Beef Central recently evaluated which port, Townsville or Darwin, had “bragging rights” for the most cattle exported in 2019-20. Townsville become Australia’s largest cattle export port, overtaking Darwin for the first time in a formal 12 month period. However, Darwin exported 10,132 buffalo which, if included, would bring its exports just above Townsville “which may help to fuel some ongoing debate over which port really does hold the bragging rights.”
A moment of reflection on the suffering in the last financial year shows that neither port has anything to be proud of.
July 2019: High mortality voyage 80 for cattle exported to Vietnam (1.19%). Rough seas were encountered, and the cattle were slow to take to the fodder but main cause of mortalities was BRD, risk of which had been noted by the Government Officer before loading.
August 2019: High mortality voyage 81 for buffalo exported to Vietnam (0.74%). There were broken legs, downers and rough sea conditions. The buffalo were very wild and were overstocked. The Government concluded possible overstocking of buffalo pens....IO report stated definite overstocking with welfare effects.
August 2019: Report of non-compliance with ESCAS for cattle exported to Indonesia. Animals observed outside the approved supply chain (yep a carpark!), with non-compliant handling and slaughter identified: roping slaughter tail pulling, slipping/ falling, hitting, kicking, ear pulling, leg roping, sitting on head (sound like a Bloody Business 2011? sure we improve animal welfare in importing countries....).
October 2019: Report of non-compliance with ESCAS control and traceability standards for cattle in Vietnam. Cattle were moved to facilities outside the exporter’s supply chain and have lost traceability....oops, 16 cattle just snuck out.
December 2019: Report of non-compliance with ESCAS for buffalo exported to Vietnam at an ESCAS approved abattoir. (Buffalo slaughtered in the back of trucks with abattoir staff using an electric prodder to lift the buffalo’s heads so as to reach them with the stunner etc)
April 2020: Report of non-compliance with ESCAS control standards for cattle in Vietnam. Cattle were moved to facilities outside the exporter’s supply chain.....again.
And thats only the things we know about......some reason to brag eh?
The NSPCA is the lead applicant in a case, to be heard in early August, seeking to have the High Court permanently ban livestock exports from South Africa, due to alleged animal health and welfare violations during two previous such shipments.
Marcelle Meredith, executive director of the NSPCA, said that “ethics and live exports go together like chalk and cheese”.
Shaykh Achmat Sedick, director of South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust, said the trust also opposed the shipboard livestock exports.
“From an Islamic perspective, the condition of the animals should be tayyib, which means that when the animals are transported, it must be done with utmost care in order not to [physically] harm [or stress] the animal [in any way], which is not the case. Therefore, it violates the requirements and standards needs for the animal to be considered tayyib […] for halaal certification.”
Turns out its not just Aust that ignores its own reviews. The UK RSPCA has launched a petition calling on the UK Government to release a live export report submitted by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee 15 months ago.
Leaked details indicate that the report recommends improving lorry and ship standards and reducing journey times, a move which would effectively end live exports from the nation.
The government had confirmed it is “actively considering” how to implement its manifesto commitment to end the trade ie usual government sidestepping.
Every year thousands of sheep are exported from Ramsgate to be driven across Europe for slaughter and dairy calves can also be exported from Scotland to Spain in journeys that can take 96 hours, where they are reared for veal and beef.
Chris Sherwood, UK RSPCA Chief Executive, echoed the same concerns that have been raised in Australia about the industry here: It's unacceptable and completely unnecessary that animals are still being subjected to long journeys, often in stressful conditions with poor law enforcement. These long journeys can cause animals to suffer from fear, exhaustion, dehydration, temperature extremes and lack of food, water or rest. There is no control over where they end up, what conditions they're then kept in or how they're slaughtered.
