Live export: From shipwreck survivors -- to some serious progress worldwide

Keep scrolling for the latest updates in our work to free animals from the horror of live export, in Romania and beyond.

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LAST UPDATED: 15 May 2020

Animals Australia has documented decades worth of cruelty inflicted on animals by the global live export trade. The evidence — painstakingly gathered by our team of international investigators — reveals how cows, sheep, goats, camels and more, are forced to endure harrowing transport and fully-conscious slaughter at the end of it.

But our work doesn't stop there. We use that evidence to rally caring people the world over; in hard-hitting public-awareness campaigns; and to expose the truth about this cruellest of trades in the halls of government and the highest courts of law.

We go to these lengths because of one simple truth: Every victim of the live export industry is a unique individual, and these living, breathing, thinking animals deserve so much better.

The world came to know him as 'the weeping bull'. From a farm in Western Australia — he was exported live to Mauritius where, bound with painful ropes, he took his last breath.The live export journey itself is a nightmare, as conditions onboard live export ships are truly appalling. Millions of animals suffocate, starve, drown in a swamp of liquid waste or even 'cook alive' on these death ships.Our investigators often witness rough and painful handling, with sheep being dragged through the streets and crammed into sweltering car boots to be taken away for 'home slaughter'.Brutal — and fully-conscious — slaughter in the streets is common, exposing animals to prolonged and extreme suffering.The live export industry willingly sells animals off to face fully-conscious slaughter — often in direct view of their companions. This is an industry truly built on animal cruelty.

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Shipwreck in Romania

A gruelling sea journey — and brutal slaughter at the end of it — was the gruesome fate that awaited some 14,000 Romanian sheep who were crammed onboard the export ship, the Queen Hind.

When the ship capsized, within distance of the port, thankfully the crew were rescued almost immediately without injury — except for one person who fell into the water but was promptly treated for hypothermia.

The sheep were not so lucky. A handful of animals who escaped the ship swam for safety through the cold, dark water and were picked up and brought to the docks. But tragically thousands of sheep drowned, trapped in pens beneath the surface, while hundreds more were crushed or suffocated beneath their fallen companions.

PHOTO: Drowned sheep floating in the water after the disastrous capsizing of the live export ship, the Queen Hind.
Drowned sheep floating in the water after the disastrous capsizing of the live export ship, the Queen Hind. Image: Animals International

This was a disaster of such magnitude that the live export industry couldn't possibly keep it under wraps. And, due in large part to the tireless efforts of animal protection groups, the terrible suffering of the sheep on board the Queen Hind made global headlines — and the rescue efforts became supercharged.

Countless people the world over were glued to their computer screens and phones, awaiting news of another sheep rescued... and another... until some 254 animals were safe on shore.

While every life saved must be — and is — celebrated, this was a heartbreakingly small number of animals to make it through this horrific ordeal. Adding to the tragedy, some of the rescued sheep were suffering so badly from exhaustion and injuries that it was kinder to end their suffering.

Through the tragedy, however, there is a ray of hope for the sheep who lived — and who will now be free to enjoy their lives in peace. Ordinarily, being sold into the live export industry is a flat-out death sentence, so to have even a handful survive truly feels like a miracle.

These animals will never again be considered nothing more than 'cargo' or 'meat'. Instead, these truly remarkable individuals — each with their own unique personality — will be given the respect and protection we all deserve.

PHOTO: Rescued sheep from a live export shipwreck at their new home at a farmed animal sanctuary - seen here standing in their brand new barn which they're free to leave and explore whenever they wish.
Romanian sheep rescued from the sinking Queen Hind, seen here standing in their brand-new barn which they're free to leave and explore whenever they wish. Image: Letea Wild Horses/ARCA Animal Rescue & Care
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A global trade in suffering...

Romania is not the only country where we work to spare animals from the horror of live export — as, sadly, the demand for meat has resulted in this cruel global trade in live animals.

...and how we're working together to stop it.

While the live export industry may be present all over the world — so are we. We deploy our investigators wherever they need to go in order to gather the evidence required to bring an end to this cruel trade.

And it's working:

Australia

One million Australian sheep will be spared from live export every year thanks to a government decision to ban the shipping of sheep into the deadly heat and humidity of the Middle East summer. The three and a half month ban comes after grueling images of sheep "cooking alive" at sea sparked a global outcry, multiple government reviews and calls from thousands of Animals Australia supporters to stop these death ships. Since our first investigation in 2003, millions fewer animals are forced to endure the horrors of this trade each year.

