The Australian livestock exporting community has been in extreme crisis communications mode the past few days as a shocking documentary aired Sunday evening on terrestrial television featuring clips of conditions onboard one ship, the Awassi Express livestock carrier.
The gory clips were filmed by a Pakistani seafarer on five voyages he made from Australia to the Middle East last year and the brutal conditions – with hundreds of animals dying – have shocked the nation, forcing its politicians into action.
Agriculture minister David Littleproud has asked the attorney-general to launch an investigation into his own department and threatened company directors with jail time in the wake of the 60 Minutes documnentary.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has blocked the Awassi Express from leaving the country on its latest voyage. It was due to depart Fremantle packed with animals for Qatar and Kuwait, but has now been barred from leaving by AMSA after an inspection “raised some concerns about air flow over some pens”.
Animals Australia, the organisation that helped put the 60 Minutes expose together, has called for a sheep export ban during the Northern Hemisphere summer, something Splash’s livestock expert, Dr Lynn Simpson, has also been urging for years.
Animals Australia also wants stock density rates on export ships.
Meanwhile, the under fire Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) has responded to the documentary by proposing a range of steps which it has outlined to the federal government today.
The ALEC proposals include investigating the reduction in stocking densities for sheep to the Arabian Gulf during high risk periods such as the Northern Hemisphere summer; more effective monitoring and recording of onboard conditions using technology; additional independent onboard personnel, as deemed appropriate by the federal regulator, and auditing of livestock infrastructure including ventilation and drainage; and strengthening the policies, inputs, regulation and enforcement of the heat stress risk assessment model and its application by industry to better mitigate welfare risks.