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Live exports to Middle East set to resume

Updated Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:02pm AEST

Australia's live sheep trade to the Middle East is set to resume.

The Federal Agriculture Department has granted three companies permits to export about 190,000 sheep and 400 cattle.

It recently suspended licences following problems with a shipment of sheep to Bahrain and Pakistan.

Bahrain rejected the 21,000 sheep, claiming some had scabby mouth and Pakistan accepted them before later claiming they were diseased.

More than 1,000 of the animals were destroyed before an independent veterinarian declared the animals free from infectious diseases and said they could be slaughtered for meat production.

The shipment was exported by the Fremantle-based Wellard company.

The agriculture department says it has imposed additional animal health and welfare requirements on exporters.

It says they must now have contingency plans if a shipment is delayed or refused entry, and carry extra feed and water.

Wellard rural exports managing director, Mauro Balzarini, says they will comply with the new conditions.

"Some of the conditions are commercial and are between us and the department," he said.

"There are some extra checks they want to do on the animals, it's a bit of risk management but nothing impossible to comply with."

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Demonstration Video

Over 150 were in attendance to hear the latest updates from Katrina Love, Stop Live Exports, Andrew Sullivan from the City of Fremantle and Lynn MacLaren, Greens MP

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On a cool and windy Saturday morning, with rain threatening, 150 caring people made their presence felt on the Fremantle docks opposite the docked Ocean Drover. The Ocean Drover arrived in Fremantle on Thursday morning having sailed from Karachi in Pakistan, where it unloaded 22,000 sheep, minus the ones the traumatic 37 days at sea had taken the ultimate toll on.

Seventy five thousand sheep left Fremantle on 1 August, aboard the Ocean Drover; after unloading two other consignments totalling 53,000 sheep at other destinations, the remaining 22,000 sheep were rejected at their Bahrain destination, contrary to our MOU (Moratorium Of Understanding) with that country regarding the guaranteed unloading of all animals in a timely manner. Many of the sheep were infected with scabbymouth - a communicable viral infection that can be passed onto humans.

After two weeks floating round in the Red Sea in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees celsius (keep in mind that these sheep had just come from an Australian winter), they were re-routed to Karachi, Pakistan and unloaded to quarantine. As of Saturday 22 September, 53 days after departing Fremantle, they were still in quarantine feedlots, knee deep in mud, in hot and humid conditions and only just approved for slaughter for human consumption by a vet expert from Dubai. They will all have their throats cut whilst fully conscious, and there are reports that up to 2,000 of them have already been culled by Pakistani authorities in a manner breaching OIE standards.

August also saw 30,000 cattle exported to Egypt for slaughter held in feedlots, while Egyptian authorities decided whether or not they have a problem with the HGP (hormone promotant growth) implants that many of the cattle have. These cattle were inspected and approved for export by Egyptian authorities in Australia before they left.

The same month saw the Al Shuwaikh delayed from unloading 55,000 sheep in Kuwait, contrary to our MOU with that country and saw evidence released by Animals Australia, that 200 Australian sheep were slaughtered at the banned Al Rai market on Kuwait, in serious breach of the Exporters Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) implemented last year. Lyn White has described scenes at these meat markets as "... the worst cases of animal abuse I have seen in nine years of investigating."

Last week saw Indonesia defiantly reject 11,000 breeding cattle, many pregnant, on the grounds that the suppliers can not supply details of breeding history. These cattle cannot be returned to Australia, and if Indonesia does not change its mind, it is feared they will all be slaughtered for meat.

The previous week revealed a tragic case of tens of thousands of breeding sheep, cattle and goats sent to Al Waab farm in Qatar where many thousands of them, including heavily pregnant cows and newborn calves died prolonged and horrific deaths from thirst and starvation, in temperatures exceeding 50 degrees celsius. Breeding animals exported from Australia are not "protected" by ESCAS.

Katrina Love recapped on all the incidents of this year in the world of live exports and handed over to Lynn MacLaren, Greens MLC who spoke for 5 minutes about her and her party's stance on live exports, and Fremantle councillor recently endorsed by the Greens for the seat of Fremantle, Andrew Sullivan also took to the megaphone.

