Landline CHECKING THE FACTS 6
For this segment, we check previous statements by industry to the ABC just post the Awassi disaster (May 2018) and before the impact of the increased space allowance and the NHS prohibition periods were clearly evident. VALE compares them to the data evident on the Landline footage.
1. "It's a rare move in an industry which usually hides from the cameras and shows just how desperate the trade is to claw back a social licence"
This sentiment is echoed almost verbatim by Mark Bennett in Landline re an industry which usually hides from the cameras. With the threat of phaseout, the industry is again desperate to gain social licence. It seems ABC is allowed access whenever the industry is under threat.
2. "Some groups, including Vets Against Live Exports, have called for a ban on sheep exports during the northern summer."
Indeed VALE did, along with calling for increased space allowance, and the call was heeded by the Government and go figure, the voyage mortality decreased drastically!
3. "Mr Daws told the ABC a seasonal ban "would not be a viable proposition..I think the business would close completely and farmers would be selling their farms."
Yet this didnt happen and now farmers and exporters are clinging onto what was threatened to be a non-viable proposition. Similar scaremongering it seems to the current scaremongering that farmers will go broke if there is a complete phaseout of sheep export.
4."Dr Colin Scrivener is the ship's veterinarian. He has a big job. He's the only health and welfare officer on board for all 68,000 sheep."
How is it that with the post Awassi "new" space allowances, the Al Messilah could carry 68000 sheep in 2018 in May but only had 59000 for Mark Bennetts mid-winter voyage in 2023. Was the 'ABC voyage' a special show-voyage for the cameras or were there different classes of sheep? Surely, the ABC should have probed this knowing previous stock carrying rates on this same ship as documented by their own reporters.
5."But the Awassi Express deaths were not isolated.Two years ago, this ship — the Al Messilah — lost 3,000 sheep. "No, there's not a pattern there at all," Mr Daws said."
No pattern? Just no high mortality voyages on this ship now for 8 years compared to the 8 years prior to May 2018. And, that despite a decreased acceptable mortality limit (2% to 1%).
6. "With 17.5 per cent less sheep on board this voyage, they'll get a little more. "It's a very generous space allocation," Mr Daws said."
For the ABC voyage, the ship had 9000 less sheep despite carrying smaller lambs. Was this an even more generous space allocation? For the cameras?
7."They don't have the same personal space problem that humans have," he said. If anyone looks at sheep in a paddock or on the banks of a dam, they lie on each other — that's the way they behave."
Compare this comment to the photo taken on the Landline voyage which shows that when sheep do have increased space (see below) , they dont actually lie on each other. Some bunching can always occur as these sheep are have to find favourable spots eg better ventilation, away from the troughs etc.
The bottom line is that improvement in animal welfare has come about due to animal welfare groups and not industry. None of these improvements would have been possible if left to industry. They occurred because of a Pakistani seaman, Animals Australia, 60 Minutes, diligent work by VALE, RSPCA and others in the welfare space PLUS the Australian public. The Australian public is right to continue to have concerns about this industry which has consistently denied or glossed over animal welfare concerns. What a shame Landline didnt analyse more closely....maybe the ABC can show a little less positive industry bias in their upcoming programs. Bring back Dominique Schwartz perhaps?
LANDLINE CHECKING THE FACTS: 5
VALE has been checking the facts on the ABC Landline footage of a live export voyage. So far we've exposed misinformation or misleading information pertaining to voyage length, loading inspections, space allocations and necessity of "providing protein" in the form of live ex. Today looks at the ever-lurking elephant in the room: HEAT STRESS.
1. The reporter admits at '29:43 that "there's no doubt it is a challenging environment". The footage also includes historic footage of heat stress on the Awassi Express but at no stage is there any mention of heat stress on this voyage at the coolest time of year. Yet it is present in the footage. Did Mark Bennett not recognise heat stress or did he stay silent?
2. Ironically, as he states "while the fans keep them cool" ('30:33), the footage shows sheep with heat stress panting score 2. Any increase in panting scores above 0 (maximum 4) indicates that sheep are working hard to try and cool down.
3. There is more panting/heat stress evident at '30:36, '31:14, '31:30 and '31:41.
4. At '30:28 the footage shows a Kestrel sensor with commentary that the sensor "send alerts should temperature and humidity rise" (implying that action can then be taken) BUT then what? Remove the sheep? Airlift them out of there? Turn on the air conditioners? These monitors merely serve to record the conditions for the Dept of Ag. Once sheep are on that ship, and the heat and humidity rises, there is little that can be done – these ships might have fans that deliver air at 18 kph but that air is ambient air. There is no air conditioning. If the ambient air wet bulb temperature exceeds the heat stress threshold, sheep get heat stress, experience discomfort and suffering and can die.
5. There is more panting at '30:36, 31:14, 31:30 and 31:41.
6. And at '29:46 there is a bloated, greenish carcase. This only occurs if there is high heat with rapid putrefaction at the time of death (due to any cause but including heat stress) or very delayed discovery of the dead body. Neither would be ideal. There is no mention of the explanation in this particular case.
