AAP reported shocking footage of sheep dying in sweltering conditions on a ship in August last year has sparked widespread calls for change in the industry.
Agriculture minister David Littleproud launched a veterinarian-led review into the northern summer trade, as well as an audit of the independent regulator which sits within his department, according to AAP.
Australian Veterinary Association president Paula Parker also said the system has failed and any deficient livestock export standards need urgent review.
“Action must be taken immediately to provide assurance of animal welfare on board live export ships to the Middle East,” Dr Parker said to AAP. “Appropriate standards must be in place and enforced to ensure horrific animal welfare outcomes like those depicted never occur again.”
AAP reported almost 50,000 people have signed independent senator Derryn Hinch’s online petition to ban live exports. Former health minister Sussan Ley has also backed phasing out the industry, prompting Liberal Democrats leader David Leyonhjelm to announce his party will run against her at the next election. The government has stared down calls for a ban, pledging to clean up the trade rather than abolish it.
The RSPCA also has expressed grave concerns in a statement over the Department of Agriculture’s response to the latest live export disaster. The concerns come following the animal welfare group’s meeting with Australian Government Department of Agriculture representatives last Tuesday.
“It beggars belief that the very ship at the centre of this scandal is moored in Fremantle as we speak, and may yet be issued with a new export permit this week, with minimal additional terms,” said RSPCA Australia chief science and strategy officer Dr Bidda Jones in a statement.
“At this stage, we expect the department will ask for a token reduction in stocking density, just one additional stockperson on board, and just one departmental observer on board who is paid for by the exporter.
“In other words, the Department appears to be still accepting that sheep on a three to four week journey don’t all need to lie down, and don’t need easy access to food and water – which is clearly preposterous. Anyone who has seen this footage will immediately know these futile measures are like shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic – it simply won’t make a difference.”
RSPCA said in a statement the sheep export “stocking density should be halved to make any kind of meaningful difference.” It said it is concerned on the regulator is unable to perform its role properly and failed the farmers and the community in the past.
“Let’s be clear – the job of the regulator should not be to promote, advocate for or facilitate this industry. As the regulator, their role is to enforce the regulations as they stand. We would strongly emphasise our earlier message – we believe that, given the overwhelming evidence, the Secretary for Agriculture does not have the legal or regulatory mandate to issue another permit for the long-haul live export of sheep. The conditions required for this permit can simply not be satisfied,” said Dr Jones.
“We have to keep asking, why are we doing this? Why are we going to these extraordinary lengths to facilitate a trade that’s destroying our international reputation, causing thousands of Australian animals to suffer and die, and offers very little actual benefit to farmers? When it’s opposed by the vast majority of the community – it just doesn’t make sense.”