See: RSPCA press release: https://www.rspca.org.uk/-/uk-government-actively-considering-ending-live-exports
See Maritime Executive: https://www.maritime-executive.com/corporate/uk-government-considers-ending-live-exports
VALE Spokeperson Dr Sue Foster has been awarded the 2020 David Bayvel Award by the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, Animal Welfare Chapter. The criteria for a recipient of this award is "Their work must have clear benefits in improving the welfare of specific animal populations in such fields as education, research, policy, advocacy, or extension".
Sue's contributions were also recognised by The University of Sydney Faculty of Science in August 2019. Sue won the Faculty of Science’s Alumni Achievement Award for the Service to Humanity category in 2019. The Faculty stated "These awards honour our foremost thinkers and brightest achievers."
Reprimand issued to Australasian Global Exports Pty Ltd The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Department) has issued a reprimand to the licensed livestock exporter Australasian Global Exports Pty Ltd (AGE). This action follows an investigation into the sourcing and preparation of a consignment of livestock for export to the People’s Republic of China in August 2019.
The Department was not satisfied that the AGE consignment met the importing country requirements.... AGE did not have sufficient systems or controls in place to ensure that livestock sourced for export met the importing country requirements.....AGE was not able to identify and address irregularities in the timelines relating to the collection, and submission for testing, of blood samples from livestock in the consignment.
THEY ISSUED A REPRIMAND....oh you naughty exporters.....tut tut.
The Department has confidence in Australia’s regulatory systems
WE DONT....and we certainly dont have confidence in the Department!
Farm Weekly reported on the Al Kuwait voyage noting that forecasts and daily reports were reviewed regularly by an independent panel of experts which included a meteorologist, animal physiologist and animal behavioural experts.
It sounds great. It sounds like RETWA was bothering with animal welfare like never before (and likely never again).
But really, what were these experts actually doing? The captain should have been quite capable of monitoring weather conditions - that's a key part of the job. The onboard veterinarian should have been quite capable of detecting heat stress in sheep - one hopes that is a key part of their job.
And what were the panel of experts actually going to do when conditions inevitably got hot? Blow kisses from back here in Australia in the hope it would cool the sheep down?
RETWA has claimed the June-July Al Kuwait voyage a success because the heat stress experienced by the sheep apparently wasn't lethal.
This insistence on measuring animal welfare by mortality rates ignores the recommendations of the McCarthy Review and implies a reversion to pre-whistleblower (and pre-historic) animal welfare assessment by exporters. It disregards the public outcry that followed the Awassi Express whistleblower footage and again neatly hides the suffering that livestock experience at sea.
Sheep Central reports that KLTT would like to see the moratorium shortened: “What is the point in making improvements if it is a fixed moratorium for ever, regardless?”
The answer is, simply, that there were no genuine improvements in animal welfare. Even with stocking densities so low that KLTT made a large financial loss on the voyage, sheep suffered prolonged and intense heat stress. As RSPCA points out, the hottest temperature was experienced at 0100, so even at night there was no respite from heat that far exceeded stress thresholds for several days AND it is likely that panting scores in the daily voyage reports did not reflect the scores at 0100 when the AAV, stockperson and IO were all likely to be in bed (as per IO reports).
And thats just heat stress: there was pneumonia, infections and injuries, pink eye and contrary to ASEL, the birth of lambs was reported.
The on-voyage image supplied by RETWA doesn't show these sheep. Instead it shows spaced sheep resting recumbent - a natural behaviour that is denied them at financially viable stocking densities.
Hazlehurst backed down. There will be a riot if Littleproud does also. Mortality rates have never been and will never be an acceptable measure of animal welfare!
Quotes from Mr Hazelhursts Exemption Reasons:
1. "In his updated opinion, Dr Buckley stated that voluntary observing ship data... shows that the 98th percentile WBT for June is 30.5oC... and 31.0oC for July. Dr Buckley opined that the worst case WBTs, assuming light wind conditions for the transit of the ship, would be 1oC higher.”
CORRECT. And as 29 is the danger zone why was this ignored?
