AUSTRALIA’s peak live animal export body and sheep producers have welcomed the Department of Agriculture’s reaction to the final report of its review into Middle East sheep shipments around the Northern Summer period.
The review concluded that regulatory settings introduced in 2020 reduced, but did not eliminate, the risk of heat stress for sheep exported to the Middle East and improved animal welfare outcomes.
The review also concluded that to maintain the welfare of exported sheep, an absolute prohibition period during the hottest, most humid part of the Northern Hemisphere summer should remain – June to mid-September for most markets. It also recommended that a conditional prohibition period in late May for some Persian Gulf destinations should be introduced.
The department last week said the review’s several new welfare recommendation would be adopted, but the date-related recommendations to reduce the prohibition period during the Northern Hemisphere summer to certain destinations where heat stress risks are less than previously understood will not be implemented.
‘Business as usual’ – ALEC
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said the release of the report represents business as usual for Australia’s live sheep export industry.
“Effectively the report confirms the conditions outlined in the interim orders issued by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture in April this year.
“While there are aspects to these orders that industry doesn’t completely agree with based on industry evidence, importantly DAFF has taken a science and evidence-based approach to setting these conditions,” he said.
“Regardless of these differences, the report does identify is that there are clearly periods where shipping of live sheep can take place safely without heat stress risk, and it also recognises the exemplary performance of industry -particularly over the last five years.”
Mr Harvey-Sutton said there have been confused reactions from opponents to the trade about what the implications are of this report.
“Ultimately, this report rightly gives the seal of approval for the live sheep trade to continue safely and sustainably, contributing to food security of important geopolitical partners in the Middle East.
“We remain committed to working with the Australian Government and will continue to point to the facts about the industry’s animal welfare performance and the importance of the trade to Australian producers and our trading partners,” he said.
Animals Australia cautiously welcomes department decision
Animals Australia cautiously welcomed the Federal Department of Agriculture’s decision to maintain the summer ban period on live sheep exports to some of the hottest Middle East destinations.
“Along with the RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association, we have advocated that a prohibition period from May to October inclusive is necessary to avoid animal suffering and deaths from heat stress that the science clearly shows is inevitable,” Animals Australia CEO Glenys Oogjes said.
“We look forward to the Labor Government fulfilling its election commitment to phase out this industry.
“The Australian community has made it clear that the continuation of this cruel industry is intolerable,” Ms Oogjes said.
Report identifies safe export periods – Sheep Producers Australia
Sheep producers Australia chief executive officer Bonnie Skinner said since 2018, the live export industry and its regulatory framework have undergone significant change, demonstrating the industry’s unwavering commitment to improve.
“The report confirms the conditions outlined in the interim orders issued by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture in April this year and does identify that there are periods where shipping of live sheep can take place safely without heat stress risk.
“It is paramount that any future regulatory arrangements are based on evidence, data and supported by firmly established science,” she said.
“The Middle East is a region with particular strategic importance for the sheep industry. Our markets for Australian live sheep in the Middle East remain integral to the success of Western Australian sheep producers.
“The extant regulations present challenges for Australian producers to compete in an evolving global market, and for exporters to supply these markets economically and competitively,” Ms Skinner said.
“It is important to continue to work collaboratively with the government and stakeholders to ensure the industry is sustainable.”
Several recommendations to improve animal welfare
The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries said the review made several recommendations to improve or maintain animal welfare. These included that sheep should be fed a minimum of 3 percent of their liveweight daily while on vessels travelling to, or through the Middle East during the non-prohibited periods of the Northern Hemisphere summer and that each vessel exporting sheep must deploy a minimum of 1 data logger on the bridge to record ambient wet bulb temperature. This is in addition to the requirement for environmental recording on decks holding sheep under current rules. These recommendations will be implemented by the department, DAFF said.
In undertaking the review, the department considered an updated climatology analysis based on 42 years of accumulated data from the Bureau of Meteorology, health and welfare information and mortality data from 15 voyages that occurred during the Northern Hemisphere summer months from 2019 to 2021, an analysis of data from environmental data loggers placed on sheep decks and stakeholder feedback.
The Albanese Labor Government has committed to phasing out live sheep exports, but not in its first term of government, and is yet to set a formal timeframe.
Click here to read the final Northern Summer exports report.
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