Media and petition campaign to end live sheep exports ramps up

Sheep Central, August 28, 2023

Australian sheep in Oman, allegedly outside ESCAS supply chains. Source – Animals Australia.

A RENEWED call for the Federal Government to declare an end date for live sheep exports by sea has coincided with an ABC online story today and 7.30 current affairs television segment tonight about Export Supply Assurance System leakages in the Oman market over recent months.

Material provided to the ABC by Animals Australia investigator Shatha Hamade reportedly includes previously unseen footage of sheep allegedly sold outside ESCAS supply chains in Oman after an investigation began and exporters were asked to implement stronger control arrangements, extra surveillance and additional reporting.

The Alliance for Animals today promoted the #LegislateTheDate petition that has already been signed by more than 25,000 people while also providing a link to the ABC’s online story as a precursor to the 7.30 segment the alliance said would air tonight.

The alliance said legislating an end date for live sheep exports by sea in this term of Parliament “is vital to ensure the phase out occurs; to avoid prolonged uncertainty for Australian farmers; and to advance Australia’s international reputation through improved animal welfare policy.” The petition asks House of Representatives to legislate the date within the 47th Parliament, “to phase out live sheep export from Australia by sea within the shortest possible timeframe.”

The ABC online story comes as the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry considers further action against exporters and has prompted the Australian Livestock Exporters Council to reissue a statement supporting the DAFF investigation into the alleged Oman market ESCAS leakages. The statement said ALEC has issued three previous statements on allegations made by the activist group Animals Australia.

“These statements were made on 30 May 2023, 2 June 2023, and 26 June 2023.

“This means, at the time of writing, the industry first informed the public about the allegations 11 weeks ago and our statements were covered by various media outlets at the time,” ALEC said.

“Since then, there has been an ongoing investigation into the allegations by the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), which is responsible for regulating the industry.

“We consider this investigation by DAFF entirely appropriate and support it completely as part of a strong regulatory system,” ALEC said.

“We have been very clear in the meantime that we do not wish to prejudice that investigation by making further comment.

“ALEC and its members are unaware of any new allegations since advising the public of the situation 11 weeks ago,” the statement said.

“If any new allegations are made during this story, then Animals Australia should immediately refer them to DAFF for investigation.

“If there are no new allegations, this is simply a rehash of an issue the industry made public nearly 3 months ago and it should be called out for the political campaign it is – designed to undermine the Export Supply Assurance System (ESCAS), not enhance it.”

ALEC said Australia is the only country in the world, out of over 100 that export livestock, that has regulations seeking to manage the welfare of livestock.

“While no system is perfect, it has improved animal welfare in all our sheep, goat and cattle markets for over a decade, contributing to a net improvement in animal welfare globally.

“At the same time the Australian live export industry has provided food security to millions of people in countries that cannot produce enough protein for their populations,” the council said.

“We are also sure this story will be timed in a manner that seeks to capitalise on the Albanese Government’s announcement to phase out live sheep exports.

“This policy will cause irreparable damage to the businesses of Western Australian farmers and to Australia’s longstanding friendship with our Middle Eastern trading partners,” ALEC said.

“We know the community does not support it.”

ALEC chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton declined to answer further questions about the legislation of a phaseout date or what could be done to ensure ESCAS supply chain infringements in the Middle East are minimised. However, in an industry email he said it was disappointing that Animals Australia has admitted it did not pass on new footage from the Eid festival at the start of June to DAFF and instead provided it to the ABC current affairs show 7.30.

“What is also disappointing is that ALEC issued statements as early as May advising the public of the investigation – yet ABC has still elected to run this still at the end of August. ALEC’s statements can be seen here:”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said ALEC did not agree to an interview for the ABC story, but provided 7.30 with a statement first issued to the ABC on 8 August, and released to other media outlets today. He called for media inquiries to industry bodies to be directed to ALEC or for them to decline to comment given there is an investigation underway.

“This issue still does not justify the government’s live sheep phase out policy and we continue to be very grateful for the solidarity shown by the broader sector on this issue,” Mr Harvey-Sutton wrote.

Department considering further regulatory action

A DAFF spokesperson said the department is continuing to investigate allegations of non-compliance with ESCAS for sheep in Oman.

“The department; however, has not waited to complete its investigations to take regulatory action.

“To date, the department has taken regulatory action that required the relevant exporters to implement stronger control arrangements, extra surveillance, and additional reporting for the sheep that were in Oman at that time the allegations were made,” the spokesperson said.

“The department has also directed exporters to cease the export of sheep to Oman, and as of 28 August this direction remains in place.

“No further exports of Australian sheep have occurred to Oman since the alleged incidents.”

The spokesperson said the department has further advised relevant exporters that it is giving consideration to further regulatory action to address risks identified through its ongoing investigation of this matter.

“The department is taking this matter seriously and is continuing to progress its investigation.

“Importantly, no regulatory system can ensure that there will never be an incidence of non-compliance,” the spokesperson said.

“The benefit of ESCAS is that it allows for the identification of problems, and for them to be dealt with.”

Animals Australia chief investigator Lyn White said AA had already reported the ESCAS breaches in Oman to the department in June on six occasions.

“The vision obtained during the Festival of Sacrifice simply documented the animal welfare consequences of these already reported breaches and the subsequent lack of regulatory and exporter action,  which is a matter of public interest.”


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  1. Simone Whaling, August 30, 2023

    I lived in the Middle East for years and saw the inhumane, long drawn-out abuse of animals waiting to be sacrificed in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Syria. It is incomprehensible that this is still continuing to happen to sheep from Australia and it must be stopped.

  2. Laraine Booker, August 29, 2023

    Last night’s footage on the ABC of treatment of our sheep being mistreated reduced me to tears. It has to stop. These people cannot be trusted to treat any animal humanely. We have halal butchers here. Let these countries accept frozen halal verified meat.

  3. Robyn McMahon, August 28, 2023

    Live export is a vile, cruel and totally unnecessary trade. It is Australia’s shame. It has to stop. Farmers have had plenty of time to improvise other farming practices such as cropping etc. They obviously don’t care about the fate of their livestock once it has left their farm … it’s all about the $$$$. Shame on them.

  4. Phillip Shearing, August 28, 2023

    Easy answer: stop all live sheep exports. Why do we allow this to happen? Decades later we are treated as fools by farmers and government – that is riddled with farmers — for dollars. We are exporting live animals to countries that despise us — go figure🙄.

    • Glenn Nix, August 30, 2023

      I’d would have thought parliament is riddled with trade unionists, lawyers, doctors and teachers. Rural people get to vote, run and participate. I know, a shocker, right, but that’s democracy at work.

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