Indonesia is rethinking supply as Australian live export prices rise.In an editorial published by Beef Central, Dr Ross Ainsworth notes that Indonesia is concerned by the sudden rise in Australia’s live cattle prices and may consider Mexico as an alternative source of animals.
He notes the potential cost, logistics and bureaucratic hurdles (but not significant negative welfare implications!) associated with the idea and says that Indonesia is also planning to buy beef from Australia and Brazil and water buffalo from India to “plug the supply gap.”
Unbelievable, that any country would go to such lengths to get live animals when clearly it is more than feasible to plug a "supply gap" with Australian beef. As VALE has always said - if they really needed protein, they would buy it as meat not animals. And if Australia was savvy, they would be looking to send various competitive beef cuts to Indonesia rather than losing their place in the Indonesian market - an all round win win!
Beef Central reports that Australian stock handlers and veterinarians working on live export vessels are unable to secure basic health insurance for their voyages. A large number of stockpersons and most veterinarians are hired for voyages as independent contractors, not as export company employees, and are required to secure their own personal insurance for voyages. However, with Covid and the recent loss of the Gulf Livestock 1, insurance companies are not prepared to take on the risk: Covid and the recent vessel sinking.
The insurance issue comes at a time when accredited stockpersons and veterinarians are in short supply anyhow due to COVID quarantine restrictions - now they cant fly home, they all have to endure the stultifying boredom of return trips on an empty livestock ship (not exactly luxury cruise vessels) AND then potentially have Covid quarantine in a hotel when they get back. Hardly enticing conditions.
Could Covid achieve what decades of advocacy have failed to achieve???
VALE reported on the banning of the Barkly Pearl for 2 years a week ago. Beef Central ran the story on 13th Jan and provided extra details purportedly from AMSA: "The ship had known about the hole for close to 10 days before we heard about it.....If people try to hide things from us and if they unreasonably put people’s lives at risk and unreasonably put the environment at risk, we will not tolerate that. That was what happened here, it was a significant issue and we know for a fact that some of the seafarers on board that ship were in fear of their safety."
Interestingly, the Barkly Pearl was used as an example of "world's highest standards" of shipping in an article by Beef Central only 3 months ago. The detailed interview response from the ship's owner makes interesting reading!
Ross Carter was reappointed as the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports (IGLAE) commencing 11 December 2020. On 18 December Carter released a report on the Implementation of Moss Review recommendations..and despite much procedural jargon they are actually pretty damning. He found:
1. the department’s IT systems do not support efficient operations or provide for streamlined industry interaction. They also do not effectively support data and intelligence analytics to target regulatory effort and contribute to the body of knowledge on risk mitigation to animal health and welfare.
2. the dispersed functional model of the department presents a major challenge to delivering an integrated regulatory model.
3. the department needs to improve compliance monitoring and using a proportionate response model to address poor performance.
“The department appears to determine the severity of an individual non-compliance in isolation from other factors. This is a reductive approach that risks not correcting underlying and ongoing unacceptable performance.”
It should be noted that VALE used the June 2020 Al Kuwait exemptions to illustrate the importance in regulatory practice of considering broader community trust and confidence (minimal) in its submission. It was interesting that Ross Carter chose to also use this voyage for the same purpose.
"Mortality rates ..remain the primary indicator of animal health and welfare....but not an indicator of individual animal health and welfare across a consignment."
"Transparency and access to the results of research will help underpin the credibility" SO....where is the study on rumen loggers performed by Murdoch University and reported as completed by Norman in various Shipboard Performance reports??
"The inspector general has not been provided with evidence of improvements to the compliance monitoring approach" [re Moss Recommendation 7]...[this] does not provide confidence in its agility ...and casts doubt on the departments capacity..."
"Despite a long history of significant incidents and events..the department has not put in place and effective proportionate regulatory model that includes strong enforcement action"
"The inspector general is concerned that the full intent and potential of the Principal Regulatory Officer has been reduced from the department's original intent"
"The department has not provided rgulatory process mapping in response to data requests"
"The department should continue to look for opportunities to further increase transparency and accessibility" (7 applications and 6 months for VALE to get one FOI document that showed Dept cover-ups gives little evidence of improved transparency)
"The Awassi Express incident was viewed...as an egregious failure to ensure appropriate animal health and welfare outcomes during an export voyage"
Re regulation "the senior executive have chosen a largely functional structural model [whatever that is]....However, it is a model that best works where the regulatory schemes it supports are at a mature standard of practice. For livestock animal exports this is not the case."
"It appears that the department is not sufficiently agile to take the multidisciplinary approach required"
Re Al Kuwait exemption "The voyage recorded a low mortality rate but a significant number of sheep suffered from heat stress in the later stage."....."mortality rate of 0.08% (28 sheep) ... (noting a 155 negative head count discrepancy. The heat stress scores observed ..appear to confirm that exporting sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer prohibition period results in a poor animal health and welfare outcome for many of the animals despite the additional risk mitigations undertaken by the exporter"
AMSA has issued its most severe banning to date - to a livestock carrier - banning the Barkly Pearl from entering or using an Australia port for 24 months.
"This is a significant decision by AMSA. It’s the first time a vessel has been banned from Australian ports for this length of time and it will certainly affect the vessel’s commercial operations... The owners and operators of the Barkly Pearl were negligent in their maintenance of the vessel, put the lives of the seafarers on board at risk and posed an immediate threat to Australia’s marine environment."
If only this came as a surprise. Livestock carriers comprise the oldest saltwater fleet and are renowned for detentions and for having a poor safety record. An analysis undertaken last year by The Guardian indicated that livestock carriers are twice as likely to be lost as cargo vessels.
VALE welcomes the move by AMSA. In addition to seafarer and marine environment risk, it would also have been yet another risk to our exported animals.