Thirty Animals Die On Board, Wellard Says OK
Over 30 animals have died on a live export ship in Australia after the vessel was stranded for over a week as a result of engine trouble.
The Israel-bound Ocean Outback left Fremantle port on December 29, but was forced to turn back as a result of the fault.
Shipowner Wellard says about 30 sheep and three cows died over the last 10 days, a mortality rate that is within acceptable limits set by the federal Department of Agriculture. “Mortalities recorded over the past 10 days are just three cattle from 5,600 loaded and 30 sheep from 7,500 loaded,” said the company in a statement.
ABC News reports that under the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (2011), shipboard mortality rates for sheep of two percent and above and cattle deaths of one percent and above, for voyages shorter than 10 days, must be reported to the department.
The 7,500 sheep have been offloaded to a pre-quarantine feedlot, while 5,000 cattle will be shipped to a buyer in South East Asia.
The Ocean Outback was constructed with a dual independent propulsion system, so it can safely operate on one of its two engines, says Wellard. It has previously completed a number of successful short voyages using a single engine, without impacting on voyage success rates.
Wellard said the ship had been cleared to proceed by Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) officers.
In 2014, the Wellard-owned and operated Ocean Drover suffered a main engine malfunction that was later rectified by the vessel’s on-board engineers. The vessel’s master stopped the vessel for 72 hours.
Wellard Rural Exports has supplied dairy and beef cattle and sheep and goats to the world for more than 30 years. Based in Fremantle, the company’s operations cover every aspect of the export chain, including feed milling, livestock aggregation, road transport, feedlot facilities throughout Australia and shipping.
The company’s flagship carrier, the Ocean Drover, is a purpose-built livestock carrier capable of carrying 75,000 sheep or 18,000 cattle. The Ocean Swagman and the Ocean Outback were launched in 2010. They can transport 7,000 cattle, 25,000 sheep, or a combination of both.
Wellard’s Western Australian abattoir, Beaufort River Meats, kills and processes up to 2,500 sheep and lambs a day.
Over the past thirty years Australia has exported more than 160 million animals overseas. More than 2.5 million have died on those voyages. In recent years, Australians have been shocked by the images of the live export trade. In 2011, there was a huge public outcry when the realities of the live export trade to Indonesia were exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program. This forced the Australian Government to, for the first time, regulate the live export trade, introducing the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, a system designed to prevent cruelty and to trace all animals exported.
Tracey Paterson, volunteer for World Animal Protection (formally known as World Society for the Protection of Animals), says sheep in particular are inherently poor sailors. “Ship motion, high levels of ammonia, cramped conditions, noise and vibration are all factors that cause suffering and stress. The pellets the sheep are fed on board are unfamiliar to them and some of them don’t eat. Add to this a sea voyage which typically lasts for about three weeks but which can be longer, during which time they are lying down in their own urine and feces and enduring high temperatures and humidity beyond which they are used to.
“At the end of their voyage they are often subject to rough handling, and many will be slaughtered by having their throats slit whilst fully conscious. The throat cut can be extremely cruel, often hacking and stabbing multiple times with poor quality knives. Also, to make the cattle easier to handle, they sometimes slash their leg tendons to make them fall down.”
Paterson says a transition away from live exports to a chilled and frozen meat trade would not only spare animals this suffering, it would also create jobs, boost regional economies and protect farmers. “If the nearly two million sheep exported in 2013 were processed in Australia, they would create about 600 jobs. Similarly, if the 775,000 head of cattle exported were processed in Australia they would create 1,300-1,500 jobs.”
Note: All photos are file photos.