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The RSPCA is calling on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to urgently tighten regulations that allow breeding animals to be exported while heavily pregnant.

A DAFF investigation report released late yesterday shows current regulations surrounding sheep and cattle exported abroad for breeding purposes pose huge risks to some of Australia’s most vulnerable animals.

“DAFF’s investigation into last year’s Qatar debacle - which saw 250 pregnant dairy cows exported to Qatar and start calving within days of their arrival - highlights that the current Australian Standards for Exported Livestock (ASEL) are failing to protect breeding animals,” said Heather Neil, RSPCA Australia CEO.

Current standards state that breeding cattle exported by air must be a maximum of 250 days’ gestation at the scheduled date of departure. However, there is an accepted margin of error in pregnancy testing of late-term cattle of 30 days. The DAFF investigation report states that ‘an animal certified as 250 days pregnant at the time of export could actually legitimately be as many as 280 days pregnant and hence could have a full term calf anywhere from the day of arrival’.

“Heavily pregnant cows are far too vulnerable to be exported and DAFF should act immediately to close this loophole in the standards. In the RSPCA’s view, no pregnant heifer or cow should be exported if they are considered to be more than 220 days pregnant at the time of export, to allow for the 30-day margin of error,” said Ms Neil.

DAFF’s report also shows how completely unprotected Australian breeding animals are once they leave our shores. The fact that up to 7,000 Australian sheep and a number of cows and calves can die from malnutrition and heat stress at this Qatar facility is proof that a system needs to be put in place rapidly, so animals in the future can only be sent to places that have the capacity to care for them. 

 “No animal should be sent overseas for breeding or dairy purposes unless the facility they’re going to has the capacity to care for them. What we have seen in Qatar is gross animal neglect, something that could have been avoided had appropriate Government regulation been in place,” said Ms Neil.

 Media contact – Elise Meakin 0419 748 907 

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