Australia: Live Animal Export News. 17/6/18.

 

 

Permit approval for export of 58,000 sheep is ‘illogical’, court told

Animals Australia is challenging the transportation of the livestock, claiming it fails mandatory safety requirements

Melissa Davey

Thu 14 Jun 2018 08.30 BST Last modified on Thu 14 Jun 2018 08.32 BST

Animals Australia says a current shipment cannot meet mandatory safety standards.

The assistant secretary of the agriculture department, Narelle Clegg, must have approved the export of 58,000 sheep from Western Australia based on “irrational, illogical or unreasonable” information, the federal court has heard.

Animals Australia has taken the federal government to court to argue the export permit granted by Clegg to Emanuel Exports for the voyage was unlawful. The ship is bound for the Middle East and began its voyage on 6 June.

Representing Animals Australia, Dan Star QC, told Justice Debbie Mortimer at hearing in Melbourne that Clegg had been presented with scientific and expert evidence that showed the ship did not meet mandatory requirements for an export permit to be approved.

This included a report from a vet and a meteorologist showing a 50% probability that ambient wet-bulb temperatures during the Indian Ocean part of the journey could reach temperatures of 28C or more for more than one day in a row. This probability rose to 70% for the Persian Gulf part of the journey, Star said.

Live exports regulator cries while describing conditions that led to 2,400 sheep deaths

These conditions could lead to severe heat stress and death to the animals, he said. But permit requirements mean the secretary needs to be satisfied that the health and welfare of animals will be maintained throughout the course of an export journey.

“It is impossible to be satisfied of these conditions and mandatory requirements,” Star said. “The secretary must have misunderstood the scope of her power … there is nothing to justify her being satisfied of these requirements … [her decision] must have involved irrational, illogical, or unreasonable findings.”

Emanuel Exports came under scrutiny in April after footage was aired on 60 Minutes from one of its export ships, the Awassi Express, which showed sheep dying from severe heat stress. The footage, filmed in August 2017, triggered an inquiry into conditionsduring the Middle Eastern summer. Livestock vet Dr Michael McCarthy led the review and made a number of recommendations. In its submission to the review, the Australian Veterinary Association called for a ban on live sheep exports to the Middle East between May and October. The government rejected this recommendation.

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“It gets worse for sheep in July and August,” Star said. “We say that it is urgent for there to be a trial because there is a heat-stress season that runs from May to October.”

Star requested that Clegg provide the court with documents detailing the decision-making process behind granting the permit to Emanuel Exports by 19 June. He said he wanted to see the risk assessment model for heat stress used by the department in making its decision to grant the export permit.

“It should be publicly available or at least provided to us,” he said.

Mortimer responded: “We’re not here on some jurisdictional fact inquiry about the validity of the model.”

A lawyer representing the government told Mortimer “the model contains a software program”. Data was entered into the program, such as the number of livestock and the species. “It produces outcomes which assists in some evaluation of likely occurrence of heat-stress events and mortalities,” he said. “I don’t think the department itself possesses the software program.”

The regulatory regime for exporting livestock was likely to change as early as next week as a result of findings from the McCarthy review, he said, but he did not elaborate on that those changes would be.

The hearing continues.

 

Live export company directors to face up to 10 years in jail under Coalition’s changes

Space allocated to sheep on live export ships to the Middle East will be increased by up to 39%

Space allocated to sheep on live export ships to the Middle East will be increased by up to 39% and directors of live export companies who flout the new rules will face up to 10 years in prison under sweeping changes announced by the Turnbull government on Thursday.

But the reforms to address mass sheep mortalities caused by heat stress do not extend to banning trade to the Middle East from May to October, which was recommended by Australia’s peak veterinary body, and “encourage” but do not enforce improved ventilation on live sheep export ships.

Animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA, say the review has misunderstood the science and its 23 recommendations, all of which have been adopted by government, are not sufficient to avoid another catastrophic heat stress event.

The recommendations, which include placing independent observers on all live sheep and cattle ships, only apply to the live trade during the Middle Eastern summer, from May to October. The majority of reportable mortality events in the past decade, where more than 2% of sheep on board have died, have occurred on ships that left Australia in August.