2. "In that respect, I also took into account the expert opinion of Dr John McBride dated 1 June 2020 that there was a very high probability of WBTs in the Persian Gulf exceeding 29oC in June 2020. On the totality of the evidence in respect of the forecast temperatures, I proceeded on the basis that the ambient WBT would be between 28.3oC to 29.8oC, and possibly up to 30oC in this region. I noted that RETWA submitted that the time transiting Strait of Hormuz is relatively short and that it estimated this time to be some 12-13 hours.
INCORRECT. Environmental WBT exceeded 30 in the geographic location and WBTs were higher onboard. In addition transit time of the Straits took more than12-13h (ship was probably zigzagging!).
3. "As noted above, Dr Buckley considered that the likelihood is that the highest WBT in this region should be 30oC or lower on the basis of an actively managed ship"
INCORRECT - temperatures onboard went to 32.
4. "Overall, I was satisfied that the meteorological data indicated that the MV Al Kuwait might encounter ambient WBTs in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding areas between 28.3oC to 29.8oC, and possibly up to 30oC.
5. "As set out in the Department’s RIS, WBTs found on the decks inside of live-stock export vessels are typically 1oC to 3oC above the ambient WBT of the air surrounding the ship (see p 58). The better the ventilation on a vessel, the smaller the difference between ambient temperature and deck temperature. In its current application, RETWA indicated that with the superior ventilation of the MV Al Kuwait and the lower stocking density (additional 10% than what is required by EAN 2018-06), the MV Al Kuwait’s wet bulb rise will be approximately 1oC.
INCORRECT - the average deck WBT rise was up to 1.5 degrees on this ship and some spots would have been hotter.
6. "The Department’s Animal Welfare Branch reviewed logger data from the 19 April 2020 voyage of the MV Al Kuwait held by the Department which showed a difference of 2.2oC, and at times in excess of 3oC, between the lowest average WBT (kestrel 1) and the highest average WBT (kestrel 16) onboard the MV Al Kuwait. This information was put to RETWA for comment on 10 June 2020. In response, RETWA submitted that neither the logger data nor the AAV voyage data that it has also reviewed could be relied on, in particular because of anomalies in the data. In the further explanatory notes and information provided on 12 June 2020, RETWA accepted that >1.5oC would be the upper limit of the wet bulb rise for the MV Al Kuwait given the limitations of the existing data."
PARTIALLY CORRECT: RETWA were correct in the AVERAGE WBT rise but should not have been allowed to over-ride both the AAV (apparently they are the Govt representative on the ship) and the Kestrel data for this ship which would represent all areas on the ship rather than an average.
7. "In light of the limitations identified in the logger data for the MV Al Kuwait’s last voyage, I placed no weight on the T-deltas between Kestrel 1 WBTs (the coolest) and Kestrel 16 WBTs (the hottest). I gave weight to RETWA’s confirmation that the hottest deck, Deck 5 Aft (Special 5), would not be used for the proposed voyage. Overall, I was satisfied that 1.4oC was a reasonable estimate of the wet bulb rise onboard the MV Al Kuwait."
INCORRECT in terms of both WBT rise and that Deck 5 was the hottest deck (clearly not the case). It may be that Deck 5 Aft did not figure in the Deck 5 temperature calculations provided but other decks were clearly hotter than Deck 5 itself.
8. "The average WBTs that a typical vessel might encounter in the Strait of Hormuz if it departs Fremantle on 31 May are 27oC to 28oC. Assuming a wet bulb rise of between 1oC and 3oC, this would mean that the vessel could face deck WBTs between 28oC and 31oC. Given that the estimated deck WBT for the MV Al Kuwait in the Strait of Hormuz is between 29.7oC and 31.4oC, I found that the upper limit of the range is similar to the upper range of the risk of higher WBTs for a vessel departing on 31 May that was contemplated in the RIS. Having regard to the totality of the weather information including RETWA’s submissions and Dr Buckley’s reports, I found that the deck WBTs onboard the MV Al Kuwait could be expected to reach between 29.7oC and 31.4oC, but that this was not a materially greater risk than what was contemplated in the RIS that informed the making of the Northern Summer Order."
