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.”