Yes VALE is like a cracked record….VALE demand independent vets on every ship. VALE is not alone in this. The Australian Veterinary Association policy on live export reads as follows (with VALE bolding):
"Where live export occurs, an Australian-registered shipboard veterinarian must accompany each shipment and this veterinarian must be independent and thus not employed by either the exporting company or the shipping company. Pregnancy testing of animals for export must be performed by an Australian-registered veterinarian."
The only legal requirement under ASEL 2.3 is that every ship must carry a stockman – clearly a person who has done a 2 week accreditation course is the perfect substitute for a veterinarian, who has done 5 years of training and has learned about drug doses for example…and drug withholding times.
FOI docs on Voyage 61 Bison Express from Townsville to Vietnam show that the stockman was trying to ease pain by giving 10 ml of an anti-inflammatory drug called tolfedine. These cattle, mostly in excess of 500kg, were slaughter cattle. The dose of tolfedine is 1 ml/20 kg. These cattle weren’t 200kg ie they appear to have been under-dosed. Was this an accident (stockperson not vet) or were they running low on supplies so eking the stuff out? Needless to say the surprisingly low dose of tolfedine was NOT discussed in the Department of Ag’s Investigation into the incident so we will never know. VALE does intend to write to the Chief Veterinary Officer however.
FOI documents on High Mortality Voyage 61 make for an interesting read. Even though ASEL doesn't require ANY BEDDING for northern cattle, the exporters still load some. Interesting…..exporters aren’t known to chuck extra money at animal welfare….obvious conclusion is that they don't believe the standards are right. Bedding is necessary, at least in the hospital pens and to help prevent slipping on ramps.
And when everything goes pear-shape, as it did on the Bison Express, with soft-abraded feet on heavy cattle, the exporters have suggested that one solution will be to load more bedding. Really? Could it be that bedding is necessary? Surely not…not after 16 years of needing none….where the 26th parallel itself seems to have provided the necessary comfort!!!
In April 2017, a live ex ship on its maiden voyage had 7.79% mortality due to cattle slipping. The ship had its certificate revoked (see VALE blog). The surface was obviously inadequate even though it passed initial inspection. However, one wonders, would some of these losses been mitigated if the animals had had some absorbent bedding. Which roads are slipperiest: wet or dry? VALE predicts the Department of Ag’s investigation will find the ship design at fault….but wont even look at their own dodgy bedding standards.
ASEL Version 2.3 (2011; current) Appendix 4.3.1 Provision of bedding
4.3.1 Cattle and buffalo
(1) Cattle and buffalo exported on voyages of 10 days or more must be provided with sawdust, rice hulls or similar material to be used exclusively for bedding at a rate of at least 7 t or 25 m3 for every 1000 m2 of cattle pen space.
(2) This does not apply to cattle and buffalo loaded from Brisbane or a port north of latitude 26° south and exported to Southeast Asia or
Management of Bedding during the Livestock Export Process. Meat and Livestock Australia. 2009.
“The bedding requirements were transferred directly from the original Australian Livestock Export Standards – March 2001 (amended August 2003), so the basis for the bedding requirements (or lack thereof) for ‘Brisbane or a port north of the 26th parallel and exported to South-East Asia or Japan’ is not clear.”
16 years and the origin of ASEL’s bedding requirements for cattle above the 26th parallel are not clear! Just as well ASEL is being reviewed…….again!
In April, 7.79% of 1,236 cattle died on an eight-day trip from Darwin to Malaysia and Brunei. 90 were euthanised as a result of slipping.
It was the first voyage of a new livestock vessel and AMSA acted swiftly to revoke the ship's Australian certificate. Contrast this with the Department of Ag's (DAWR's) response to the heat stress disaster on the Al Messilah: exporters to check weather forecasts in the future and install some fans! One wonders what DAWR would have suggested for this newest vessel....check for wet conditions and install some floor mats????
After VALE's FOI request resulted in Nick Butterly from The West Australian exposing the Al Messilah disaster, everyone was quick to point out the age of the ship. There was discussion of grandfather clauses (none of which should affect the single-tiered Al Messilah) and the generally old nature of the fleet (with over half the live export ships being more than 20 years old) (See https://thewest.com.au/business/agriculture/old-live-animal-export-ships-face-ban-ng-b88575313z).
But....now...the newest edition to the live export fleet has proved disastrous. In April, 7.79% of 1,236 cattle died on an eight-day trip from Darwin to Malaysia and Brunei. 90 were euthanised as a result of slipping. [How long ago did Banney et al review bedding and floor surfaces? 8 years ago...?]
The ship's Australian certificate has now been revoked and it cannot be used for export again until it obtains a valid certificate.
Perhaps it is time to revoke live export instead?