 Image Kate Greenfeld

IMG 0970 1

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Extract from uncorrected Hansard [COUNCIL — Thursday, 20 September 2012] p44c-44c Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Peter Collier

LIVE SHEEP AND CATTLE EXPORTS

699. Hon LYNN MacLAREN to the minister representing the Minister for Agriculture and Food:

(1) Can the minister confirm whether animals are on board a livestock vessel currently in Fremantle port awaiting export; and, if so, how long have they been on board?

(2) If yes to (1), what checks on the health and welfare of these animals have been made to date?

(3) What is the destination port for the Western Australian animals that are consigned to this livestock vessel and do the slaughterhouse practices there meet the stringent criteria established by the federal government in the wake of current controversies regarding cruelty in overseas abattoirs?

(4) If no animals are on board, can the minister identify the source of the animal stench in port?

(5) Since shipping of WA sheep and cattle consigned to live export is seemingly suspended, can they be processed here instead?

(6) With the live export industry falling apart, has the minister identified where Western Australian abattoirs are needed; and, if so, where?

(7) Will the minister take urgent steps to fortify the domestic processing industry?

(8) Has the minister directed his department or agencies to investigate alternative markets, such as the lucrative packaged halal meat exports?

The PRESIDENT: Once again, the length of that question stretches the boundaries of the word concise, I think. Hon PETER COLLIER replied: On behalf of Hon Robyn McSweeney, I thank the honourable member for this eight-part question.

(1) A vessel, the Ghena, which was loading cattle in Fremantle port on 19 September, sailed last night. Another vessel in Fremantle port, the Ocean Drover, without livestock on board, is due to begin loading sheep on 21 September 2012.

(2) The standard health and welfare checks required by the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock have been carried out.

(3) The Western Australian animals on board the vessel that sailed yesterday are consigned to various destination ports in the Middle East. From 1 September 2012, all livestock consigned to the Middle East for slaughter must comply with the federal government’s export supply chain assurance system.

(4) Please refer to the answer to (1).

(5) Live exports account for approximately 50 per cent of the total value of the sheep meat industry—live exports and local processing—in Western Australia. Live exports account for approximately 33 per cent of the total value of the Western Australian beef industry. The substitution of live exports with local processing has been extensively modelled, and the lowering of price, the increase in meat volumes produced and subsequent exit of producers from meat animal production would lead to negative economic impacts over the mid-term for WA. The notion of simple substitution does not take into account market, price and economic realities.

(6) Western Australia has sufficient abattoir space and a surplus of abattoir capacity at present. Current abattoir location primarily in the south west and great southern regions is appropriate. Private investment into the sector is occurring. The Western Australia government has co-funded with the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation two studies into the feasibility of a northern Western Australian abattoir and defined that regions around Broome in the Kimberley represent the most favourable locations should an abattoir proceed.

(7) The processing industry, which is also an important part of the livestock sector, competes in an international and domestic marketplace and is very capable of capitalising on current opportunities for global demand for protein. The Department of Agriculture and Food and other Western Australian government agencies assist all applicants that approach them with establishment and expansion plans.

(8) The Department of Agriculture and Food actively supports industry to explore and capitalise on market options for red meat. Most export meat processing facilities in WA are already accredited to process for halal markets.

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Thursday 20th September 2012

The Project covered the tragedy of Australian Sheep in Pakistan

Live export has been making headlines again, with recent disasters in Qatar and Kuwait, as well as the Ocean Drover emergency. Now, 21,000 Australian sheep 'fast-tracked' to Pakistan are in limbo. According to the latest reports 5,000 sheep have been culled in feedlots.

This latest string of live export incidents demonstrates that the measures put in place by the Gillard Government, to reassure Australians that animal welfare was being addressed, are failing. While live export continues, animals will continue to suffer stressful sea journeys, and fully-conscious slaughter in countries with no laws to protect them.

It is now clearer than ever that the only way to protect animals from the inherent cruelty of live export is to ban the trade.

Tagged in: stop live exports

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A LABOR backbencher has suggested the federal agriculture department should be stripped of its oversight of live animal exports following the latest allegations of the mistreatment of Australian sheep in Kuwait.

Animals Australia in August filmed sheep being cruelly slaughtered in a banned Kuwaiti meat market.

The footage was shown on national television on Thursday night.

