AUSTRALIA’S peak live exporter body has taken heart from the dropping of cruelty charges against Western Australian Emanuel Exports yesterday to renew a call for reversal of the Albanese Government’s live sheep trade phaseout policy.
In the Perth Magistrates Court yesterday, WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development dropped animal cruelty charges brought against Emanuel Exports and two directors under the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) in 2019.
The WA court success follows Emanuel Exports’ recently receiving approvals to export sheep to Saudi Arabia.
The Emanuel Exports directors were charged with several counts of animal cruelty by the WA State Solicitor’s Office in 2019 after an expose of conditions on its vessels to the Middle East, including the disclosure that about 2400 sheep died from heat stress on the Awassi Express.
A DPIRD statement yesterday said: “After considering all circumstances and available facts in preparation for the trial, DPIRD has decided that it is not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution.”
“DPIRD’s decision took into account the complexity of the case, the public cost of a trial, the administrative sanction (penalty) already incurred by the company and changes to operating practices made by the company to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future.
“The department also considered the changed industry operating conditions, including the moratorium on live exports during the Northern Hemisphere Summer,” the department said.
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said the industry has reformed.
“And it’s very promising that DPIRD has recognised this in their statement regarding the Emanuel case.
“We know this is a reformed industry, we know that Western Australians support their farmers, and we think that the only outcome that is reasonable from the Albanese Government is a complete reversal of their live sheep trade phaseout policy.”
ALEC urges support for NFF campaign
In a further statement today, Mr Harvey-Sutton supported the National Farmers’ Federation’s Keep Farmers Farming campaign “to inform Western Australians of the carnage the policy is doing.”
“This campaign is crucial in letting people know that a ban on live sheep exports will hurt more than just farmers – it’s an attack on the livelihood of other industries and community groups that rely on them.
“The Prime Minister said in Question Time this week that the collapse in prices is not due to the live sheep ban, because it ‘hasn’t happened’,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this shows a manifest misunderstanding of the ways in which farmers plan for the future.”
Mr Harvey-Sutton said it is ALEC’s concern that the threat of a ban on live exports is already knocking market confidence for farmers and putting Australia’s wool and sheep industries at risk.
He urged the community to come on board with farmers in Western Australia and send a message that West Australian industries are too important to sell out for East coast activist votes.
“If you pass the billboards on your way to work, please use it as a reminder to go to keepfarmersfarming.org.au website to remind Canberra that we need to keep farmers and families farming.”
Emanuel relieved at DPIRD decision
A statement from Emanuel Exports said the exporter is relieved by the announcement the WA State Government has discontinued charges against the company and former directors.
“Previous directors Mike Stanton and Graham Daws fully support the significant changes implemented across the industry,” the statement said.
“The significant improvements implemented in the last 5 years has demonstrated the livestock export industry is viable, sustainable, and responsive to community expectations around animal welfare outcomes.
“Emanuel have proudly been part of the continuous improvements implemented across the supply chain and actively promoted and supported innovation and technology improvements.”
The exporter said good animal welfare outcomes are the core of its business operations.
“We continue to advocate for the livestock export industry because Australia are world leaders and should continue to be part of filling international demand for protein. In the current environment we are seeing how important this trade is especially to regional WA.
Emanuel remains committed to our company goals, rural communities, and stakeholders in the WA sheep industry and we want to continue supplying our Middle East customers with a valuable source of protein.”
Alliance objects to applying a ‘cost limit’ on animal welfare
Australian Alliance for Animals director Dr Jed Goodfellow said the alliance finds it very concerning that DPIRD appears to have applied an arbitrary cost limit at which it is considered too expensive to uphold the law.
“This sends entirely the wrong message to the community and the industry about the WA Government’s commitment to animal welfare and the enforcement of the state’s Animal Welfare Act.
“It suggests that large scale corporate offenders can escape accountability if the complexity and cost of enforcement is high,” he said.
“This will have a negative effect on general deterrence for non-complying behaviour.
“The WA Government has seriously failed to appreciate the level of public interest in seeing this case through to its conclusion,” Dr Goodfellow said.
“The poor outcome in this case further highlights the inherent difficulties in holding live exporters to account and only reinforces the need for phasing the trade out as soon as possible.”
Fremantle Labor MP Josh Wilson disappointed
The federal Member for Fremantle, Labor’s Josh Wilson said the DPIRD decision on the Emanuel case is a disappointing outcome.
“The community will be bewildered that no specific consequences follow the appalling failure of the Awassi Express fiasco.
“How is it that thousands of sheep can be killed by heat stress and drown in their own waste and yet no-one is held accountable?” he said.
“All the more reason for us to proceed with a sensibly managed transition out of the unnecessary and cruel live sheep trade.
“The live sheep trade has already declined by 90 percent from its peak, and all the growth and value is now in chilled and frozen meat exports, Mr Wilson said.
“The Albanese government is expanding those markets and working to ensure that in future our sheep production is stable, high-value, and consistent with the animal welfare standards that Australians rightly expect.”
Dropping of charges proves regulations cannot protect sheep – RSPCA
A RSPCA statement said the dropping of the cruelty charges relating to the most notorious among Australia’s many live export disasters proves once and for all that Australian regulations cannot protect sheep from live export cruelty.
“The fact that 2,400 sheep can die in such horrific circumstances and there’s not a system in place that can hold anyone accountable shows that live export is a broken industry.”