The Australian government has proposed to allow live exports to continue in May and September this year, despite recommendations that shipping be banned then because of soaring temperatures.
The proposal comes after almost a year of investigations and reviews of the industry following the release of video footage by Animals Australia, which shows the horrifying conditions endured by exported sheep – who, panting and heat-stricken, lay in piles of their own melting faeces and the decaying bodies of their flockmates. In addition, the government’s own observers described the open-mouthed panting of sheep during a voyage in May 2018.
The government’s review process culminated in a set of recommendations released in December 2018 called the Heat Stress Risk Assessment review, which found that conditions on board live-export ships to the Middle East from May to October routinely exceeded the heat-stress thresholds of Australian Merino sheep.
Despite this advice, in March 2019, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources proposed halting shipping only from June to August.
While this is a step in the right direction, the proposal falls well short of delivering the reprieve that Australian sheep so desperately need from the suffocating heat on death ships. To make significant improvements for the welfare of these animals, the government must halt all exports to the Middle East between May and October.
The live-export industry has already agreed to stop exports to the Northern Hemisphere from June to August, so the government’s proposal is essentially just a capitulation to live-export lobbyists so that the industry can keep going about its cruel business as usual.
While there will also be some stocking density reductions for sheep, animals will stillbe forced to lie on top of each other and their own faeces. Almost no stocking density decreases were proposed for cattle, who suffer just as horribly on export ships.
The government has already spent too much time and taxpayer money reviewing an industry that Australians have known is cruel for more than a decade. The very least the government can do for sheep is to heed the advice of the scientific community and impose a six-month Northern Hemisphere ban from May until October.
Please sign our action alert urging the Minister of Agriculture and Water to do what’s right for Australian sheep.