Posted on April 10, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie
The maritime world has condemned animal cruelty that was exposed on an undercover report this week. Emanual Exports has become the centre of an animal cruelty investigation after around 2,400 sheep died of heat stress on board one of its vessels.
The Awassi Express was en route from Australia’s winter to the Middle Eastern summer in the lead up to the annual Muslim festival of sacrifice. A video filmed on board shows the animals crammed in to the containers and lying in excrement.
The film that was aired on television programme, 60 Minutes, on Sunday night, is just one of five separate videos depicting thousands of sheep suffering from heat stress. The videos also show sheep covered in faeces and urine, injured and sick animals left to die, and decomposed bodies left in pens with living sheep and pregnant ewes giving birth and their lambs dying. One sheep that appears to be alive is also thrown overboard.
Sheep on the Awassi Express
60 Minutes has led allegations against industries for animal cruelty before:
- In 2001 Dr Tony Hill, a former employee for Emanuel Exports appeared on the show over admitting that he had been asked to falsify figures on the Al Khaleej; 2000 sheep died on the voyage and only 105 deaths were officially reported.
- In 2002 almost 6000 sheep died of salmonella and heat stress on the Al Shuwaikh, and on the Corriedale Express another 6,000 died when the ventilation failed.
- In 2003 the programme highlighted the tragedy on the Cormo Express where nearly 6000 sheep died from heat stress.
The industry has been criticised for its treatment of animals once they reach the abattoirs as well.
Live cattle exports to three abattoirs in Vietnam were suspended in 2016 after footage was aired of cattle being killed using a sledgehammer.
In 2011 the labour government in Australia banned exports to Indonesia after footage aired showing animals being kicked and whipped by abattoir workers. However, in . 2014 the then Chairman of the Australian Livestock Exporter’ Council (and former politician) Hon. Simon Crean told a local news station that his government had made a wrong decision:
“Given I was part of a government that led to the closure of the trade, I also felt something of an obligation to the industry to try and do something to not just help get it back on its feet, but to continue that trajectory, that growth path, but a sustainable growth path.”
Crean is reported to have said that restoring public confidence in the live exports by improving animal welfare was a priority for the industry, as was developing new markets for Australian sheep and cattle.
The Council explained that 3.79 per cent of the total consignment of 63,804 had died on board. In 2017, 12,377 sheep died out of 1.74 million exported from Australia; mortality rate 0.71 per cent.
Millions of dollars are invested in to the industry every year, with the industry’s service provider, LiveCorp, investing $1.4million in to welfare programmes last year. Ongoing research includes, bedding management, air quality, and heat stress management models.
Emanuel Exports’ Director Nicholas Daws said the footage televised by 60 Minutes is devastating and Emanuel Exports apologises to farmers and the broader community for the unacceptable outcomes.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the government department responsible for the animals’ welfare, released its investigation report into the Awassi Express incident earlier this month.
The investigators noted that in the five years before the Awassi Express incident there have been three other reportable mortality incidents for sheep exported to the Middle East. These voyages were all undertaken during the northern hemisphere summer, and heat stress was a contributing factor in all cases.
Over the past eight years, there have been eight high mortality incidents on voyages to the Middle East, including an Emanuel Exports voyage on the Al Messilah in 2016.
The Awassi Express investigation found that the sheep were prepared and transported in accordance with all regulations. This includes stocking density regulations which call, for example, for 0.31 square meters (3.3 square feet) for a 47 kilogram (104 pound) sheep. The following consignment of sheep to the Middle East using the same vessel recorded a mortality rate of 0.52 percent after a Department requirement for Emanuel Exports to reduce stocking density by 10 percent.
Animal rights groups are working with the authorities in a continued effort to improve conditions on board the ships.