The Federal Government and Opposition are resisting calls for a ban on live exports amid revelations of thousands of sheep dying in inhumane conditions on ships.
Animal activists want an immediate ban on live shipments after footage broadcast on 60 Minutes showed sheep crowded into a small space, workers throwing dead sheep overboard, and faeces-covered pens where animals stood panting or collapsed on the ground.
It comes as the exporter linked to the incident, Emanuel Exports, plans to use the same ship, Awassi Express, to send 65,000 sheep and 250 cattle from Fremantle to the Middle East in the coming days.
Emanuel Exports has since revised the new consignment to about 57,000 to meet new welfare conditions imposed by federal agricultural officials.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is today meeting with animal activists to discuss welfare aboard live export ships.
“The reality is, I’m going to make sure we put a framework and an environment where we can give comfort to the community,” he told Channel Nine this morning.
“That’s my job. I can’t change the past, I’ve been here three months, and I intend to make sure that the community can get confidence in it.
“I don’t give a rats about who’s doing this. I’ll make sure that they pay, and they swing if they do something wrong.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten, who fell short of calling for a ban on exports, has called for a change to how the trade operates.
“The images we saw last night are unacceptable. We will work with the Government because this issue is above politics,” he said.
“What we would also like the Government to do, is to put on notice some of the shonks and cheats in the industry.”
Exporter insists it will improve animal welfare
The sheep that are expected to make the voyage are currently quarantined in Perth and will remain there until a decision on the voyage is made.
Late yesterday, the ABC revealed maritime officials had temporarily banned the ship from transporting livestock.
Inspectors from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) boarded the Awassi Express when it returned to Australia and assessed the vessel.
The inspectors refused to issue the ship a certificate to carry livestock until they were satisfied there had been improvements to ventilation in sheep pens.
If the exporter can satisfy AMSA that it has rectified the ventilation issues, it also needs permission from the head of the Department of Agriculture for the shipment to leave Australia.
Last week it emerged 2,400 sheep had died from heat stress in an Emanuel Export consignment on board the Awassi Express to the Middle East in August.
That prompted Department of Agriculture officials to impose more strict export conditions on Emanuel’s consignment due to leave Fremantle in the coming days.
Those conditions include the company guaranteeing the sheep would have access to feed, water and appropriate ventilation and are loaded at a stocking density below industry standards.
Emanuel Exports would also need to prove to officials that there would be a sufficient number of vets on board, trained animal handling staff, and regular cleaning of decks.
The Department of Agriculture is also insisting that an independent observer will travel with the sheep and provide daily reports, including photos, so officials can monitor the shipment from Australia.