The EU is currently discussing how to improve animal welfare during live export, with Eurogroup for Animals highlighting that German, Dutch and Luxembourg Ministers have presented a paper stating that they want to see live exports to third countries ended.
They state: “Member States of the European Union export millions of sheep and cattle each year to Turkey, the Middle East, North Africa, Russia and Asian countries by road and sea. Despite many efforts to improve compliance with the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005, and despite the fact that best practices exist, we conclude that the welfare of animals cannot be sufficiently guaranteed during these type of long journeys.”
They go on to say: “We have all witnessed the terrible situation earlier this year, when two livestock-carrying sea vessels were stuck on the Mediterranean Sea for months, which eventually ended in the killing of all the animals in the port of Cartagena, Spain.
“Finally, the conditions to which the animals are exposed after arrival at their destination, e.g. during onward transport, at livestock markets and at slaughter, must also be taken into account…
“We strongly advocate a shift from transporting live animals, to a trade in meat and carcasses, as well as genetic material.”
VALE joins Eurogroup for Animals in welcoming this position.
Beef Central reports Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer, Mark Harvey-Sutton, saying that the growing trend of financiers applying environmental and ethical conditions on those who they lend to or invest with is impacting the capacity of live export businesses to operate.
He goes on to ask: “What is unethical about providing food security to millions of people?”
Well, Mark, the problem is, that most thinking, ethical people know that’s not really the case. If it was, packaged meat could do the job.
Saying how dedicated the industry’s seafarers are, he says: “We should never underestimate the personal sacrifices of those staff.” True. They have indeed made sacrifice after sacrifice with poor pay, having to jump ship in Fremantle to force payment and going down with the ships. Just providing them with a decent salary and some seaworthy ships might be a nice indication that the industry actually care about them.
And it’s not “misinformation” to inform the ethical acts of financiers, it’s the Awassi Express, the Queen Hind, the Gulf Livestock 1, the Elbeik, the Barkly Pearl…
A new report released by Animal Welfare Foundation and Robin des Bois highlights the poor condition of livestock carriers operating in Europe.
The average age of the 78 EU-approved vessels is 41 years with 16 being 50+ years old. Only five were purpose-built for livestock. The average age at the time of conversion for the remaining 67 ships was 29 years, an age when most ships involved in other commercial trades are scrapped.
Age is a key risk factor for ship safety, and 28 of the ships have reportedly suffered major incidents including engine failure, fire and loss of stability.
In the past two years (or in the last 2 years of their trading life), 2,504 deficiencies were reported by port authorities. Two thirds of the 78 had deficiencies relating to Certificates and Documentation, Safety of Navigation, Fire Safety, Maritime Labour Convention, Life-saving Equipment, Working-Living Conditions or Pollution Prevention.
More than half had deficiencies related to Water/Weathertight Conditions, Propulsion and Auxiliary Machinery, Emergency Systems, Radio Communications, Structural Conditions and Ship Management.
It is telling that 55% of these ships sail under flags from risk and high-risk countries, according to the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control.
Live export is always tragic for the animals involved and where animal welfare issues exist, so do human issues - these crews also risk tragedy.
In 2008, "Emanuel Exports Pty Ltd ("Emanuel") and its directors were charged with cruelty to the sheep in that the way in which they were transported, and confined, was likely to cause the sheep unnecessary harm." The magistrate report stated "In summary, whilst the elements of the offence of cruelty to sheep, in the way of transport were proven, the AWA is invalid, that is inoperative, to the extent of its inconsistency with Commonwealth law due to operational inconsistency. On that basis the Accused are acquitted."
Fast forward to June 2021: a decision has just been handed down in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia that WA's Animal Welfare Act is not inconsistent with Commonwealth laws in relation to live animal exports. The decision was handed down in the ongoing Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development prosecution of Emanuel Exports Pty Ltd. The decision supports the State Government's position that WA's animal welfare laws can be applied to live animal exports without necessarily conflicting with Commonwealth law.
See: 2008 Magistrates Reasons for Decision
North Australian Cattle Company (NACC) has gone into voluntary administration.
The ABC reports the company was founded in 1980 and was run by Elders for nearly three decades until its sale to a Chinese-Australian buyer in 2017. Interestingly, Elders reported a loss of $2.9m from its Live Export businesses in the 6 months to 30 March 2016 and they were quoted as saying "margin performance in the long haul business has continued to be poor and we believe that margins are unlikely to recover in the near to medium term.”
A market analyst is quoted in the article as saying that NACC could go through this and re-emerge. Surely 2 lots of business failings would be evidence enough that this live export is not good for business or animal welfare.
However, VALE's biggest concerns are the welfare of NACC cattle awaiting processing in Vietnam. No matter what exporter is involved, there are always welfare concerns about the cattle shipped to and processed in Vietnam with repeated reports of cruelty including use of sledgehammers, the practice of 'flooding', cattle unstunned prior to slaughter, cattle deliberately taken out of approved supply chains to an unknown fate…
It’s time for all of the live exporters to stop making Australia party to this cruelty. If it takes receivership to force the change, so be it.