Sheep suffering onboard a live export ship.
Sheep suffering extreme heat-related stress onboard a live export ship — every voyage is a death sentence.

Europe

Our investigations into the treatment of European animals exported to the Middle East have resulted in more than one dozen major media exposés in countries throughout Europe, and over 200 members of the European parliament calling for an Inquiry into the trade. Consistent evidence provided by Animals International led the European parliament to recommending ending live export and the outgoing commissioner questioning the future of the trade.

Romania

Our efforts to stop deadly summer shipments to the Middle East from Romania — Europe's biggest exporter of live sheep — passed critical stages in the parliament and now await a formal vote. This comes as 180 survivors of the live export shipwreck off the coast of Romania are given sanctuary for life — their rescue made possible thanks to tens of thousands of people around the world calling on the Romania government to act.

Austria and Germany

Our international investigators joined forces with Germany's Animal Welfare Foundation and the Austrian organisation, Verein gegen Tierfabriken, to track Austrian and German dairy calves sold and trucked across Europe — and helped expose their brutal slaughter in Lebanon. This footage aired on a major German television program, sparking a public outcry and calls for the trade to end.

German male dairy calves who have been sold into the live export trade.
Two of the many German male calves who are discarded by the dairy industry every year — tragically, many of these vulnerable animals will end up being sold to the live export industry. Image: Animal Welfare Foundation.

South Africa

Animals Australia worked with our colleagues at the NSPCA on a Carte Blanche prime-time television exposé, revealing to South African politicians and farmers the fate that would await sheep if subjected to live export by the same Kuwaiti company responsible for Aussie sheep 'cooking alive' at sea. While the ship set sail after a lengthy and costly delay for the exporter, all involved are now facing criminal charges which have been filed by the NSPCA.

France

Based on evidence from Animals International — Animals Australia's global arm — two key media outlets in France, Le Monde and Konbini news, exposed the immense suffering of French cattle exported to North Africa and the Middle East. Joining forces with French animal protection group, Welfarm, we're now in the midst of a major public and political campaign to stop the trade.

News article from Le Monde newspaper detailing the horrors of live export.
A leading article from major newspaper, Le Monde, detailing the horrors of live export. Image: Le Monde

Czech Republic

Our evidence of the suffering experienced by a Czech bull exported to Lebanon made TV news headlines in the Czech Republic. Political parties responded with shock and the country's vet authority instigated negotiations to find alternatives to the live trade. We worked with our colleagues at Compassion in World Farming to bring this cruelty to light.

Italy

A major TV expose in Italy based on Animals International's evidence of Italian cattle facing a horrific death in the Middle East led to an unprecedent public outcry and political pressure to end live export. We're working closely with our colleagues at Compassion in World Farming and LAV to spare Italian animals from the horrors of this industry.

Animals International's EU Director, Gabriel Paun, being interviewed as an investigator and expert witness on Italian TV.
Our Europe-based colleague — Animals International's EU Director, Gabriel Paun — being interviewed as an expert witness on an Italian TV exposé documenting the cruelty of Italy's live export trade. Image: Striscia la notizia

Croatia

Prompted by damning media exposés and numerous official complaints from animal protection groups — including our global arm, Animals International — the European Commission carried out an audit on a live export shipping port in Croatia. The investigation into the port of Raša, which is one of Europe's main live export shipping points, confirmed that animal welfare standards are severely lacking. With ongoing pressure, this audit may prove to be the first step in ending live export journeys from Raša, and a significant blow to Europe's cruel trade in live animals.

Ukraine

Working with our friends at Open Cages, in the Ukraine, Animals International has brought the reality of live export for Ukrainian animals to public and political attention for the very first time. In significant progress in the country, a major media story underpinned by our evidence has opened doors to decision-makers to discuss the ethics and the future of the entire industry.

Brazil

The cruel treatment of Brazilian cattle in Egypt and the Middle East was documented by Animals International investigators and revealed in the media in Brazil, causing shock and outrage. Two of the country's biggest exporters were revealed to have abandoned the animals to this terrible fate. We worked with our friends at Mercy for Animals to expose this cruelty.

Shocking footage of Brazilian animals being winched and craned off live export ships prompted mass outrage around the world.
Shocking footage of Brazilian animals, many of them unwell or injured, being painfully winched and craned off live export ships prompted mass outrage — and action — around the world. Image: Karremann & ZDF / Mercy for Animals
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You can help animals today

Please spare just one minute today to send a message directly to the Australian Government — urging them to act with compassion and end live export:

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