Australia's Live Sheep Exporters Win May, September Approval
The Australian Department of Agriculture’s final Regulation Impact Statement proposes to maintain a prohibition on live sheep exports from June 1 to September 14 but allows voyages to continue in May, the latter half of September and October.
The RSPCA has responded saying that this validates its opposition to live animal exports and will not prevent the ultimate demise of the “cruel trade.”
The debate on live export in Australia has been ongoing after whistleblower footage was released in April 2018 of thousands of sheep dying of heat stress on the Awassi Express on a voyage from Australia's winter to the Middle Eastern summer.
Animal welfare organizations have continued to call for an end to the trade. The Australian Veterinary Association recommended an end to live sheep exports to the Middle East between May and October, saying that there is no way to eliminate the risk of sheep dying from or suffering heat stress during those months. The live export industry has voluntarily stopped shipping sheep from Australia to the Middle East from June to August, pending developments that could reduce heat stress.
With this latest decision, the RSPCA says the government confirms its intention to ignore the 2018-2019 Heat Stress Risk Assessment Review, which recommended animal welfare be measured by heat stress suffering, not mortality alone; and effectively recommended an end to sheep exports from May to October inclusive.
“The good news is, what we have seen out of these reforms, is a complete and permanent ban on live sheep exports for almost one-quarter of the year,” said RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr. Jed Goodfellow. “That’s a huge win for all Australians against this industry, and something we could never have envisioned achieving two years ago.
“Sadly, we’ve also seen multiple panels of experts, round after round of consultation, review after review to address the critical issue of heat stress – all to be comprehensively ignored, with a result will guarantee that animals will continue to suffer,” he said.
Goodfellow says there can be no live export trade without cruelty. “Suffering is inherent to this business model - if you take out the cruelty, the industry becomes unviable. “The government has proven this point by effectively admitting it can’t regulate the trade to a point of achieving good animal welfare, without compromising its policy position of maintaining the trade.”
Animal welfare advocates like the RSPCA remain confident that the end of live sheep is inevitable. “Any business that is built on animal suffering is ultimately unsustainable, and ignoring this reality because it doesn’t accord with current government policy will not make that go away,” said Goodfellow. “I don’t think anyone who saw image after image of those desperate Australian sheep, suffering and dying on routine live export voyages, will ever be able to forget them.”
Mark Harvey-Sutton, CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC), welcomed the Department of Agriculture's decision. “Our global markets are relying on the live export industry to support their food supply chains and the importance of live export is increasing, given the current reductions in other forms of transportation, particularly air-freight. We have a responsibility to continue to support our regional neighbors and their food production systems at this critical time.
“We will continue to work closely and support the exporters to provide certainty and reassurance to our global partners that their food security and supply chains will not be compromised. We acknowledge the work and extensive consultation undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) and for working with industry to support a sustainable live export trade.
“The livestock export industry is determined to continually achieve improvements in the industry’s sustainability and animal welfare outcomes, building on the genuine care producers, exporters and importers have for their livestock in the supply chains. Animal welfare remains paramount as the live export industry continues to meet the food security objectives of all our trading partners,” says Harvey-Sutton.