VALE read with interest the article in The Conversation titled "Why Australia banning live sheep exports may be a net loss for animal welfare" written by an academic who is a non-executive director of Sheep Producers Australia and is on the WA Farmers' Livestock Council. It was appropriate for the author to make that disclosure (routine academic procedure) as the article has statements that potentially reflect conscious or sub-conscious bias to industry and presumably, because of that, failure of careful academic analysis.
The article questions whether there will be a net gain for global animal welfare as more animals will be shipped from nations with lower standards. Most certainly that will occur but many of those countries eg Somalia are much closer (ie less duration of transport stress), already acclimatised to the same seasonal conditions and the sheep in those countries already have unstunned inappropriate slaughter so there is a no net change in slaughter standards compared to the situation for Australian sheep. So yes a slight decrease in shipping standards but a positive net benefit for global sheep slaughter welfare statistics.
The article discusses the value of the trade ($92 million) but does not look at the value of the sheep meat trade: on 2017 figures alone, the total value of sheepmeat production to WA was about $513 million with sheepmeat exports from WA increasing about 40% in value (from 2010-217) to $323 million as a result of increased demand from China, UAE, Jordan and the USA (see: Western Australia’s Agrifood/Fibre/Fisheries/Forestry Industries 2017).
The article then shifts to facts and figures about combined sheep and cattle exports (not exactly relevant to a sheep export phaseout) with comments that the end destinations markets require live animals due to lack of reliable refrigeration or cultural preference. It would appear that this statement may not have been well researched - there is no lack of refrigeration for the Middle East destinations as is quite evident by an analysis of Australia's boxed meat exports (eg to UAE, Jordan, Bahrain etc). Even as far back as 2014, a survey by ABARES concluded that in the Middle East ‘substitutability between Australian live sheep and sheep meat imports has increased in recent years, largely reflecting growth in incomes, urbanisation, refrigeration availability and popularity of western style supermarkets’. This is underscored by the experience regarding Bahrain, which stopped importing Australian sheep in 2014, after which sheepmeat imported from Australia increased over two-fold!
Then there is the graph that seemingly shows ESCAS non-compliance has improved from 2020 but with no mention that Covid largely prevented travel/auditing in 2020-2022. Wait for the figures to go up again now the unpaid auditors (Animals Australia) can again travel!
Then there is a whole lot of information about cattle exports and tellingly, the statement at the end of the article: "Correction: this article originally stated the Australian government wants to ban live animal exports. The proposed ban is for live sheep exports. The article has been amended accordingly."
This article would seem to be more suited to a discussion on a live export ban than a sheep export ban. As it stands, it has included much irrelevant material on cattle, some potentially misleading figures and failed to carefully interrogate the data provided.