17th May 2018
Notice of motion.
Live animal export industry.
Motion objected to and debated by the Government. Read the full debate.
(1) That this House condemns the live animal export industry, which has a 40-year history of systemic animal cruelty causing suffering and death.
(2) That this House notes that the recent Animals Australia exposé of the extreme suffering of sheep confined on the Awassi Express by Emanuel Exports highlights the ongoing national scandal of animal cruelty by the live export industry being:
(a) animals starving to death from inanition;
(b) animals dying from overcrowding, which caused the inability to access food and water;
(c) animals dying of heat stress from high temperatures due to climatic extremes;
(d) animals forced to stand in their own excrement for periods of up to a month, causing respiratory distress and blindness from ammonia fumes; and
(e) multiple and persistent breaches of Australian animal welfare laws.
(3) That this House congratulates Faisal Ullah, the Awassi Express assistant navigator, for performing a brave and merciful act of public service by recording the scenes of misery and suffering of sheep aboard the sheep.
(4) That this House calls upon the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair, to meet with the Federal Minister for Agriculture to convey this House’s deep disgust at the continued breaches of Australian animal cruelty laws, and to advocate for a ban on live animal exports.
(5) That this House calls on the Government to prohibit the land transport of animals to New South Wales ports or other States for the purpose of boarding onto live export ships.
The live export industry cannot save itself from itself, and no government of any persuasion has ever been able to save the live export industry. We cannot accept those constant statements from Ministers for agriculture over the years. Even the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, refers to this as “one incident”. The reality is that there is a litany of incidents in live exports. The reality is that if Faisal Ullah had not documented what happened on this ship this would not have been an incident.
In June 2016 there was footage of cruelty in Vietnam where cattle were being bludgeoned to death at the port of disembarkation. In January 2016 a ship was stranded outside of Fremantle, hardly out of Australian waters, and the welfare of 13,000 sheep and cattle was extremely compromised. In fact, 7,500 sheep and 5,500 cattle perished. In June 2015 there were allegations of cruelty to cattle at an Israeli abattoir. On 22 October 2014 there was footage of Australian sheep and cattle being slaughtered outside approved abattoirs in Kuwait, Gaza and Jordan, and Wellard had to cease the Jordan trade. The list goes on and on. From January to February 2014 4,000 sheep were reported to have died of heat stress on the Bader III. From November to December 2013 there were allegations of animal cruelty when footage was taken of bulls being abused prior to slaughter in Mauritius, and of brutal methods of cattle slaughter in Gaza. On 8 November 2013 the Federal Government abolished the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
The mortality rates in live export are a clear measure of the savagery of the live export industry. On long haul voyages, an investigation is triggered only when mortality rates of 2 per cent for sheep and 1 per cent for cattle are reached. On a voyage involving 70,000 sheep, 1,400 animals must die before the cause of the deaths is investigated. In the past five years, 32 sheep voyages have had a mortality rate of more than 1 per cent when the industry average is 0.74 per cent, yet only three of them triggered an investigation.
Let us look at this mortality rate—a mortality rate that is stipulated for an average journey of three weeks. Let us apply this mortality rate on a property carrying, say, 10,000 sheep and apply that to a per annum mortality rate. An acceptable mortality rate on ship over three weeks is 1.9 per cent. If that were on a property carrying 10,000 sheep, per annum that would equate to 33 per cent of the animals perishing. If the proposed acceptable rate for sheep becomes 1 per cent, which it is for cattle now, 0.9 per cent is equivalent to a 16 per cent mortality rate of sheep—1,600 sheep—dying on a property over one year. When we measure what mortality rates actually represent, we are seeing an animal welfare disaster—a routine event in the live export trade.
Dr Roger Meischke was the first veterinarian appointed by the Federal Government to carry out an investigation on a live export ship in the early 1980s. He made it very clear that the mortality rate is clearly a measure of the suffering of those sheep that died, but with such high mortality rates it is also a measure of the impacts of welfare on all the animals that are trying to survive—they are suffering in a way which is not acceptable according to Australian laws that are about the prevention of cruelty to animals. Every time thousands of sheep are loaded onto a ship and sent out of Australian waters to the Middle East, that ship is carrying thousands of sheep which will gradually suffer cruelty, distress and death in a way that is totally unacceptable and would be prosecutable if it were to occur on Australian land and where Australian jurisdiction exists.
