IN THE NEWS: Skipper, exporter clash over lost cattle

IN THE NEWS: On JAN 8, 2013

CONCERN over a shipment containing pregnant cattle sent to be slaughtered in Mauritius is set to deepen with new claims there were discrepancies in the numbers of deaths reported to authorities during the voyage from Australia.

The Gillard government is investigating possible breaches of export regulations after the shipment of 2061 cattle was sent last October with some pregnant cows despite Australian authorities providing paperwork that none of the stock was in that condition.

Sixty-five of the cattle were later found dead in the Mauritian feedlot and local police are investigating the suspicious circumstances around the deaths, amid claims they were poisoned.

The inquiries are being undertaken amid a dispute between Australian exporters and Mauritian importers. This latest controversy has led to renewed questions about the $1 billion trade, given it comes just months after the brutal culling of thousands of sheep in Pakistan.

Documents obtained by Animals Australia show the ship's master declared to the Mauritian government there were no deaths on the voyage in "Statement of No Mortality" lodged on October 19.

But in the "Accredited Stockman's End of Voyage Report" lodged a few days later by the Australian exporter, South East Asian Livestock Services, it states there were at least 18 deaths.

The end of voyage report, also seen by The Australian, reveals two steers, one bull, three heifers and 12 cows died during the voyage.

Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White said this was not the first time there was misreporting of mortality figures.

"Not only were pregnant cattle shipped, but there is evidence to support that false declarations have been made relating to this voyage -- including by the ship's master, who declared to the Mauritian government that no cattle died during this voyage -- when at least 18 died en route," she said. Ms White also said a representative of Animals Australia visited the only abattoir in Mauritius and was shocked to discover that the traditional "roping and hoisting is the method of restraint and slaughter".

"For exporters to continue to ship animals to such appalling slaughter methods despite the public outcry over Indonesia is disgraceful," she said.

A spokesman for South East Asian Livestock Services said they did not wish to comment due to the ongoing Department of Agriculture and Fisheries investigation into the shipment except to confirm they alerted Australian authorities to the mortalities by lodging the end of voyage accredited stockman report.

"We advise that our formal 'end of voyage' report was provided to DAFF on October 22 and stated there were 18 mortalities during the voyage," he said.

"This represented a mortality rate of less than 1 per cent. The formal Australian Maritime Safety Authority report containing this figure was also provided to DAFF."

The spokesman said Mauritius was not subject to the new animal welfare requirements at the time of the shipment but new equipment that complied with international standards has since been commissioned for the abattoir.

Labor MP Kelvin Thomson is writing to Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to insist he ensure the inquiry addresses the accuracy of reporting to and by authorities.

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