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