"It is a matter of concern to me that it's taken the efforts of Animals Australia to bring these breaches to the attention of the government," federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson told ABC Radio on Friday.

"I'm increasingly of the view we should take responsibility for animal welfare out of the agriculture department altogether and put it somewhere else like the department of health."

Mr Thomson said the latest allegations were "serious" and if it was proven that exporters had sold animals outside the approved supply chain they should be stripped of their licences.

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Australia suspended live animal exports to Indonesia in mid-2011 after ABC television's Four Corners program aired video depicting the mistreatment of animals.

Exports resumed a month later after an agreement was reached on new standards for the treatment of livestock bound for slaughter.

The exporter supply chain assurance system was extended to cover Kuwait in March this year.

The agriculture department says it has launched an investigation into the most recent incident.

"If these animals hypothetically have been moved outside of that supply chain that would be a breach and we'd make a judgment about the compliance response we'd need to make," department deputy secretary Phillip Glyde told ABC television on Thursday.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie says the revelations of cruelty in Kuwait makes a mockery of the government's efforts to clean up the industry.

"Australia's live animal export safeguards remain ineffective and our livestock, in particular cattle and sheep, are still being routinely abused en route to and in overseas markets," Mr Wilkie told AAP in a statement.

The Tasmanian MP has given notice of another private member's bill to mandate the stunning of all Australian livestock before they are slaughtered overseas.

He plans to introduce it into parliament on Monday.

The RSPCA says the footage exposes the "complete inability" of the exporter supply chain assurance system to protect Australian animals.

RSPCA chief scientist Bidda Jones wants the government to immediately require the stunning of all live exports before slaughter.

"Once again we have seen the failings of this regulatory system," Dr Jones said in a statement.

"First Indonesia, now Kuwait. How many times do we have to see these breaches before something more is done?"

Animals Australia in February released footage of Australian cattle still being inappropriately killed in Indonesian abattoirs.

At the time the group said its video proved workers couldn't even be relied upon not to start cutting up Australian animals before they were dead.

Thursday night's footage shows sheep being killed on top of other dying animals in Kuwait.

One sheep has its throat cut more than 20 times with a short knife.

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Anger as more live export abuse footage emerges

More footage has emerged allegedly showing Australian livestock being abused overseas.

This time, welfare group Animals Australia says it has proof that Australian sheep are being inhumanely handled and killed in the notorious Al Rai meat market in Kuwait.

The Al Rai market is not approved to receive Australian sheep under the Federal Government's new ESCAS welfare system for live exports.

The Department of Agriculture has launched an investigation, which is expected to take some weeks. DAFF says it's the responsibility of the exporter to ensure its animals do not end up outside approved supply chains.

In the footage, one sheep appears to have its throat cut with a knife 24 times.

ESCAS, or the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, was introduced after Animals Australia released footage of Australian cattle being abused in Indonesian abattoirs.

That led to a month-long suspension of the live cattle trade in June last year.

Ninety-nine per cent of all the foreign markets for Australian livestock must now have ESCAS-approved abattoirs and supply chains in place. It is illegal for an exporter to send livestock into an unapproved supply chain such as the Al Rai market.

Despite repeated requests for an interview, the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, has been unavailable to speak with the ABC.

Government backbencher Kelvin Thompson says he thinks responsibilty for the oversight of welfare in the live export trade should be taken away from DAFF and given to the Department of Health instead.

"It is a matter of concern for me that it's taken the efforts of Animals Australia to bring these breaches to the attention of the government."

Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White says the system has failed.

"This is the scene of some of the worst cruelty that I've documented to Australian sheep over the past nine years," she said.

"We were appalled to discover up to 200 sheep were being openly sold at this market, in breach of the new Australian regulations.

"The exporter should be investigated and, if found guilty of these breaches, the strongest possible penalty should be imposed."

Meanwhile, a newspaper in Pakistan is reporting its federal ports minister wants an investigation into how Australian sheep, some infected with scabby mouth, were allowed to be unloaded in Karachi.

An Australian boat carrying 22,000 head of sheep rejected in Bahrain unloaded in the city on Thursday, Australian time.

The Pakistan Observer reports the ship wasn't scheduled to travel to Pakistan and an inquiry will be held by the department of ports and shipping.

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