VALE has heard unconfirmed reports that the other ship, the Ocean Drover, has been rerouted with its cargo of rejected sheep to Pakistan. If Pakistan is the new destination, there is the immediate question of whether the exporter has received written confirmation from DAFF that it has accepted a change to all the other necessary documentation, including the export permit. We know from the voyage of the Hereford Express in November 2008 that such changes are often approved by DAFF on a "nod and a wink" basis - and we would say this is illegal. It will be interesting to see all the relevant documents relating to this voyage in due course.
Of course VALE’s main concern, if Pakistan is the new destination of the rejected sheep, is the standard of animal welfare likely to prevail at this destination. Wellard, the exporter has released a statement saying that sheep were being discharged into an ESCAS compliant supply chain which meets OIE standards, “ensuring Australian and international animal welfare standards are adhered to”. It seems almost impossible to believe that the assurance protocols designed to ensure animal welfare during unloading, transport and slaughter have been put in place and approved in such a short space of time. This is particularly so given the large number of sheep involved and that the DAFF website indicates that Pakistan has never before imported Australian sheep. These animals have been on board ship for 33 days travelling from the southern winter to the extreme heat and humidity of the northern summer, shuttled from port to port. Whilst Wellard have stated that the mortality limit has not been exceeded it must be remembered that only 22000 sheep have been left on the ship. Deaths in this group of sheep may not have overly influenced the overall mortality which will be a calculated percentage of the initial 70000 or so sheep. What is clear to VALE is that the much trumpeted MoU with Bahrain, which was supposed to allow unloading of sheep regardless of their health status, has been completely ineffective.