Observer reports still paint a grim picture of animal welfare in live export

This week’s release of departmental observers’ reports from live export ships – the first release since the start of the pandemic – are further proof of the problems with this cruel, disaster-plagued and unfixable practice.

The reports, which span from May until July this year, highlight a number of concerning events from on board a live sheep export journey in May to Kuwait and the UAE, including repeated incidences of sheep suffering from heat stress and not being able to access food and water.

Some of the particular concerns from this voyage include:

- Multiple breaches of stocking density requirements

- Multiple incidents of sheep not being able to readily access food and water or having to work to get access to food and water

- Evidence of temperatures above the heat stress threshold for sheep, and clear signs of heat stress (5% of sheep at a given time observed open-mouthed panting)

- Sheep having to stand on wet manure

- Sheep suffering irritations to eyes

- 15% of sheep on board with a wool length longer than regulations allow

- 60 sheep dying on board 

RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said the reports were yet more evidence that live sheep export had inherent and unfixable animal welfare issues, and further validates the Federal Government’s position to end the trade for good. 

“These reports are very concerning, and we’re confident the Federal Government shares our concern,” said Mr Mussell.

“As the Government knows, the animal welfare issues with live sheep export are significant and inherent to the trade itself. The reports released today are yet another concrete example of this – with multiple breaches of stocking density requirements, sheep not being able to access food and water, and evidence of obvious heat stress.

“These are clearly inherent problems with the practice. They haven’t been addressed by the industry – because they can’t be addressed – regardless of what the industry says about improvements to ventilation.”

“That’s why we again call on the Government to put in place firm plans to legislate an end to live sheep export, this term of Parliament – to set a date to shut down this trade once and for all.”

Mr Mussell also said that it was deeply concerning to see so few eligible live export voyages had departmental observers on board.

“While this trade is allowed to continue, having departmental observers on board is a crucial part of meeting the community’s expectations, ensuring that animal welfare regulations are being upheld and that preventable animal welfare risks are addressed.

“To see these reports, and knowing that so few ships during this period had observers on board gives the Australian community even less confidence that exporters are respecting animal welfare on these voyages. Australians will rightly be wondering – what happened on the other voyages, when the observers weren’t there?

“We know that the community wants to see an end to this trade – with 2 out of 3 Australians opposed to live export – and reports like these just continue to demonstrate why.”