Livestock vet Dr Michael McCarthy was tasked with reviewing the risk of heat stress to the $250m trade in April, after the agriculture minister and Nationals MP David Littleproud was shown whistleblower footage from a now notorious voyage of the live export ship Awassi Express on which 2,4000 sheep died.

The Awassi is part of a fleet stocked by the West Australian company Emanuel Express, which is the largest sheep exporter by volume. About nine days after the Awassi set sail on that voyage in 2017, the company was under fire for another mass mortality event caused by heat stress on the ship Al Messilah in July 2016, on which about 3,000 sheep died.

At a press conference in Sydney on Thursday, Littleproud said he was disgusted by the whistleblower footage but that implementing a ban on the summer trade would harm Australian sheep producers.

“The footage was disgraceful but what you don’t need to do is predicate your decisions on emotions and not facts,” he said. “This was one exporter, one incident … If you have other footage, bring them forward.

Vets join calls to end live sheep exports in northern summer

“If I have penalties and get the industry themselves to come on this journey, I will eradicate that, but what I’m doing is getting ahead of the curve. By putting independent observers on all boats, it will eradicate this type of behaviour going forward.”

The whistleblower footage from the Awassi Express is the first such footage ever smuggled off a live export ship.

Littleproud said the changes recommended in the McCarthy review included adopting an allometric heat stress model, which would base the space requirements for sheep on the point at which an animal begins to feel heat stress, rather than the point at which heat stress becomes fatal.

That will mean the individual heat allocation for sheep, currently about one-third of a square metre, will be increased by up to 39% depending on predicted weather conditions, the ventilation conditions on board the ship and the size of the sheep.

That is an overall reduction in stocking density of about 28%.

The new formula for calculating stocking density takes into account ventilation and airflow onboard the ship, meaning that boats with improved ventilation can carry more sheep. Littleproud said it would “encourage exporters to upgrade their boats”, but there are no firm requirements forcing an upgrade.

Based on the current live export fleet, McCarthy’s review suggested stocking density could be reduced on individual ships by up to 79%.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will also be required to conduct a mandatory review of all sheep voyages with a mortality rate of 1% or greater. One per cent is the average mortality rate for live sheep ships.

Littleproud said he would introduce changes to the Australian Meat and Industry Act to impose penalties of up to $4.2m on companies and $2.1m on directors who “seek to profit from breaking export rules around stocking densities and poor animal welfare practices.”

Directors could also face up to 10 years in prison.

Most of the changes will be in place from 1 July.

The RSPCA said the recommendations were “weak” and “not based on science or evidence”.

“These recommendations completely ignore the science and are not enough to reduce the risk of either consistent harm to animals or the catastrophic conditions we’ve seen previously,” the RSPCA’s chief science officer, Dr Bidda Jones, said.

“It’s frankly extraordinary that this review will allow May to October voyages to continue, taking winter-acclimatised animals into temperatures of more than 40 degrees, and humidity of up to 80%. There’s no stocking density limit that can protect sheep in those kinds of conditions. A single sheep standing on a deck will suffer and can die under those heat and humidity levels.”

Jones said it was unacceptable that the increased space allocation only applied during the Middle Eastern summer, and that a 28% decrease in stocking density year-round was the “minimum required” to avoid dire animal welfare outcomes.

Coalition won’t ban live exports and has delayed report’s release

The Australian Veterinary Association, on whose calculations the heat stress formula is based, recommended a year-round increase in the space allocation of 39% for a 50kg sheep, and a greater increase in the summer months – assuming its first recommendation of banning the summer trade was not accepted.

Jones said Littleproud’s announcement was a betrayal of the trust placed in him by animal welfare organisations.

The Animals Australia founder, Lyn White, said the recommendations were “an appalling breach of faith with the Australian community.”

“This is a lily-livered government response designed to protect exporters, not animals,” White said.

The opposition agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, also criticised the review and said Labor would act to ban the summer trade “at the first opportunity,” and look to phasing out the live sheep trade long term.

There are two private member’s bills before parliament to ban live exports.

 

One Response

  1. This lasts for years. Just because of the shitty, greedy government. Whole nation is disgusted, even breeder, but….explanation is If we don’t export, somebody else will. Horrible !

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