A damning report by Latika Burke in the Sydney Morning Herald has exposed widespread failures of ESCAS in Oman. Animals Australia, the unpaid auditor of end-destination animal welfare issues in the live export trade has meticulously documented the failures and provided the information to the Department.
With the industry very much in the spotlight because of the phaseout consultations, one would have assumed that exporters would have been doing everything in their power to ensure that no problems were detected. Instead it seems yet another major non-compliance of ESCAS has occurred.
It is also reported that The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council said in 2016 that if any Australian animal was found to have been sold outside approved supply lines and for private slaughter, the exporter should be immediately reported to authorities “to enable remedial actions including the recovery of stolen livestock to be undertaken where possible”. SMH reports that this has not occurred in the latest incidents.
And still they wonder why they have no social licence and why 7/10 Australians support the phaseout.
New independent polling research commissioned by RSPCA Australia in May 2023 confirms more than 7 in 10 Western Australians still want live sheep export trade to end. 71% of West Australians support the Federal Government’s policy to phase out live sheep export by sea. This includes 72% of people in metropolitan WA, and 69% in rural and regional WA. Richard Mussell RSPCA Australia CEO stated “This is what losing your social licence looks like. It’s when everyday Australians are overwhelmingly and irretrievably opposed to your practice and want to see it end, permanently" - Richard Mussell, RSPCA Australia CEO
So, both metropolitan and regional West Australians have not been sucked in by the spin and recognise that live export is and continues to be an unacceptable animal welfare issue.
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?
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