(Au) Call to ban live exports as 15,000 sheep die in transit
- Call to ban live exports as 15,000 sheep die in transit
David Fickling in Sydney
Wednesday September 4, 2002
Australia has pledged to impose new controls on animal exports after the
death of 15,000 sheep en route to the Middle East.
The agriculture minister, Warren Truss, said there would be regulations to
stop any repeat of the incident in which the carcasses were dumped into the
But lobby groups want a ban. "It's a barbaric trade. There's no
justification for this sort of cruelty. It's impossible to guarantee a safe
passage for these animals," said Maggie Mann, president of People Against
Cruelty in Animal Transport president.
The deaths were largely blamed on the move from the relative cold of
Australia's winter to the Middle Eastern summer.
Australia exports more live sheep than any other country, the vast majority
to the Middle East. Concerns over halal slaughter in foreign countries mean
that countries in the Middle East prefer live imports.
Last year, Australia exported 6.6m sheep worth A3154m. But critics say the
industry is under-regulated. Exporters need only to inform the Australian
maritime safety body if over 2% of animals die in any one shipment, but some
vessels carry as many as up to 140,000 sheep.
Deaths on the four vessels last month were 5.5% of the 270,000 sheep in
transit, although on one ship it was 11%.
One vessel, the Cormo Express, was involved in a similar event in 1990, when
10,000 sheep died on the way from New Zealand to Saudi Arabia.
Hygiene and ventilation on the three-week trip is minimal, with sheep kept
on decks in pens of up to 20 animals. The minimum space required by law is
3.5 sq ft per sheep.
The industry says most animals die of exhaustion when they refuse to eat the
pellets fed them - but campaigners say many more die from disease, the
extremes of heat and cold, and suffocation in the fumes of their own urine.
The industry insists that it has cleaned up its act since the mid-nineties,
when up to 200,000 sheep died in transit each year.
Last year, 90,000 deaths were reported.
"In Australia we are used to losses of animals that might in some other
countries be regarded as quite extreme," said Kevin Shiell, chief executive
of Australian livestock export body, Livecorp.
"Australia is a big country: animals travel very long distances and we have
to accept there will be some losses. We don't enjoy the subsidies that
The export of certain cattle during the northern summer has already been
banned after 900 died last month on the MV Becrux, a ship initially praised
for its improved hygiene and ventilation.
While the investigation is under way, at least one vessel involved in last
month's incident has been cleaned, loaded up with a fresh cargo and sent
back to the Middle East.
"If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to
use another for his own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit
nonhumans?" Peter Singer