The granting of an exemption to the Northern Summer live export ban, which allowed approximately 35,000 sheep to be shipped to Kuwait at the most dangerous time of the year, has exposed the animals to excessive heat and humidity according to data from the vessel’s temperature loggers.
As forecast by the extensive scientific evidence — and as flagged by the Department of Agriculture’s initial refusal of the exemption application — on-board data loggers have confirmed the Australian sheep suffered multiple days of heat stress with temperatures and humidity far exceeding their heat stress thresholds.
The data also showed there was no respite for the animals overnight, with the hottest temperatures being recorded during the night of 30 June to the early hours of 1 July.
The exporter also reported observations of open-mouth panting in the sheep, a sign of moderate to severe heat stress.
Further observations from the Departmental observer onboard the ship are yet to be released. The temperatures recorded on this voyage are an indictment of the Department of Agriculture’s failure to uphold its own regulations. Every one of the 35,000 sheep on board the Al Kuwait have suffered unnecessarily because the Department caved into pressure and backflipped on its initial evidence-based decision.
Describing this voyage as a “success” because of reported low mortality rates shows the industry is still clinging to outdated and inaccurate measures of animal welfare, something the 2018 McCarthy Review strongly warned against.
These findings confirm that even under significantly reduced stocking densities, reduced wool length, and additional selection criteria, sheep will still experience prolonged heat stress when sent into climatic conditions that exceed their ability to thermoregulate and shed heat.
The data show precisely why the Northern Summer ban was introduced and why exemptions of this nature should never be granted again.
IMAGE OVER PAGE: Wet Bulb Temperature* data from data loggers on different decks of the Al Kuwait showing temperatures exceeding the Heat Stress Threshold of the sheep. The LiveCorp/MLA Veterinary Handbook for Cattle & Sheep defines 29°C+ WBTs as the "danger zone" for sheep.
* Wet Bulb Temperature is the temperature measured “with a normal thermometer that has a damp cloth covering the bulb. It is always lower than the usual or "dry-bulb" temperature; how much lower depends on the humidity. At 100% humidity (in a cloud or fog) they match. In Sydney and Melbourne, even during the hottest weather, the wet-bulb usually peaks in the low 20s C. The highest values in the world are about 30-31C, during the worst heat/humidity events in India, the Amazon, and a few other very humid places (reference)."