Australia Opens Consultation on Live Export Standards

Credit: Animals Australia

Published Sep 2, 2018 8:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australia's Department of Agriculture is calling for public comment on the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL). 

The review will consider conditions for the export of sheep to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer, including recommendations by Dr. Michael McCarthy in an earlier review following whistleblower footage showed thousands of sheep dying on voyages to the Middle East. The McCarthy Report and the government's acceptance of the results was viewed by the RSPCA as being in direct conflict with the advice of the Australian Veterinary Association.

The current review will examine standards relating to sea voyages and the preparation of livestock for export. The standards have not been updated since 2011. Whilst a review of the standards took place over 2012-13 following the Farmer Review, it was not finalized. The review aims to address concerns that:
•  The standards do not deliver acceptable animal welfare outcomes for exported livestock within a viable industry.
•  The standards do not meet community expectations for the welfare of animals.
•  The standards are not based on the best available scientific evidence.

The standards and this review use the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) definition of animal welfare, which means: how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and appropriate veterinary treatment, shelter, management and nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter or killing. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry and humane treatment. 

Last month, the Department of Agriculture canceled the livestock export license of Emanuel Exports - the company at the center of an animal welfare scandal generated by the whistleblower footage onboard the Awassi Express which was aired on 60 Minutes.


Emanuel Exports director Nicholas Daws said the company will appeal the decision as a matter of priority. 

The RSPCA welcomed the cancellation but says removing one leading exporter is not enough to protect animals or farmers from the cruelty and volatility of live export. “Live sheep exporters have a shameful history of flouting Australia's animal welfare standards, and decisive action to address this is long overdue,” said RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr. Jed Goodfellow. He says the Australian public should be under no illusion that Emanuel was a rogue operator or an outlier. “This was Australia's largest live sheep exporter, one that was repeatedly recognized as a leader by the industry,

“Emanuel represented what the live export industry thinks 'good animal welfare' looks like, and the conditions we saw on multiple journeys of the Awassi Express were business as usual,” he said.

“The overcrowding we saw on the Awassi, the inability of sheep to lie down or access food and water will happen again if stocking density isn't substantially reduced all year round.” The only way to provide certainty for our farmers' future and protect the welfare of our animals is to end live sheep export in favor of an expanded trade in chilled and frozen meat from animals that have been humanely slaughtered and processed here in Australia, he said.

The standards are open for public comment until September 19. The Technical Advisory Committee expects to release a draft report for further consultation in late October.