Note: Department of Agriculture Panting Score 2 Definition
LANDLINE CHECKING THE FACTS: 4
We continue to check the reported facts on Landline 28.5:
Reporter Mark Bennett stated that "most of the animals were able to freely move around".
1. Very few people viewing the images at the following marks: '24:17, '24:39, '29:57, '30:10, '30:21, '31:13 would find that very plausible. It was also interesting that the sheep seemed to have less room on the lower decks despite the fact that these sheep will have the longest voyages - less lighting for filming so less show for the ABC cameras?
2. In one of the time-lapse movies , it is quite clear that some of these sheep do not move around freely and remain in remarkably constant positions whilst they get bumped and jostled. For example, follow the sheep with the red circles through some of the footage. Yep, just different uncomfortable postures at all time periods....not to mention trampling of the down/reclining sheep in the lower left corner (blue circle)
3. It is evident from many of the frames that contrary to the comments made by the onboard veterinarian and implied by the reporter that animals all have room to lie down comfortably at the same time if they choose, they dont - not unless they are the most valuable stock, the lambs.
4. There was the repetition of the "2 week voyage" timeframe even though some of those sheep on the lower decks appear more cramped and will have had 23-24 days onboard before unloading.
Did the ABC not critically assess their own footage which is quite contrary to the commentary provided by the reporter??
LANDLINE CHECKING THE FACTS: 3
VALE continues its fact check on the ABC Landline footage of a voyage on the Al Messilah
1. The stockperson stated that live export was necessary as "these countries need to be fed". Kuwait ranks about 36th on the world wealth list, just behind NZ on 35. They have supermarkets stocking Australian sheep meat. If their population needs to be fed, they can import more meat.
2. Worryingly, for this very short voyage, many sheep were reported to be receiving antibiotics. In Australia, to ensure no antimicrobial residues present (ie to protect human health), these animals would have to have a minimum of 28 days withholding depending on the antibiotics. Yet these sheep do not have individual identification so can be slaughtered immediately after unloading as opposed to Australian meat exports which have strict residue compliance. So, we provide them with some protein and who cares if they get antimicrobial resistance or die of an allergic reaction...all of which can be avoided with exported sheepmeat.
It would have been prudent for the reporter to raise questions about the necessity of live sheep for "protein" in a rich country like Kuwait and also to consider the residues. ABC should have posed the question "Is it really better to have antibiotic laden meat from Australian live sheep 'feeding these countries' vs antibiotic free Australian sheepmeat"? And, "Is there any possibility of reputational damage to our considerably more profitable, antibiotic free export meat trade?
LANDLINE CHECKING THE FACTS: 2
VALE continues its media check on Landline reporting of a live export sheep voyage. Here is Landline Fact Check Installment 2:
1. "23:34 "Teams of spotters look out for the sick or injured drafting off those not fit for travel". This suggests a number of people in a number of groups. Is this correct? Seems unlikely as just not any video evidence of teams ... just one man and another person on the drafting gate. Even if there were 4 people, this is hardly "teams", ABC.
2. "23:34 "Teams of spotters look out for the sick or injured drafting off those not fit for travel". Check the footage carefully. While the "spotter" reaches for his pencil to record the reject, at least one (possibly more) lame sheep hop on by, unnoticed. Not such a stringent process it seems if this happens in 2 seconds of footage!
3. "23:34 "Teams of spotters look out for the sick or injured drafting off those not fit for travel". The clearest evidence of the failure is the 60 sick lambs identified onboard on Day 1 and the other 50 on the next 2 days also. Odd that the ABC didn't question how this was compliant with ASEL or how good the "spotting" process was. There is no doubt from this report (if numbers correct) that ill sheep which would not have been compliant with ASEL were loaded onto this ship. Was it due to the trucking temperatures on 9 Jan 23 and 10 Jan 23, 38 degrees C and 36 degrees C respectively or were they already sick when loaded?
Shame the ABC didn't have the analytic skill to check their facts against the footage. The exporters want us to believe animal welfare is their priority and all problems fixed but significant numbers of sick sheep still get loaded onto the ship. So much for the Farmer Review – over 10 years ago – with same problems evident even on these limited grabs!
LaNDLINE: CHECKING THE FACTS 1
After years of being denied access to live export ships, Albany ABC reporter Mark Bennett is suddenly granted access onto a ship. Conveniently, this is in January, one of the coolest months of export with the best, summer-acclimatised sheep. (Note that they didn't invite him in September, October or May...well done Livestock Collective!)
VALE watched with keen interests as we thought we could do a fact check on the report. Here is Landline Fact Check Installment 1.
1. A voyage of 14 days: Sorry Mark, but the Al Messilah left Fremantle on 11 January and arrived in Shuwaikh Port on 25 January. So, yes, 14 days, not including the loading and the unloading of the sheep. BUT the sheep that were unloaded in Muscat on 3 February would have been the first sheep on board in Fremantle (10-11 January) so they would have been on board 23-24 days, 10 days longer than Mark's twice stated 14 days. And..if the ABC had checked, they would have found that from Jan 2013 to Dec 2022, there were only two trips from Freo to Kuwait achieved in 14 days (and none shorter than this). Thus, this became the third shortest trip since Jan 2013. Notably all 3 14 day journeys were to the Northern Hemisphere winter (leaving Fremantle on 7.12.2019 and 3.3.2021).
