CALLS to improve live animal exports standards or phase out the trade continued this week as Western Australian exporters adapted to shipping delays to restructure the export of about 200,000 Australian sheep to Middle Eastern markets.
The Saudi-owned livestock export vessel, the MV Awassi Express, delayed in Fremantle almost three weeks while it reconfigured its air ventilation and installed an automatic watering system, is now expected to load cattle in Broome for south-east Asia.
Before it became embroiled in a sheep death and regulatory furore this month, the Awassi Express was intended to load 57,000 sheep in Fremantle supplied by Emanuel Exports for Kuwait Livestock Trading & Transport, bound for the Arabian Gulf. Now another ship, the KLTT-owned Al Messilah is in the coming days expected to load 68,000 sheep at 17.5 pc lighter than the regulatory requirement. Many of the sheep which will be loaded on the Al Messilah were initially delivered for the Awassi Express. It is understood that another KLTT vessel Al Shuwaikh is in the Indian Ocean en route to loading sheep in Adelaide and then in Fremantle, to make up a total shipment of possibly 66,000 sheep.
The Awassi Express has been redeployed to another exporter, allowing KLTT to use its own two vessels and avoid sending three shipments carrying more than 200,000 sheep to Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE in quick succession.
Australians want more room for sheep on board – RSPCA poll
The reassigning of live export vessels came as RSPCA Australia released poll results showing more than 90 percent of people surveyed wanted to see long-haul live export standards improved so all animals can lie down and access food and water easily.
The “independent omnibus poll” of 1500 people Australia-wide was conducted by The Digital Edge from April 16-20 also found that 75pc people surveyed wanted an end to live export.
About 93,000 people have also signed an online petition initiated by Animal Justice Party member, Senator Derryn Hinch, calling on the Federal Parliament to phase in a live animal export ban over three years. The petitioners are also supporting an immediate ban on market expansion, especially in Asia and the Middle East.
Labor state agriculture ministers also met yesterday and agreed that a science-based approach to national standards for animal welfare including live animal exports is a matter of urgency.
RSPCA poll finds rural concern on live exports
The RSPCA poll also found almost 70pc of people surveyed in rural and country areas and towns also wanted to end live exports, and more people in rural and country towns than anywhere else (just under 95pc) are concerned over the inadequacy of current standards, RSPCA Australia said.
RSPCA Australia chief scientist and strategy officer Dr Bidda Jones said the concern over standards and opposition to live export is consistent – and in some cases, greater – across rural and country areas, Australia’s traditional farming communities.
“This data absolutely flies in the face of industry excuses, that opposition to live exports is centred in city areas and among people with no direct experience of farming; that’s simply not true,” she said.
“More than 9 in 10 Australians (surveyed) want to see a level of improvement in conditions for sheep that can only be accomplished by halving stocking density – that’s the clear position that’s backed by the scientific evidence,” she said.
Live export opposition strong in SA and WA
RSPCA Australia said the survey showed that opposition to live exports was strongest in South Australia (4 in 5), and also strong in Western Australia (almost 7 in 10), from where most live exported sheep are sourced.
The poll also found that a nationally, more than 3 in 4 Australians surveyed agreed with government providing financial support to farmers to stop live exporting animals.
This is consistent with an Australian Greens union-backed plan to transition the live sheep export trade to a boxed, chilled meat trade processed locally. The plan includes a farmer adjustment package, assistance to boost WA worker skills, removal of any subsidies and tariffs favouring the live export trade to promote meat exports to live sheep importing countries, establishment of new Department of Agriculture and Austrade divisions to grow domestic processing and meat exports, and the setting up an independent Office of Animal Welfare.
RSPCA Australia this week renewed its call for halving of the stocking density on all future live sheep shipments, and an end to all exports into the searing Middle Eastern climate between May and October.
“These are the most urgent priorities, and are essential to protect the welfare of sheep already destined for the export trade,” said Dr Jones.
“However, these immediate measures must also form part of a longer-term plan to end live sheep exports, and protect Australian animals from this volatile and high-risk trade altogether,” she said.
The RSPCA poll asked three questions:
- Do you think standards for long-haul live exports (3-4 weeks in length) should allow all animals to lie down and access food and water easily?
- Would you support the government providing farmers with financial support (an adjustment package) to stop live exporting animals?
- Do you support ending live animal exports?
It is now hot in the Arabian Gulf. These wretched animals face a hideous journey only to have their throats cut for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, following the end of Ramadan, which starts May 16. All live animal exports should cease and investment made into on-shore kill and freeze. Thank you.
The egg has cracked and the industry will never get over this for this trade it totally indefensible and has been so for decades. I first started watching this horror decades ago when a ship with 40,000 sheep on board caught fire and they all slowly burnt to death on the abandoned ship. Nearly 3 million dead since that time. A horrific death for each and every animal; this country’s total shame.
I can assure you and RSPCA that Australians do not want more room on boardl they want the animals off the ships, particularly off ships headed to the Middle East.
Of course, the answer to question 1 is “yes”; if the alternative is to send them and not allow them space to lie down, and to access feed and water easily.
Enough is enough. Why is the whole of Australia being held to ransom by a few sheep producers who just want to do what they do, because that’s how it’s done? Suck it up – hundreds of Australians lose their jobs or get made redundant every day – what makes sheep producers so special? It’s not like they’re making air or water.