Live exports headwind
There’s no point complaining about the footage . . . it wouldn’t exist if the conditions on the boat were good for those sheep DAVID LITTLEPROUD
THE Federal Government was made aware of the heat stress issues in the live export of sheep seven years ago, but did nothing to implement any changes to the guidelines.
This week federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced the fourth review into the export of livestock in seven years.
He called for a four-week review of Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock for live sheep heading to the Middle East during the northern hemisphrere summer.
Outrage erupted after material provided by Animals Australia, allegedly showing footage from several trips to the Middle East in 2016 and 2017, screened on Sunday. It included a voyage in August last year by Emanuel Export’s ship Awassi Express, where 2400 sheep died of heat stress.
A review of the export standards, announced last August, has started and is expected to report as early as June.
“I’ve been minister for three months, I cannot change the past, but I aim to influence the future,” Mr Littleproud said.
The Awassi Express was preparing to leave Fremantle this week for the Middle East but it must meet new requirements before setting sail.
The issues with exporting of sheep live from Australia in the summer heat have been highlighted in two reviews.
It was flagged in a 2011 review, which recommended a comprehensive look at the standard, focusing on sheep going to the Middle East.
The Labor government at the time accepted the finding
We’ve known for years that the worst offenders are these sheep ships travelling to the Middle East
ANDREW WILKIE Federal MP for Denison
and draft changes were handed down but a change of government saw the report effectively shelved.
The new review followed a call by Western Australia’s Agriculture Minister, Labor’s Alannah MacTiernan, for urgent changes to live exports.
“We seriously have to consider banning sheep going into the Middle East in those high summer months,” she said.
The Australian Veterinary Association said the standards were insufficient to protect sheep bound for the Middle East, especially in summer.
An Agriculture Department report showed 63,804 sheep last August managed by Emanuel Exports had a mortality rate of 3.79 per cent. Any deaths above 2 per cent must be reported to the department.
On Monday, Mr Littleproud launched a separate review into the independent regulator – his own Department of Agriculture and Water Resources – after raising concerns the mortality report they filed did not match the vision.
“There’s no point complaining about the footage. The footage wouldn’t exist if the conditions on the boat were good for those sheep,” he said.
Mr Littleproud also announced an anonymous phone line for whistleblowers and possibly increased penalties for exporters who breached the guidelines.
A Pegasus Economic report, commissioned by Animals Australia, found no evidence to suggest live exports underwrite domestic sheep prices.
It found ending the trade of live sheep out of Western Australia would cost that state’s sheep farmers $9 million a year, less than $2000 each.
Sheep Producers Australia president Allan Piggott said some WA producers had said they would no longer be supplying animals for live exports.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive Simon Westaway said the footage showed more needed to be done to reduce risks during export to the Arabian Gulf.
The RSPCA said it was clear the standards had failed and renewed its call to shut down live exports It said it would back government support for farmers who moved away from live exports.
Andrew Wilkie, independent Federal MP for Denison, called for an immediate end to the “vile trade” of live exports.
“We’ve known for years that the worst offenders are these sheep ships travelling to the Middle East, on which animal fatalities are often way beyond government standards and records,” Mr Wilkie said.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Peter Skillern said Tasmanian sheep had not been exported live for many years.