Mr Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture, stated yesterday that "A truer measure of our commitment to exported animal welfare is that we apply a stronger regime of "whole of life" care for our feeder and slaughter export animals than we do in the domestic market."
Patently untrue. In every Australian jurisdiction there are sophisticated animal welfare laws which impose considerable responsibilities on owners and those in charge of animals. It doesn’t matter whether the animals have been “traded” or not when those animals are in Australia, cruelty is illegal thus our animals, when in Australia, essentially should get "whole of life care".
Looks like Mr Joyce has been having dinner with Mr Keogh!
In an interesting opinion piece, Dr Malcolm Caulfield analyses a recent attack by Mick Keogh of the Australian Farm Institute on the animal welfare group Animals Australia.
Dr Caulfield points out that Mr Keogh's comment that the “whole of life” responsibility for animals does not apply to livestock or animals traded between individuals in Australia (as a defence for live export) misses the point. In every Australian jurisdiction there are sophisticated animal welfare laws which impose considerable responsibilities on owners and those in charge of animals. It doesn’t matter whether the animals have been “traded” or not when the animals are in Australia, it is still illegal to treat them badly. The Australian public does not like cruelty to Australian animals, no matter where they are, thus the argument ultimately reflects very poorly on farmers in the public's eyes. In addition, the "inflammatory, defamatory, country versus city rhetoric" is also likely to alienate the Australian public, many of whom are consumers of Australian meat.
As Dr Caulfield suggests, it is time for constructive comments all round...ie lets look for a win win win solution (win for farmers, win for animal welfare groups and most importantly, a win for the animals in question).
With high mortality reports set to be released, it is only now in the public domain that a very high mortality voyage for the Bader was reported in 2013. It is believed the sheep, loaded in WA's winter, died of heat stress over a short period as summer temperatures in the Gulf soared. The mortality rate on the Bader has been reported as 5 per cent.
VALE's scientific review of Heat Stress in TVJ concluded that the heat stress risk assessment model was unlikely to be adequate to prevent heat stress in Australian animals travelling to a Middle East summer. The latest information reinforces that conclusion.
If live export is to continue, this issue must be addressed. Australian animals should not be exposed to these conditions, which can be extreme, and have throughout the history of the trade been associated with "heat crashes".
As discussed in WA Today, VALE is very concerned that the Bader was allowed to load in Fremantle on the weekend. Whilst loading the ship was delayed until evening on Sat 11th, the sheep were trucked from a feedlot 3h away (ie they were still exposed to extreme temperature during loading and transport to port). On Sun 12th, trucks left Kojunup for Fremantle in 44 degree heat even though temperatures had improved at the Port (well to the high 30s!). The extra cost of waiting 36-48 hours was clearly more important than sheep welfare!
That any stock should be handled and transported in this extreme heat is concerning. However, if the sheep were staying on land in Australia, they would have a chance to recover. To load these almost certainly heat-affected sheep onto a ship (with no chance of cooling on the upper decks until the ambient temperature cooled) , with high stocking density (0.308 metres squared for 47kg sheep) for a three week sea voyage should not be permitted. This additional stress before a voyage commences is unacceptable.
How was this sanctioned by DAFF and DAFWA? And were the RSPCA present?
An increase in Australian lamb supply throughout 2012, a reduction in lamb prices on the record highs seen in 2011, and a slowdown in Australian live sheep exports to the MENA region contributed to the growth in Australian lamb exports according to MLA.
Well what a surprise...and we all thought that they didnt have any refrigeration....! Perhaps the ACIL Tasman predictions were correct after all.