Livestock Exporter Says Integrity of Inspection Undermined
As more Australian politicians enter the nation's debate on the future of live export, the government is yet to release footage and reports made by inspectors on the livestock carrier Maysora on April 11.
Government inspectors were on board to view conditions first hand after whistle-blower footage aired on the 60 Minutes program on April 8 showed images on board an August 2017 voyage of the Awassi Express for Emanuel Exports when 2,400 sheep died of heat stress. Throughout the program, whistle-blower footage from five separate voyages was aired depicting 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. A second 60 Minutes program aired a week later: this time showing Animals Australia footage of sheep being beaten, dragged and thrown outside an abattoir in Qatar.
After the first 60 Minutes program, the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council proposed a range of steps to strengthen transparency and reporting, and Australian Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud set up a whistle-blower hotline. "There should be nothing to fear from transparency. Let's let the light shine in," he said.
A spokesperson for the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development confirmed the Maysora was boarded, that a report was produced and said, “for the inspection on board the vessel, the department sought consent in advance to board, which was not granted and a warrant was used.”
Yet, without public airing of the footage taken and inspection report prepared after being on board the Maysora, exporter Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) has felt the need to respond to what it sees as inaccurate media reports. Ahmad Ghosheh, LSS Managing Director, says it is important to place accurate information on the public record.
Ghosheh was present when Department inspectors came on board the Maysora on April 11 and confirms that no attempt was made to stop their inspection. “Welfare queries arising from the inspection were reported to myself, the onboard veterinarian and Maysora officers prior to the inspectors’ departure. Questions were answered to the apparent satisfaction of the inspectors in the context of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).
“For example, where it was noted that some water troughs in newly loaded pens were empty, it was explained that ASEL requires that water must be provided to sheep within 12 hours of loading. Similarly, when feces were observed in some water troughs, it was explained that troughs are regularly cleaned by the 35 livestock crew members in accordance with regulatory requirements.
“On the cattle deck, concerns about an injured animal were flagged, whereupon it was explained that the animal was under observation in a hospital pen and provided with appropriate veterinary care. Cattle pens which were reported as slippery had been attended to with corrective measures such as the provision of extra saw dust and were being closely monitored in an ongoing fashion.
“Two dead sheep observed, while entirely regrettable, were out of a total sheep consignment of more than 70,000 head and did not necessarily represent a welfare failure nor ASEL breach.”
Other concerns reportedly included in a leaked government report were not raised in the post inspection debrief, says Ghosheh. “It must also be stressed that the Maysora complied with all legal and practical standards required by the Commonwealth prior to its departure. It is now 11 days since the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries inspection, and as yet no formal report has been provided to LSS. This delay, given a copy of the report has been provided to the Federal Government and evidently leaked to the media, undermines the integrity of the inspection process.”
A growing number of politicians have voiced their views on live export since the 60 Minutes programs. Over the past week for example, Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten called for an immediate ban on live sheep exports during the northern hemisphere summer until a Federal Government review is undertaken, and former Liberal party frontbencher Sussan Ley announced plans to introduce a private member's bill to end live sheep exports to the Middle East.
The animal welfare organization RSPCA Australia has proposed that the federal government stop any more livestock carriers from leaving Australia with animals on board and start talking about a transition package for farmers to end the trade.
Meanwhile, the Maysora has departed Australian waters headed for Turkey.