle industries work well side by side and are both upholding the highest standards of animal welfare.
“A strong live export market allows producers to specialise and produce sheep tailored to the market and correspondingly attract premium returns for their product.
“Live exports puts competition into the market, adding competition to domestic demand and supporting farm gate returns whether it’s sheep or cattle – one aspect of live export can’t be stopped as it will be detrimental to the other,” he said.
Cattle Australia chair David Foote said livestock export is a crucial trade for cattle and sheep producers.
“Live exports provide producers with important additional market opportunities and supports the domestic sheep and cattle markets by helping to maintain market competition.”
The collective said among the more than 100 countries exporting livestock, Australia is the only country regulating international animal welfare standards from paddock to the point of processing. The live export of sheep also enables our trading partners to have access to live cattle, the collective said.
The Livestock Collective’s program manager Amelia Nolan said an invitation to attend a vessel tour has been extended by collective directors to the panel leading the sheep trade phase-out consultation process, as it expressed interest in understanding the full supply chain.
“The offer still stands if it fits with both parties’ timeframes.”
Stage-managed tours provide limited perspective
Australian Alliance for Animals director, policy and government relations, Dr Jed Goodfellow, said these stage-managed tours provide an extremely limited glimpse into the live export journey.
“Vessels in port with freshly loaded animals don’t have wet manure beds, animals with “faecal jacketing”, high wet bulb temperatures and ammonia concentrations, nor the heat stress that comes with it.
“These are the true conditions that exported animals face during their two-to-three-week voyages though different climatic zones on their way to the Middle East,” he said.
“The industry’s vessel tours are ultimately for PR purposes and do not convey the true reality of the animals’ experience.”
RSPCA Australia chief science officer Dr Suzie Fowler said poor animal welfare is inherent to the live sheep export trade and no amount of regulation or industry reform can fix these issues.
“Sheep suffer extensively and experience extremely poor welfare, both on board live export ships and at their destination – there is simply no way to eliminate these risks and overcome the conditions that result in these deep and inherent animal welfare issues and the cumulative impact these have on sheep.
“That’s why we support the Government’s firm decision to phase out live sheep export and to finally close the door on one of the most serious animal welfare issues in Australia.”
We need live sheep export to maintain our Merino sheep enterprise. The question is, what do we do with our wether lambs, the abattoirs can’t handle them and the graziers don’t want them.
To remain viable we have two options: go out of sheep or euthanase them at birth.
Oh please. All go on the 1989 built Maysora for the whole journey, and stay to see what happens to the survivors in destination countries. What a sham PR exercise. Moreover, MLA has stated that the number of jobs actually depending on this trade is 3500.
Industry supporters aboard a freshly cleaned ship, docked and motionless in a safe port in 23C max temperatures, with fresh feed and water and, no doubt, sheep hand-picked or actually checked before loading (for once) for fleece length, pinkeye, pregnancy, lameness and injuries from shearing or dog bites. I’m sure it looks fabulous.
Let me know when they’re giving tours on ships at the 20th parallel north in rough weather with sheep that shouldn’t have been loaded, a wet bulb temperature of 32 and wet pads.
Why is there no comment that live exports go to third world countries? These countries do not have electricity or refrigeration. Welcome to the world of reality you first world people. Do you even know that 80 percent of the world’s population live in less developed countries? Do you even care?.
For these human beings to survive they need protein to be supplied alive and ready for slaughter when they need a feed. The only way to achieve this is live exports. Does anyone ever think about the misery, starvation and cruelty we force upon these people and communities by ceasing live exports? Believe it or not, these people are sentient too and the loss of a child or loved one due to a lack of nutrition is felt and bereaved for generations to come.
Can we not be acknowledged as a country bound to the highest animal welfare standards, and continue to improve, but also as a country that supports the welfare and well-being of our fellow human beings? Our “welfare-conscious” policies that will directly kill and harm our fellow people need to be publicised and the agitators held to account. For those with the power or the will to change this – please consider this and perhaps consider making a significant donation to a third world country….