INCORRECT: temperature went to 32
9. "I had regard to the other expert material provided by RETWA. However, I preferred the findings in the RIS that informed the introduction of the Northern Summer Order and give weight to the assessment in the LiveCorp and MLA Veterinary Handbook for Cattle, Sheep and Goats that WBTs above 29oC are considered the ‘danger’ zone for sheep."
NOTE: WBT were above 29 with no respite for numerous days.
10. "On the basis of the above information, I found that an MV Al Kuwait departure date between 15 and 17 June 2020 posed a risk of heat stress, when the vessel would transit through the Gulf of Oman, Strait of Hormuz and adjacent Persian Gulf. However, I gave weight to Dr Buckley’s assessment that this period was likely to be some 24 hours and that the WBTs should not exceed 28ᵒC anywhere across the Arabian Sea. I also gave weight to the WRI predictions of around 25-26ᵒC. This suggested that notwithstanding that sheep experience cumulative heat load, deck WBTs would not rise above 29ᵒC during the days before the MV Al Kuwait transits through the Gulf of Oman, the Strait and the adjacent Persian Gulf."
INCORRECT. The sheep experienced WBT>29 with no respite for a number of days.
11. "I noted that duration was a consideration in determining the overall animal welfare impact of exposing sheep to high WBTs. As noted by Professor Maloney, the impact of the duration of continuous exposure to heat stress thresholds is still under investigation (HSRA review). However, sheep cope better if periods of high WBT are broken by periods where the WBTs drop for a number of hours. This is most commonly seen where WBTs follow a diurnal pattern, i.e. routinely drop each 24 hour period (typically at night). The AWB analysis notes that the WBTs in the Strait of Hormuz (and in Middle East maritime locations generally) show minimal diurnal variation, with the average minimum WBTs in mid/late June being less than 2oC lower than the average maximum temperature. In light of this, I was not satisfied that the risk of heat stress in the Strait of Hormuz would be mitigated by any diurnal variation and consider it likely that the sheep will have little diurnal respite during this part of the voyage. However, I was satisfied that the risk of heat stress in Kuwait Port for a departure on or after 15 June 2020 was very low."
CORRECT ASSESSMENT so why was it considered acceptable?
Perhaps listen to Tina next time??
So update 3 is now available from RETWA. The exporters are patting themselves on the back for the low mortality rate and claiming minimal heat stress.
But the Wet Bulb Temperature graph tells a pretty terrible story. By the industry's own admission WBT above 29 is danger zone and this was exceeded for numerous days with no response. In fact on one deck, WBT went up to 32. The company claimed that only 190 sheep were panting but as the temperature peaked at 1am, one wonders whether some of the panting went unobserved...usually only skeletal ship crew up at that time and not vets, stockies or independent observers.
The HOTSTUFF model itself has heat stress threshold at 28.6 for adult Merinos and 26 for Merino lambs coming from this part of Australia at this time of the year. There is no doubt that these sheep suffered....they just didnt die. That does not mean it is acceptable animal welfare.
The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) were again victorious in the Grahamstown High Court today after an Urgent High Court Application was brought against them by Al Mawashi and their counterpart, Livestock Transport and Trading Company KSC (KLTT), to have the interim interdict of 9 June 2020 reconsidered.
Al Mawashi alleged that such a delay in shipment would cost the company exponentially as they have to continue to feed the animals at the feedlot, and the costs of having the Al Messilah vessel at the East London Harbour for this prolonged period, would cause the company substantial financial losses to the degree that they would have to close their operations in South Africa.
I guess given that Mr David Hazlehurst from the Australian Ag Dept gave in to arguments about impacts of trade and reversed a former decision based on animal welfare, KLTT thought they would try it again in another country. It didnt wash in South Africa.
SEE NSPCA Media Release here.