2. The real clanger is at the 24:46 minute mark showing sheep going into bare floored pens: "This is where the animals will eat, defaecate and sleep on a bed of sawdust". Mark, we aren't sure where you were looking but sheep in routine pens are not on sawdust as the loading footage clearly showed. The only sawdust will have been in the hospital pens (where Dr Reben fell over), the cattle pens, and we also saw some where the necropsies were being done.
So a preliminary check shows that the ABC did not check their facts. We will trickle feed our long list of observations over the next few days.
Cattle Offloaded from Disabled Livestock Carrier - Australian biosecurity at its finest?
The livestock carrier Nine Eagle suffered a major engine failure in Darwin, on May 15, while loaded with approximately 1,800 cattle. The MV Nine Eagle, built in 2006, is a converted general cargo ship (industry so often claims purpose built vessels...!) currently flagged by Panama. The vessel was headed to Indonesia on charter for Perth-based company Livestock Shipping Services. After 6 days on board and with no way of cleaning out the faeces, cattle were finally unloaded on May 21 and transported to a pre-export quarantine facility south of Darwin.
How very interesting...farmers demanded Bali tourists dispose of their thongs after their holiday due to foot and mouth disease risk, yet a cattle ship which only left Indonesia on 6th May is allowed to have animals unloaded from a potentially contaminated ship. Possibly a little more risk than tourist thongs but not a murmur from industry.....lets face it, its live ex and it trumps any Australian biosecurity.
And ultimately, it yet again shows the monumental risky nature of live ex...these cattle were lucky the ship broke down in port and not on the open ocean.
For full story see: https://www.marinelink.com/news/cattle-offloaded-disable-livestock-505279
Livestock producers and shippers are constantly telling us they follow world's best practice because they care so much about animal welfare. So what happens when they arent made to follow those standards? Surely they care so much they would follow those standards anyway? Seemingly not.
In a very revealing interview with the WA Chief Vet Michelle Rodin, it has emerged that the cattle sent from Darwin to Broome, a 5 day journey (ie longer than some export voyages to Indonesia) do not fall under ASEL. So producers and shippers loaded up whatever they wanted to - reportedly including late pregnant animals, horned animals etc...with who knows what space allowances, bedding or food. Outcome - 31 cattle already dead out of a shipment of 1200: 5 dying on the voyage, 18 dying shortly after arrival and the rest apparently post-cyclone (convenient?!).
State shipping does not require that ASEL has to be followed so these really caring caring people who follow world's best practice, suddenly didnt care so much and just did what they wanted. What a great exercise in public trust....
Hear the interview: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/nt-country-hour/nt-country-hour/102268140
LIVE Ex over in NZ and NOW Brazil
30 April 2023 signals the end of cattle export from NZ. And in breaking news, Reuters reports that a Brazilian court has banned the export of live cattle from all the country's ports. Whilst the government may appeal the decision, it will follow court orders currently. The ruling revolved around animal sentience and animal welfare. If it is upheld, then NZ has finished, Brazil (a major player) has finished and Australia is at least set to phaseout the live sheep trade...all of which make global live export increasingly uncertain. It will also remove one of the key arguments of Australian cattle exporters ie namely that if Australia stops, the South Americans will just step in. This ruling could be a significant step in worldwide condemnation and cessation of this trade - and yes boxed meat should adequately fill the void.
SAFE in NZ reports that cattle awaiting the last live export voyage from New Zealand are being forced to live in mud with no shelter in pre-export quarantine. These sub-optimal conditions occur before the long and often difficult journey by sea, before they disappear into a welfare void on arrival.
As Australia negotiates its own ban on live sheep exports, the industry is trying to insist that things have changed, that regulations and their own initiatives have made a difference to welfare. It's just not the case - ASEL and ESCAS breaches by exporters continue on at the usual rate and suffering is inherent in the entire live export chain, whether from Australia or NZ. And interestingly, New Zealand sentiment against the Nationals new (and bumbling) commitment to reinstate live ex is very evident in the NZ media.
SAFE For AnimalsDisturbing footage has emerged showing thousands of cattle in pre-export quarantine near Pleasant Point.
TV interview https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2023/04/newshub-nation-national-mp-nicola-grigg-defends-controversial-live-animal-export-policy.html -
Radio Interview https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/the-weekend-collective/politics-central/chris-luxon-national-party-leader-will-only-bring-back-live-animal-exports-under-strict-regulations/
Opinion article https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/300859849/national-is-no-friend-of-change-but-the-devil-is-in-the-detail
Facebook thread https://www.facebook.com/1NewsNZ/posts/pfbid0pkGgMnpfovsW1T8ADHQURBcMNXH4fR6LLyUgjkHhTJwd76BdPqZ8bWyGxe8JiiXUl
Twitter thread https://twitter.com/NewshubNationNZ/status/1649558514631602178 and https://twitter.com/Naly_D/status/1649571442512756736