Veterinarians back stopping live sheep exports: RSPCA

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Sheep crammed on a ship during extreme heat bound for the Middle East (Photo: 60 Minutes - Channel Nine).

THE RSPCA has welcomed the findings of a veterinary scientific review on live sheep exports, but says a high-risk ship about to arrive in Adelaide must not be allowed to leave until the findings of the current government review have been released.

A scientific literature review conducted by the Australian Veterinary Association concluded that voyages from May to October – into the hottest time of the year in the Middle East – should not continue, due to the high risk of suffering and death for animals.

“Almost one month to the day since 60 Minutes first aired that shocking evidence, and we’ve now entered the May to October live export horror season, when 70% of all on-board mortalities occur,” said RSPCA Australia Chief Science and Strategy Officer Dr Bidda Jones.

“The Al Shuwaikh is expected into Adelaide any day now. This ship is more than 30 years old, and the exporter is Emanuel Exports, the company at the centre of the current live export scandal,” Dr Jones continued.

“It’s also one of only three remaining twin-tier ships, which are set to be phased out as part of the current maritime safety review, on the grounds that they are unacceptably dangerous for animal welfare.

“These sheep will be arriving in the Middle East in late May, early June, and that’s when some of the damning footage we’ve seen was captured.

“Yet again, we cannot see how the Secretary of the Department could possibly meet his regulatory obligations and be satisfied that the travel arrangements are appropriate for the animals’ health and welfare.

“A 17.5% reduction in stocking density has no scientific foundation and will do nothing to alleviate heat stress risks.

“We’re just days away from the release of the McCarthy review, and – given the clear evidence and overwhelming consensus among key welfare stakeholders – it’s difficult to see how that report could recommend anything other than stopping voyages during the May to October period.

“Put simply, this ship must not be allowed to leave with Australian sheep on board.

“It’s quite extraordinary that given the current environment, this export is even a possibility,” Dr Jones said.

The RSPCA made its own written submission to the McCarthy review last week, highlighting two key points:

• Voyages during the May-October period must cease. The evidence is clear that regardless of any proposed changes to stocking density or other conditions, sheep will suffer and die during this period as a consequence of heat stress;

• Sheep on board all voyages must have sufficient space to be able to easily access feed and water and lie down at the same time. In order to meet these basic requirements, current space allowance must be at least doubled.

In its submission, the RSPCA says: “When it comes to the long-haul sea transport of sheep, [multiple previous] reviews have failed to protect sheep from suffering and the risk of death because they have allowed the economics of the industry to override animal welfare requirements.”

“This cannot continue. This review must not baulk at proposing strong and significant change or it will fail as all previous reviews have.”

“While ceasing these May to October voyages and doubling the space allowance are essential to protecting the welfare of sheep immediately destined for live export, they should form part of a measured plan to phase out the trade for good,” Dr Jones said.

Tens of thousands of Australians are continuing to express their fury over live exports at liveexport.rspca.org.au/take-action.

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