When Gulf Livestock 1 went down in Sept 2020, VALE had just spent 6 months preparing a draft scientific paper on cattle export to China. The paper was put on hold and the information was recompiled into a detailed report supplied to the New Zealand Government. An updated document was also compiled and supplied to the Australian Government on request.
All this diverted from the aim - but finally it is published as an open access article in the prestigious journal Animals: https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11102862 The source data were the patchy, incomplete and highly sanitised Independent Observer Summaries published by the Australian Government (coupled with a few high mortality investigation reports). This analysis only provides a "thin edge of the wedge" snapshot of this little known section of the Australian live ex trade. Nonetheless, its a pretty shocking snapshot.
Note: VALE wishes to thank RSPCA Australia for contributing the open-access fee for this journal.
A year on from the Gulf Livestock 1 capsize (2 September 2020) and we still have no answers on what happened. Thankfully, we at least have the concentrated inspection campaign on ship stability which started in many ports around the world this month.
The purpose of the campaign on ship’s stability in general is:
- to confirm that the ship’s crew are familiar with assessing the actual stability condition on completion of cargo operations before departure of the ship and on all stages of the voyage;
- to create awareness among the ship’s crew and owners about the importance of calculating the actual stability condition of the ship on completion of cargo operations and before departure of the ship;
- to verify that the ship complies with intact stability requirements (and damage stability requirements, if applicable) under the relevant IMO instruments.
A compliance program, designed to strengthen live animal exporters' oversight of sheep, The Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP) has been described as a world-first audit and assessment program for livestock exports, with increased auditing and monitoring scrutiny as livestock move through feedlots and abattoirs. BUT...Chief executive of ALEC, Mark Harvey-Sutton, said it was too hard and risky to roll the program out under present conditions.
So, this industry manages to keep exports going during Covid - but can't manage compliance checking. If they cant guarantee compliance and acknowledge the need for such, then live exports should also be put on hold as too risky.
Brazil is now exporting live cattle to Vietnam. Far from curtailing the long-distance transport of animals, like the UK is currently attempting to do, other OIE members continue to ignore the foundation, and first sentence, in the OIE's Terrestrial Animal Health Code's chapter on the transport of animals by sea: "The amount of time animals
spend on a journey should be kept to the minimum."
However, who is Australia to point a finger at anyone.....
With crews from vessels repeatedly arriving from Indonesia with Covid, WA Premier Mark McGowan is considering a ban. He says the onus is on shipping companies to ensure their crews do not give off in Indonesia...and that he is willing to change protocols should infected ships keep arriving. And this has set the live ex industry into a flap.
ALEC chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton said state and federal authorities had an
economic and moral responsibility not to disrupt trade. He reportedly told the ABC "That would be a very concerning outcome if that was to occur — not only for Australian agricultural commodities, but also for our friends in Indonesia. This is a time of need in their country, deeply affected by COVID at the moment, and Australia plays a role in fulfilling their food security needs.
So far so good with the sob story but then.....
"Such measures would be very grave at a diplomatic level, as well as on a human level.
Ah so ...the real issue is that our "friends" to whom we have a moral obligation and who are so dependent on us will actually get the huff (so much for their dependency on us it seems) and this will have implications for trade. That sounds far more plausible.
BUT one thing is for sure..... it is always about live ex over anything else. Health and economic consequences to ordinary Australian people (think if the Sydney situation occurred in Perth) or animals are clearly less important than the live ex dollar!
Two weeks ago it was Indonesia, this week it is Jordan.....and of course both times it was the independent auditors of ESCAS, animal advocacy/activist groups that made the reports - PETA in Indonesia, Animals Australia in Jordan.
The export company involved in Jordan (LSS), one of the major Australian sheep exporters, have had other non-compliances but never any penalties of course. And as for the Dept.....well apparently it took them nearly a week to notify LSS, so clearly they are all over the situation and deeply care about animal welfare also.
And so on it goes - repeated incidents in all parts of the globe , mostly reported by animal activist/advocates with complaints upheld by Dept.....but never any penalties. No surprise really....there werent even any meaningful penalties to exporters after the Awassi Express affair.....so who knows what it would take?
Wellard executive chairman John Klepec complained about the Commonwealth Bank
refusing services to his company and told the ABC: "We went to every single other major
Australian bank and every single other Australian major bank came back with the same
reply — 'No.'"
He blames animal activists, what he calls minority groups, and says the banks want to be
seen as proactive in the environmental, social and governance space.
VALE congratulates those banks for wanting to be ethically proactive and for remembering that while it
may have been just one person that filmed thousands of sheep dying of heat stress on the
Awassi Express, it was the whole nation that was shocked – except perhaps the minority of
people who work in the industry and are accustomed to these scenes.
It’s those people who are the minority group.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as provided DAWR with hundreds of
hours of footage secured in seven Indonesian abattoirs in making a complaint regarding
ESCAS non-compliance. ALEC claims that it is an “isolated” case – despite the amount of
footage submitted and despite Indonesia’s past track record. ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton says the industry has taken immediate action.
More accurately, it’s a reaction ....to a situation that bad publicity has forced them to
In a typically “transparent” move, DAWR has said that the Department will not provide
details of its investigation until it is complete. It is, however, working with exporters on the
Ho hum - we wont be holding out breath for the details of yet another "isolated" incident!
Harry Morrison, the friend of the Australian stockman, William Mainprize, lost when the Gulf Livestock -1 sunk was interviewed by Tortoise Media for a Spotify Podcast in April 2021. The Podcast details the murky world of international shipping interviewing both Ian Urbino (author of The Outlaw Ocean with a lifetime career in maritime journalism) and Morrison. From a maritime safety perspective, the Podcast vindicates and validates the new report into the state of the EU livestock shipping industry.
Morrison goes into the details of Mainprize's phone texts and Whats App conversations at the time of the tragedy. In addition to the terrifying situation being relayed before the ship sunk, the texts also indicate that this ship had engine problems from Day 1 out of port. This ship had a repeated history of mechanical failure....yet it was still allowed to sail, with engine difficulties, into a typhoon.
Totally heartbreaking for the families of all the crew. Apparently the two surviving Phillippine crew members have received some financial support from the ship's insurance money.....but none of the families who lost loved ones have received a penny. Interesting...
Listen on: https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-forty-crew-members-of-gulf-livestock-1?viewupdates=1&rcid=r01-162634506221-3ca462ca1b6d41c9&utm_medium=email&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_email%2B1137-update-supporters-v5b
So we have Moss, we have Carter and both expose transparency issues which the Dept agree to fix but take a look at the ASEL Rejection Criteria Guidebook publication....calling for submissions but only if one is a) a Dept officer or b) an AAV. And if that's not the fox in the hen-house, there is no access to the proposed criteria guidelines because they are password protected!
VALE observed ship-loading for 18 months in Fremantle until the public were disallowed after the Farmer Review - we saw too much. During that time saw so many sheep trucked to port with rejection criteria and far fewer going back on rejection trucks than were arriving ie sheep with rejection criteria were being loaded on each shipment. Department Officers were there. AAVs were there. Rejection criteria were ignored but these personnel are now the only ones given a say in rejection criteria.
Biased and not transparent.....in fact less so than ever. How we have progressed.
VALE will apply for a password but we are not hopeful...