After decades of knowing that sheep were quite literally cooking alive on their ships, Australia’s live export industry has finally been forced to do something about it.
On the 4th of December 2018 — the day after two further live export bills were introduced to Parliament — Australia’s live export industry announced it’s going to stop sending live sheep to be slaughtered in the Middle East for three months in 2019.
Is this a sign that they’ve decided to finally listen to expert vets, farmers, animal protection groups, politicians, and an outraged global community… and start taking animal welfare seriously?
Let’s dive a little deeper.
Over the years, millions of sheep have died on live export ships, and hundreds of millions more have suffered both during the gruelling voyages and in destination countries where they have been exposed to horrendous abuse — being clubbed to death, locked in car boots, exposed to (even more) heat stress, fully-conscious slaughter, and buried alive by the thousands.
Earlier this year, shocking footage released on 60 Minutes revealed for the first time ever the extent of the extreme suffering sheep endure on ships. Footage from five routine shipments showed sheep covered from head to toe in their own waste, suffering from heat stroke and literally ‘cooking alive’ in the hulls of live export vessels.
None of this was a surprise to the live export industry. In fact, they’ve known about all of this — for decades.
Not only have they condemned millions of gentle sheep to die prolonged and excruciating deaths — they’ve actively blocked measures intended to reduce their suffering at sea. Despite records showing that suffering and death significantly increases during sheep shipments to the Middle East between May and October — exporters have fought every attempt to introduce even the most basic animal welfare standards.
In 2008 a group of exporters took the government to court to fight against attempts to give sheep more space during the danger period. And they won. And sheep continued to suffer.
Australia’s peak veterinary body, the AVA, recommended that all shipments over the 5 month period between May to October should cease due to unavoidable suffering from heat stress. And now, even with the future of the trade under threat, the live export industry has only announced a moratorium on shipments during the shorter three month period between June and August.
This announcement tells us a couple of important things. It reveals just how fearful the live export industry is of being shut down. And it tells us that live exporters are desperately trying to save themselves after being exposed publicly for extreme animal cruelty on a massive scale.
So while this step forward is welcomed, this latest move should be seen for what it is — an admission of guilt — and reinforcement that the live export trade is not only inherently cruel, but it is beyond redemption.
Pressure to end live sheep exports is building. This is an industry that is built on animal suffering – and the only way forward is to end it, for good.