Information obtained through Official Information Act requests by New Zealand’s SAFE for Animals has revealed that as many as 10 times more animals have died shortly after live export voyages compared with during the journey. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) however only publishes data based on the number of cows which die during the journey...as does Australia's equivalent (DAFF the current name!).
SAFE CEO Ms Ashton says that if the cows who died shortly after the voyage were included in MPI’s statistics, the number of deaths, in many cases, would double - a fact that was also evident in a recently released voyage vet report where dead cows on voyage were added to destination deaths rather than voyage deaths to keep the numbers down.
The post-arrival reports obtained by SAFE listed causes of death that included: hemorrhagic septicemia (a bacterial disease), pneumonia, rib fracture, stomach rupture, intestinal bleeding, lung adhesion, necrosis [?no Dx] and suffocation - conditions that highlight the suffering and poor animal welfare conditions on the voyage and after unloading.
Of concern however is that many cows were given grave prognoses at the end of quarantine ie more still would be dead shortly after quarantine making in some cases a likely ten-fold increase in the death rate from "the voyage".
For example, following a shipment that left New Plymouth on 24 September 2021, MPI only reported the three deaths that occurred onboard. However, a post-arrival report SAFE obtained revealed a further 11 cows died during quarantine. An additional 20 cows were given a "grave prognosis" whose condition was expected to deteriorate even with medical intervention.
The NZ National MP, Tim van de Molen claims that cows are "… often coming off the vessels in better condition than they boarded at New Zealand" which either indicates he has no correct information or ...worse!
So, NZ the "world leaders" in animal welfare are precariously maintaining their position purely by lack of transparency. And that should be an indication to any country that good animal welfare is simply not possible in the live export trade...if NZ cant do it...actually no-one can!
Providing more space and reducing journey times to a minimum are needed to improve the welfare of animals during transport, according to recommendations published last week by the European Food Safety Authority.
Irish dairy industry body ICMSA's President Pat McCormack said that while the recommendations certainly have to be given due consideration, a number of them would effectively shut down Ireland’s live export trade and this is simply unacceptable.
Same the world over....live export by sea with good animal welfare is just not possible....and its not the rules that are unacceptable, it is the trade.
Whilst countries such as UK are progressively looking to reduce all live exports, Ireland continues to live export cattle on an increasing scale. Their cattle are often unaccompanied by veterinarians on their voyages and end up in destinations that even Australia wont export to, such as Libya. Their trade continues to blacken any reputation the country may have had for good animal welfare but, like Australia, it is fully supported and promoted by their Dept of Agriculture:
“All live export shipments from Ireland are conducted in compliance with legislative requirements" ....except when they arent
“The Government supports the live export of animals as it is a critical part of Ireland’s livestock industry, and the Government demands the highest standards of animal welfare during transport. "....yes transporting 15 day old calves by sea is definitely an animal welfare model of excellence
"The department facilitates this trade, recognising its critical importance to the agri-sector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.”....heard that one before
And as for the local ferry company shipping calves less than one month of age transported by sea (even Australia doesnt do that!):
“Stena Line takes its duty of care for the welfare of live animals very seriously.”
Ireland must have copied and pasted all the standard responses from Australia - we might have poor animal welfare but we have the world's best animal welfare spin. VALE assumes that Aussie spin fits well with Irish blarney.
Northern WA's only large-scale abattoir reopened in April following an 18-month closure. With the Indonesian foot and mouth disease outbreak heavily impacting the live cattle export trade, the abattoir is now taking stock that would normally be destined for the live export trade. Meanwhile, the abattoir near Batchelor in the Northern Territory is set to resume processing on July 4 after more than six months of being out of operation. Thats odd - we were always told by the live-ex industry that local processing wasnt an option ...well until it was of course.
The Chief executive of Yeeda Pastoral Company, which owns the Kimberley abattoir, David Larkin, said in June that he was working towards expanding the daily processing capacity from 200 to 300 head of cattle and that they were processing cattle from across northern WA and the Northern Territory. The plan next year is to process more than 80000 cattle.
Mr Larkin said when the live export trade to Indonesia was suddenly banned in 2011, northern WA did not have any abattoirs.He felt the industry was much better placed in 2022 and stated: "A viable processing plant in the north of Australia we would have to think is essential."
VALE would agree - local processing is not only good for farmers in this risky business but infinitely better for the animals. Perhaps we could start sending boxed meat to Indonesia? Wouldnt that be a novel idea?
