AUSTRALIA’S live animal export trade should resist putting cameras on-board vessels to record conditions, according to Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook.
Mr Seabrook made the comment in response to an RSPCA Australia call for the release of footage and photographs of conditions on the live sheep export vessel, the MV Maysora.
RSPCA Australia has called for the immediate public release of unedited footage taken of conditions on-board the MV Maysora before its departure from Fremantle for Turkey with 74,000 sheep and 8000 cattle on-board last week.
It is believed government officials, possibly Western Australian, took photographs and footage of sheep in pens when the ship was loaded last Thursday. However, no responses were received from questions put to Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan yesterday.
PGA president Tony Seabrook told Sheep Central the live export trade should resist putting cameras on vessels.
“The point here is that people can just grab hold of anything and turn it into something untoward.”
Equipping vessels with multiple cameras would be a logistical nightmare and there would be the potential for any footage to “blown up way out of proportion,” he said.
Mr Seabrook and WAFarmers president Tony York have denied taking any photographs or footage during the ship inspection.
Mr Seabrook said he and Mr York took some selfies on the wharf, but he urged his WAFarmers counterpart not to take any photographs while on the vessel.
“If you have handled stock all of your life, things that are normal are normal, but to someone who hasn’t had anything to do with stock, they can make a different interpretation of what they see.
“What we saw on the ship were good conditions, lots of free pen space, great access to food and water,” Mr Seabrook said.
“It’s an older ship for sure, but we didn’t see anything that I would regard as untoward.
“It was a very well-loaded boat, the stock were happy, there was nothing really untoward.”
Mr Seabrook said he met the veterinarian put on the vessel as an independent observer by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
“He seem to me to be the sort of person in that situation that I would have been happy to have had.”
Mr Seabrook said the Maysora’s independent observer’s report and photographs should be provided firstly to the department, which should decide what to release.
Mr York said the conditions on board the Maysora appeared to be in keeping with animal welfare live export standards.
“No photos or footage was taken on board the Maysora last week.
“The Federal Minister for Agriculture’s independent observer may have photographs of footage that can be sent through,” he said.
Mr York said trust in the live export industry had been significantly damaged.
“Undoubtedly, the (60 Minutes) vision distributed to the public was deeply disturbing and there is absolutely no excuse for this inhumane treatment.
“Regular reporting may help to restore confidence in the system, however a lot more needs to be done in terms of detailed reporting and on-board imaging to regain its social license,” he said.
A DAWR spokesperson said following the Animals Australia footage, the department is considering additional conditions on upcoming voyages to the Middle East, including an independent observer to provide additional assurances around animal welfare.
“The department is considering what information from observers could be publicly released.
“A short, sharp review into sheep exports to the Middle East during the northern summer will be completed in time to make any recommended changes to the 2018 northern summer trade.”
RSPCA Australia chief scientist and strategy officer Dr Bidda Jones also called for the release of the images, footage and notes being collected daily by the observer, to show how conditions change throughout the journey.
She said given the industry’s claims of improved transparency, there should be no reason not to release that raw and unedited footage from the Maysora immediately.
“If WAFF and PGA believe those conditions will meet public expectations, then let’s put it to the test.
“Remembering this is just the start of the journey, before the overcrowding, heat and humidity cause conditions to deteriorate over the 3-4 week voyage,” Dr Jones said.