MARITIME unions are calling for a temporary halt to live sheep exports after viewing footage of dead and decomposed animals being cleared from the Awassi Express.
International Transport Workers’ Federation president and Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the live export industry is failing community expectations, after the release of footage by 60 Minutes last month and by Animals Australia this week.
The latest footage shows Awassi Express workers wearing minimal safety gear clearing decomposed sheep bodies and dumping them overboard during a Middle East voyage. The bodies of the sheep, often gelatinous in substance, are shifted onto tarpaulins and dumped into the sea.
The footage’s targeted release, initially through major media outlets, comes as the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud is about to announce tougher penalties for live export animal welfare breaches.
The video was filmed by a whistleblower who worked on the Awassi Express in 2017 and used an iPhone to capture the footage during five voyages between Australia and the Middle East. The whistleblower took the footage to Animals Australia, who provided it to the ITF. About 2400 sheep died during an Awassi Express sheep shipment supplied by Western Australian-based company Emanuel Exports in August 2017.
“Sadly, the utterly disgraceful treatment of animals on board live export vessels is often mirrored by the equally dismal treatment of seafarers, and this new footage is a terrifying reminder of what life can be like at sea when workers have no rights,” Mr Crumlin said.
“It’s a living hell.
“It is shocking that any seafarer could be forced to work in the in furnace-like conditions on board the Awassi Express,” he said.
“These exploited seafarers appear to have insufficient equipment or training to handle animals at sea and little control to improve conditions.”
Mr Crumlin said Emanuel Exports is an Australian-based company and it is their responsibility to ensure that the ships they hire have safeguards that protect the welfare of seafarers and animals,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The Federal Government needs to temporarily ban the live export of sheep until such time as they convene a meeting with farmers, livestock industry, logistics companies, unions and animal welfare groups to determine if there is a solution that involves humane treatment and transport of animals involved.
“The first job of this group is to determine if the industry has short or long term future,” he said.
“I don’t think the Australian community could see today’s footage and say that we are meeting Australia’s obligations for the welfare of animals, let alone the seafarers on board the same vessel.
“Whether or not the live trade continues, we need to have workers with rights on board live export vessels,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The MUA and ITF believe that when carrying Australian animals you should have Australian seafarers with appropriate training on board to ensure the best possible standards.
“The ITF has serious concerns about the long-term mental and physical health of the crew members working under these conditions – ankle deep in sheep effluent and removing sheep carcasses in advanced states of decomposition with only gumboots and rubber gloves as protective equipment,” he said.
Animals Australian investigator and veterinarian Dr Lynn Simpson said the extreme heat these poor animals have endured means their bodies fall apart at the lightest pressure in the same way slow-cooked lamb does when served and eaten.
“Crew and vets that carry sheep in the Middle East in summer expect to see the death of some animals but not on this scale,” she said.