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Australia to Appoint Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports

Credit: Animals Australia
Credit: Animals Australia

By The Maritime Executive 09-18-2019 07:10:11

A bill to appoint an Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports has now passed through Australian Parliament. 

The establishment of an independent Inspector-General to oversee the Department of Agriculture’s regulation of live export was a key recommendation of the 2018 Moss Review, after whistle-blower footage from onboard livestock carriers departing Australia caused a public outcry over the industry.

Western Australia's Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development subsequently charged Perth-based live export company Emanuel Exports and two of its Directors with alleged cruelty to animals under the State’s Animal Welfare Act. The move followed an 18 month investigation by compliance officers, and the charges relate to heat stress suffered by sheep on a voyage from Fremantle to the Middle East on the Awassi Express in August 2017. 2,400 sheep died throughout the voyage, and the vessel was subsequently renamed the Anna Marra.

The voyage was brought to public attention when whistle-blower footage was aired on 60 Minutes in April 2018 which showed thousands of sheep suffering severe heat stress; sheep caked in melted feces and urine; injured and sick animals left to die slowly; decomposed bodies left in pens with living sheep and pregnant ewes giving birth and their lambs dying. 

The Moss Review found that the Department’s focus on trade facilitation negatively impacted its culture as a regulator of animal welfare. This resulted in the continued approval of shipments despite conclusive evidence over many years that animal health and welfare would be severely compromised.

The RSPCA has welcomed the bill saying, as long as the regulation of animal welfare falls to the Department of Agriculture, the need for strong oversight by the Inspector-General will remain.

The RSPCA congratulates Minister Bridget McKenzie on the passing of the Bill and acknowledges the amendments introduced by Senator Mehreen Faruqi to ensure that animal welfare will be a core focus of the Inspector-General’s work. The RSPCA is pleased to see that these amendments were adopted by the government and supported by the opposition. However, the RSPCA says the establishment of the Inspector-General will not be the panacea to the inherent animal welfare problems in the live export trade.

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) has also welcomes the move, saying it is further proof of the government’s continued commitment to supporting and improving the trade. “Australia’s livestock export system is world leading and supports thousands of jobs, especially in our regional areas. The appointment of the Inspector-General will only enhance our systems and improve regulator performance and provide the community with further transparency and assurance around the livestock export industry,” says says ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton.

“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 the animals in the supply chains. The industry stands ready to assist in any way.”