Sheep Producers Australia urges against ‘over-reaction’ to live sheep footage

Terry Sim, April 6, 2018

Sheep Producers Australia presidenAllan Piggott

PEAK sheep meat body Sheep Producers Australia has urged against an “over-reaction” to new live sheep export footage showing on-board conditions condemned by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud and exporters.

SPA president Allan Piggott said he has not yet seen the footage set to be broadcast on 60 Minutes this Sunday, which today prompted the RSPCA to call for Mr Littleproud to take the “strongest possible action”.

The footage follows the release of a DAWR report into the deaths of about 2400 sheep on the Awassi Express in a consignment of 63,804 sheep and 50 cattle loaded by Emanuel Exports at Fremantle on August 1 2017. The vessel was bound for Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.

Mr Piggott said he had requested a copy of the footage, but at this stage had little to say until he saw it and got more details.

“I think it is fair to say that Sheep Producers Australia is very disappointed and quite upset at the news that has come out.

“No-one wants an over-reaction that penalises all the good work that thousands of people have done in the live export space.”

Mr Piggott said SPA had very high expectations for the welfare of animals on-farm and when they leave farms.

“But we welcome Mr Littleproud’s review and when that comes through we will be able to make an informed decision about the future.”

Mr Piggott later released a statement saying SPA supported the livestock export trade because it is an important component of some producers’ livelihoods, especially those in Western Australia.

“However, we expect best practice animal welfare protocols and expect strict enforcement if standards are not met.”

Mr Littleproud today said there would be “no knee jerk reaction” from him over the incident and footage.

“We need this trade for our farmers.

“We need this trade to be conducted properly and sustainably for our farmers for whom the live trade provides a vital market.”

Mr Littleproud said earlier in the week he was “shocked and deeply disturbed” by the video footage provided to Animals Australia by a whistleblower, prompting a call for an urgent briefing from his department.

He said the live export trade was needed by Australia’s farmers and he supported the farmers who rely on live export and the exporters “who do the right thing.”

“I will not be afraid to call out and take strong action against those who have not fulfilled their responsibilities, whether they be the exporter, the regulator or staff on ships.”

The Australian Livestock Exporters Council has said the Animals Australia video footage was highly distressing and unacceptable to the industry, producers and the community.

“Even if the circumstances can be explained, these deaths are plainly unacceptable,” ALEC chief executive officer Simon Westaway said.

RSPCA calls for ‘strongest possible action’

A RSPCA statement today said it has viewed the highly-disturbing footage expected to air on 60 Minutes this Sunday night, and the body looked forward to Minister Littleproud “taking the strongest possible action to stop this suffering from ever happening again.”

“It’s important to note this wasn’t a single voyage or event; it is compelling visual evidence of the routine experience of Australian sheep on long-haul live export voyages.

“What’s clear is that the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock have failed and cannot protect the welfare of Australian animals,” the RSPCA said.

“Further investigation is to be commended, however it is real action to stop the suffering of sheep on long-haul live export voyages that matters most.

“The RSPCA has long argued the live export of animals is cruel and unnecessary, and should be replaced by an expanded trade in chilled and frozen meat from animals slaughtered humanely here at home.”


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  1. Jennifer Macdougall, April 7, 2018

    As a farmer and animal activist and proud of it after seeing cattle dying neglected in an abattoir paddock in 1972, which led me to found a branch of Animal Liberation (still going 35 years later) and a founding member of Animals Australia. I congratulate Animals Australia for their ongoing exposes of animal abuse, in this country and overseas, to our animals exported live. I have long been disgusted that any farmer would support the live export trade. Hundreds of thousands of animals have died on these ships since the trade started over 30 years ago; burnt to death on burning ships, suffocated and trampled to death in faeces-ridden pens. They have been tossed around and appallingly injured when ships are hit by cyclones, died in their thousands on single voyages when receiving countries refused to take them, leaving the animals stranded on the seas for weeks, dying of heat stress. Oh yes, this is not an isolated incident, let alone the eye-stabbing, tendon-slashing to disable cattle to make them easier to handle, bashing them to death in Vietnam with sledge hammers, not once but over and over till they died tied tied up unable to get away. Stuffing sheep in boots of cars to be ritually slaughtered in the ME – and don’t try to say it is not still happening. This is an abominable trade and 30 years or more ago after a definitive inquiry it was recommended it be phased out, but no; this government thinks it is OK to ship all the slaughtering jobs to China and elsewhere and never mind if animals die on the way provided enough survive to make it economical. The argument that lack of refrigeration in the overseas countries was the reason for the trade is long ago lost as an excuse. China, no refrigeration, pull the other one. This is a disgusting trade and unless the industry stands up and gets slaughter houses built to save animals from this horrendous fate, then every farmer will be tainted and this will go on and on with animals dying and suffering. But oh yes, a vet who dared to speak out was soon forced out of the industry, that was after she could take it no longer, seeing the reality she was being asked to look at on those ships and dared to speak out. So spare me this “isolated incident” bullshit – how many more hundreds of thousands must die and suffer before something is done about this dreadful trade? Shame on all involved, and shame on Australia. This trade is just not justifiable and the chilled meat trade is worth seven times this live trade. No more excuses please form the industry chiefs. No more, we have all had enough. And remember the death rate has to be over a certain number to even trigger and investigation. No matter about those which died in numbers considered acceptable — some 17,000 in 2016, that is 17,000 animals dying and suffering trapped on a ship. Acceptable? Not to this farmer it isn’t.

  2. Elizabeth Park, April 7, 2018

    The question is, did 2500 sheep die in agony or didn’t they? If they didn’t, someone is lying. If they did, then how can live export be viable? I am sure Mr Littleproud will be silenced in due course and this hideous trade will be allowed to continue as it has after every other breech. If you put people on a ship and they are affected by dysentry there is an outcry and investigation. Not a second thought for animals baking alive. How can any human support ongoing cruelty on a mass scale? How can any human turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals?

  3. Neville Kinnane, April 6, 2018

    Live export ships must be able to cope with the extreme conditions that occur occasionally, in this case inadequate cool ventilation, or face the public wrath and possible elimination of the trade. There was no “act of God” here; the temperature and humidity that caused the stress and eventual suffocation are known factors that can cause death. Ship design? Exporter risk too high? A bit of both too often for me.

  4. Barbara Masters, April 6, 2018

    I am so disappointed with this response yet not surprised. Being “disappointed and quite upset” in my view fails to touch the enormity of suffering and negates the misery the animals endure for the sake of farmer profit. It seems to me it isn’t as if you all didn’t know what was happening, because it isn’t like this is an ‘isolated’ incident. I would suggest it is a routine everyday voyage – and that represents the conditions on every voyage. Yak yak damage control effort all you like, but I will never again buy Australian sheep meat because quite simply I think Australian animal farmers cannot be trusted.

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