THOUSANDS of Australian sheep died of severe heat stress on a single day on a live export ship destined for the Middle East – the worst live export shipboard disaster.
The Department of Agriculture is expected to release details of the incident today, some four months after the disaster unfolded. The exporter responsible for the shipment is Jordanian-owned Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) – the export company currently under investigation for serious breaches of live export regulations in Jordan and Gaza.
The livestock vessel, the Bader III, loaded some 75,000 sheep in Adelaide and Fremantle last August for Qatar and UAE. Transporting live animals from an Australian winter into the heat of the Middle Eastern summer is always high risk. Despite this, LSS took legal action five years ago to fight a government directive to give sheep on such high risk voyages additional space.
“The suffering of these animals is too horrific even to imagine. In these temperatures, the ship would have turned into an oven, with these thousands of individual sheep literally baking alive,” Animals Australia Campaign Director Lyn White said.
“Even on a normal summer’s day in the Middle East, the temperature can hover over 40 degrees placing animals at high risk and significantly compromising their welfare. So the exporter cannot say that such an incident is ‘unexpected’ when weather conditions in all parts of the world are routinely becoming more extreme.
“Even supporters of this trade should reach the conclusion that we shouldn’t load live animals onto ships and send them into the extreme heat of a Middle Eastern summer. This is just another in a long list of incidents resulting in mass animal suffering that was entirely unnecessary and preventable.”
Animals Australia said the risks of lengthy sea voyages for animals are well known with almost 20,000 sheep dying on board each year.
“We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the treatment of animals in other countries. What is within our control is whether we put animals at risk in the first place,” Lyne White added.
“It is a risk that cannot be justified. Last year, the Middle East took twice as many Australian sheep in carcass form as they did live sheep – so what are we doing still putting live animals on ships?
“That the suspension in trade to Bahrain has led that country to completely replace live sheep with sheep meat from Australia is irrefutable proof that live export is not necessary.
“Australians will once again be sickened, ashamed and outraged that animals born and bred into Australian care have again been abandoned to such appalling cruelty. It is inconceivable that an industry with such a dreadful track record continues to retain political support.”
Source: Animals Australia