The Gulf Livestock 1 capsized on 2 September 2020, and yet the livestock and maritime industries are still none the wiser as to the cause of this disaster. The livestock carrier, with 43 people and 5,800 dairy cows onboard, was sailing through a forecasted typhoon (Typhoon Maysak) on a voyage from New Zealand to China. Only two crew members survived. Forty one men including Phillipine, Australian and New Zealand nationals lost their lives. Video footage sent by the crew as the vessel took on water show the water coming into the vessel.
The livestock carrier fleet is old, the vessels are often sailing under flags of convenience and when something does go wrong, the flag state for the vessel can delay investigation reports for years (see the protracted investigation for another livestock carrier, the Danny FII). Like the Danny F II, the Flag State for Gulf Livestock 1 is also Panama. The report of the investigation has apparently been released to family members of the two New Zealand crew who lost their lives. It is not known whether the families of the Philippine or Australian crew have also seen the report and Panama is yet to makes its investigation report publicly available.
A group of farmers who collectively sold $1 million worth of cattle to a live export company in March are reported by 1News NZ to be still unpaid. Farmers from around New Zealand sold cattle to Waikato-based Genetic Development (NZ) Exports Limited Partnership (GDEX LP). The 12,300 head of cattle were destined for China at the end of April this year, however the shipment failed after the livestock carrier, MV Al Kuwait, built in 2016, broke down enroute to New Zealand to collect the animals. and was replaced with a smaller ship. At least one farmer who had cattle returned to him, reported animal welfare issues in the returned animals.
This trade always has been a risky business for animals and a risky business for farmers.
However, this current situation in NZ also demonstrates that having a phase-out period with a “Continuous Improvement Programme” still has potential for, and possibly results in, serious welfare problems. Phaseout periods should always be as short as possible.
There was a 53% percent decline on the five-year-average for June 2022. Exports to both Indonesia (48% below five year average) and Vietnam (64% below five year average) were both down and trade of breeding and dairy cattle to China also thankfully decreased.
So for the 2021-2022 financial year, only 603 586 cattle, well below five year average of 997,667 head. Perhaps its time for a cattle phase out too?
With FMD raging in Indonesia, the livestock industry keeps calling for Bali tourists to have footbaths on their return (a pretty good idea!) or for a ban on tourism to Bali ....but no-one is asking for a ban (suspension) on live-ex to Indonesia. They are just not worried (or not mentioning) about the risk of cattle ships bringing FMD back. Short turnaround time, shared personnel across the countries handling stock directly and limited ability to ensure good disinfection on ships....
If farmers can call for a stop to the tourist trade, then surely they should be looking a little closer to home at one of the biggest risks - live ex ships!
Australian live export commentator and veterinarian Ross Ainsworth has recently expressed surprised that Australian cattle are still being imported by Indonesia ie into a country where FMD raging. In addition, he recommends Australian tourists come back from Bali to footbaths. These recommendations have avoided the obvious questions:
1) why is Australia allowing our FMD naive cattle to be exported to a country with an FMD epidemic - this is a serious animal welfare issue and there should be trade suspension to Indonesia whilst the FMD epidemic is out of control (we could send boxed meat instead....)
2) what biosecurity measures are in place for difficult-to-disinfect cattle ships returning back from Indonesia....and what of their crew (eg Australian stockpersons) when they get off, for example, the Nine Eagle in Broome in a few days?
Allowing live cattle ships fro Australia to Indonesia at the moment is a major biosecurity and animal welfare risk.
An anonymous submission to the NZ Parliament by an experienced cattle veterinarian validates VALE's report and analysis of the China voyages (Hing et al 2021).
Across the Equator: "there was no way of significantly reducing either factor [heat/humidity]that the cows were experiencing. During this period the cattle didn’t have enough time to adapt to the warmer weather, so it really was a brutal period of ‘survival of the fittest’."
And:the majority of the cattle on the ship to exhibit signs of heat stress (ranging from mild to severe) as we crossed the equator. Despite our best efforts to get all the cattle across the equator alive, two cattle died of heat stress on the journey. Although the two cattle written down on our trip report represent a low mortality rate attributable to heat stress, the pain and distress they and the surviving cattle experienced still haunts me.
And: It wasn’t a simple problem, and it didn’t have a simple answer. I still don’t have an answer for how to prevent heat stress. In my opinion heat stress is an inevitable and unacceptable aspect of transporting cattle by sea across the equator.
See FULL REPORT: ttps://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/53SCPP_EVI_115891_PP2427/3f9275012e56ee5fd5e145bbc0626c3ca58d8c45