Why do I ask the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair, to address this issue with the Federal Minister? The Minister for Primary Industries serves on the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum [AGMIN]. Membership of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum comprises Australian State, Territory and New Zealand government Ministers with responsibility for primary industries. It is chaired by the Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The role of AGMIN is to enable cross-jurisdictional cooperative and coordinated approaches to matters of national interest. AGMIN is the peak forum to collaborate on priority issues of national significance affecting Australia’s primary production sectors. Following recent actions from the Australian Government to improve the welfare of animals during live export—which is impossible—members discussed a future work program for animal welfare, including the process by which national standards are further developed. It is critical for the Minister for Primary Industries to have an effect on the plight of live animal exports.
The Australian Veterinary Association [AVA] has just released a report on the recent incident of the deaths of so many sheep on the Awassi Express, which was exposed only a few weeks ago. It is the first time the Australian Veterinary Association has taken such a stand against live exports of sheep. It has released a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the role of heat stress and space allowance in contributing to poor welfare and mortality in the live sheep export trade. The report concludes that heat stress causing poor animal welfare and deaths is an inevitable consequence of sheep shipments to the Middle East during the northern summer. This is because the temperature and humidity encountered at that time overwhelms the ability of the animals to thermoregulate.
The report also concludes that space allowances under the Federal legislation governing the exports are inadequate. The report makes several recommendations, including that the northern summer shipments of sheep to the Middle East be stopped, and that space allocations for those shipments at other times of the year be increased by 30 per cent. The Federal Minister cannot misunderstand this recommendation by believing that it is in relation to heat stress; it is not. The Australian Veterinary Association has said it is not acceptable for sheep to be able only to stand and never to rest or lie down, and that is the main reason that there needs to be an increase of 30 per cent.
Even though the Animal Justice Party and many of my constituents would prefer that we do not turn our mind to the issue of animals that are exported live instead being slaughtered in Australia, the reality is that the slaughter of animals for food production in Australia is lawful. Australia has welfare requirements in abattoirs which, if strictly adhered to, dramatically improve the welfare of the animals that are going to be slaughtered. It is not acceptable for us to send animals that have been reared on farms in Australia—animals which farmers say they love and care about—up a gangplank onto a ship on a 2½ to 3½ week journey from Australian waters into waters over which we have no jurisdiction and into countries where Australia has no jurisdiction over animal welfare. Many of the importing countries have no animal welfare laws. It is unconscionable for the people in charge of these animals to participate in any part of live export because when we do that we are contributing to the animals undergoing immense suffering and distress.
Imagine a sheep in Lightning Ridge being put onto a truck, transported thousands of kilometres to Port Adelaide and sent up a gangplank onto a ship which sails to Fremantle. The sheep stays onboard for two or three days while other sheep and cattle are being loaded at Fremantle, and it then travels across the seas for to 2½ to 3½ weeks to the Middle East. There it is trucked from, say, Aqaba to Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Kuwait or other Middle Eastern countries. It is then transported by land across these territories to various abattoirs. The sheep endures all this just to be killed. It is utterly absurd.
The economics of sheep live export is of interest. Fewer than two million sheep are sent for live export each year, mostly to the Middle East. Of these about 1.64 million, or 82 per cent, leave from Western Australia. Twenty-eight per cent of the Western Australian turn-offs go to live export. The bulk of the rest of the Western Australia turn-off, 72 per cent, goes for export as sheepmeat. Because of that, the major impact of any change in the live export of sheep from Australia will only be in Western Australia. Australia is not the largest exporter of live sheep to the Middle East. It has significant competition from Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti.
The total value of the live sheep export market is about $250 million, while the value of the sheepmeat exports—lamb and mutton—is about $2.65 billion. Thus the live export of sheep accounts for less than 10 per cent of the value of sheepmeat exports and about 6 per cent of the value of all sheep and lamb exports. About 411 kilotons of sheepmeat is exported each year and, of that, about 20 per cent goes to the Middle East, mostly by airfreight as chilled meat.
Several important conclusions can be drawn from this. First, the significant export of chilled sheepmeat to Middle Eastern countries indicates that there is no shortage of refrigeration in those countries. A 2014 survey by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics concluded that in the Middle East, substitutability between Australian live sheep and sheepmeat imports has increased in recent years, largely reflecting growth in incomes, urbanisation, refrigeration and the availability and popularity of Western‑style supermarkets. This is underscored by the experience of Bahrain, which stopped importing Australian sheep in 2014, after which sheepmeat imports from Australia increased twofold and also brought significant income to New South Wales.
It is time for live export be relegated to the scrap heap of history, where it belongs. This industry has been in question and has had numerous investigations going back to the 1970s and 1980s by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare. Every Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare has concluded that the live export trade is untenable. It can never reach and maintain welfare standards that are acceptable under Australian laws. Therefore, it is unconscionable and unacceptable for us to put animals that we have reared and cared for in Australia up a gangplank, onto a ship and send them off into peril. The live export industry must be relegated to the scrap heap of history once and for all.