MacTier­nan warns of stiff an­i­mal wel­fare penal­ties af­ter sheep deaths

Countryman - - NEWS - Rueben Hale

WA Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan has warned live ex­porters will face stiff penal­ties for an­i­mal wel­fare breaches, as the lat­est Mid­dle East live sheep death scan­dal un­folds.

A scathing Ms MacTier­nan said she was “ap­palled” by the vi­sion that aired on Sun­day night show­ing sheep af­fected by heat stress aboard a live ex­port ship en route to the Mid­dle East last year, where about 2400 an­i­mals died.

Ms MacTier­nan, who has been a vo­cal op­po­nent of the in­dus­try for most of her pub­lic life, warned the State Gov­ern­ment in­tended on “kick­ing in” new an­i­mal wel­fare laws, which could re­sult in fines of up to $250,000 for com­pa­nies or five years im­pris­on­ment for in­di­vid­u­als found to be in breach.

Ms MacTier­nan said the State Gov­ern­ment had been con­scious of prob­lems on the Mid­dle East­bound live ex­port boats since re­ceiv­ing a re­port on mass fa­tal­i­ties on board an Emanuel Ex­ports con­sign­ment of sheep to the Mid­dle East last year.

“Six weeks ago we started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pos­si­ble an­i­mal cru­elty on this ship af­ter we re­ceived a re­port in 2017,” she said.

“At the same time, we as­sem­bled a team of ex­pe­ri­enced in­ves­ti­ga­tors and lawyers who will now take the footage and ac­cel­er­ate the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Ms MacTier­nan said she wanted the lat­est in­ci­dent dealt with quickly.

“On the face of it there is ev­i­dence of breaches of the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act, and we are look­ing to see how we can bring those charges for­ward, and you would have to say the con­duct of this na­ture has to be at the top end of the scale,” she said. “We’re very se­ri­ous about putting some weight be­hind this.”

Ms MacTier­nan ac­cused the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and the live ex­port in­dus­try of “hav­ing their head in the sand” over events of an­i­mal cru­elty.

“The look of 2500-3000 sheep dy­ing of heat stress in a con­fined space is al­ways go­ing to be har­row­ing and, un­for­tu­nately, up un­til now, there has been a cul­ture of al­low­ing these ap­palling prac­tices to con­tinue,” she said.

“It’s got to end here, and our part as a State Gov­ern­ment is to make sure our an­i­mal wel­fare leg­is­la­tion is en­forced.”

Ms MacTier­nan said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment had “white­washed” sheep deaths en route to the Mid­dle East in the past two years.

“Less than two weeks ago the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment pro­duced a re­port that un­der­played what hap­pened on that ves­sel, which was a replica of what hap­pened the year be­fore when they had white­washed it,” she said.

“Quite clearly tak­ing sheep from the south­ern sum­mer and tak­ing them into the Mid­dle East in high sum­mer has been the ex­pe­ri­ence over and over again, that these an­i­mals suf­fer in­ten­sively.

“So we had 3000 losses in 2016, over 2500 last year and yet, un­til this footage came out, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment was not pre­pared to do any­thing.”

The live ex­port in­dus­try needed to “lift its game” to have any fu­ture in WA.

“Last year I went to the an­nual con­fer­ence, and it was a bit like be­ing a sheep at the fes­ti­val of the slaugh­ter,” she said.

“I told them we can’t keep do­ing this be­cause we know these re­ports are com­ing out.

“We hope with the in­tro­duc­tion of stiff penal­ties for peo­ple do­ing the wrong thing in WA, that we will also get the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment be­ing pre­pared on their end to put some real changes in that are nec­es­sary.”

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan.

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