SHEEP were loaded onto the live export vessel MV Al Kuwait in Fremantle today after an attempt to halt the shipment by Animals Australia failed in the Federal Court.
Rural Export and Trading (WA) Pty Ltd (RETWA) today said an estimated 35,000 sheep will be loaded onto the vessel after its departure was delayed by the last-minute appeal against an exemption to the current moratorium on Middle East shipments from 1 June until mid-September.
RETWA said the purpose-built live export vessel will be loaded with livestock “in the coming day” to depart in accordance with the requirements of the exemption from trade regulator the Department of Agriculture.
RETWA said heat stress risk mitigation was the focus of its exemption application, including the removal of heavier sheep that can be less heat tolerant and ensuring wool length is less than 20mm. Specific areas of the vessel will not be loaded with sheep, the stocking density has been significantly reduced and there will be regular expert input on weather routing, animal physiology and livestock management.
Dismay at granting of exemption – Animals Australia
However, Animals Australia director of strategy Lyn White said the organisation accepted the Federal Court’s decision, but is disappointed.
“Our position remains that had the department had all available expert evidence before it, this exemption would not have been granted.
“The reason this legislation was introduced was to ensure commercial interests were no longer put before animal welfare,” she said.
“This is the public expectation, which is why there was such dismay on the granting of this exemption.
“There are no exceptional circumstances that justify knowingly putting 50,000 sheep at risk of heat stroke,” Ms White said.
Ms White said the June 1st halt in live sheep shipments to the Middle East was implemented based on extensive scientific reviews that concluded that measures cannot be taken to sufficiently mitigate the risk of heat stress during June.
“The summer halt is in line with the industry’s own northern summer moratorium.
“They cannot have it both ways – animal welfare either matters or it doesn’t,” she said.
“One would expect exporters should be strongly backing these laws – not actively seeking to circumvent them.”
RETWA general manager Mike Gordon said the consignment is significant for Australia’s long-term trade partners in Kuwait.”
“It has never been more important to value and service our trade partner relationships than during this time of global food insecurity.
“The Al Kuwait’s modern design and ventilation has delivered excellent results on previous voyages,’ he said.
“This vessel was always planned for the end of May voyage and we have no doubt will deliver excellent results on this voyage departing only two weeks later.”
ALEC welcomes Federal Court decision
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council welcomed the Federal Court’s decision to allows the exemption for sheep to be exported on the MV Al Kuwait to stand.
ALEC chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said Animals Australia’s appeal to the Federal Court was based on nefarious grounds and deliberately aimed at delaying loading of the sheep to cause maximum inconvenience to the exporter.
“This was not about animal welfare; it was about trying to stop the live sheep trade to the Middle East.
“We welcome the Court’s common-sense decision in finding that Animal Australia did not have grounds for procedural fairness in the department making its exemption decision.”
“Had Animals Australia been successful in its appeal the ramifications would have been significant and potentially impacted all agricultural exports.
“Questions now need to be asked why Animals Australia felt so convinced that they have a right to provide unsolicited and uninformed submissions to processes that do not invite third party submission and relate directly between the applicant and the regulator,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
“Never has the maintenance of international trade been more important and as a country we should be doing our utmost to facilitate this, showing respect for these longstanding relationships and to service food security needs globally.”