This is an industry responsible for sending millions of Australian animals to their deaths in countries recognized as some of the cruelest in the world.
Australia is the largest exporter of live animals in the world. Millions of animals, mostly cattle and sheep, are exported by sea each year. Many die on the way, they all suffer the journey. They are sent around the globe to be slaughtered and most slaughtered while fully conscious.
During the last 30 years, Australia has sent more than 150 million sheep and cattle to be slaughtered in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East and South East Asia. Some goats, deer, buffalo, and camels are also exported live. Livestock ships can carry up to 100,000 animals for voyages lasting up to 3 weeks. More than 2 million animals have died on these ships en route, deaths deemed an ‘acceptable’ loss by an industry that puts profit above all else. One can only imagine the suffering these animals have endured while slowly dying due to illness, starvation, heat, cold, stress, etc. The vast majority die in their crowded pens without any aid or treatment.
Investigations conducted by Animals Australia in Middle Eastern countries have exposed the terrible cruelties inflicted upon Australian animals in these countries. Most importing countries have not one single law to protect animals welfare.
Once in the Middle East, Australian sheep are routinely purchased, bound, and shoved into car boots in a region where temperatures reach 50°C in summer.
Both sheep and cattle have their throats cut while fully conscious, suffering prolonged, distressing and painful deaths.
Live animal export is inherently cruel, immoral, and indefensible.
Around 4 million sheep are exported to the Middle East each year. The biggest markets are Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with around 1 million imported sheep each. Other primary destinations include Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Tens of thousands of sheep die before they reach the Middle East.
Every year Australia exports over half a million cattle. Most go to South East Asia - the majority to Indonesia. Hundreds die on the sea voyage, and more succumb to illness and disease after arrival.
Animals Australia exposed the cruel practices in Egypt and the Australian Government suspended all exports of cattle and sheep to this country. After a resumption of sheep exports, 2006, Animals Australia again exposed terrible abuse of the sheep in Egypt. The Australian Government has now prohibited the export of sheep, but shipments of cattle resumed in 2010, now restricted to being sent to a single feedlot and abattoir in Egypt which complies to specific requirements.
Long-distance sea transportation means multiple handling, intensive stocking densities, different food and competition for food/water, changes in climatic environment (winter to summer), at times unforeseen problems (fire, cyclone, rejection by importing country and other factors which cumulatively cause stress as well as injuries and illness.
Most Australian grazing animals are rarely handled and are fearful of - and stressed by - human handling. Long distance sea voyages for slaughter contradict the universally-accepted principle that animals should be killed as close as possible to the point of production to reduce stress.
Causes of death on board ships have been studied extensively during the last 25 years.
Inanition (failure to eat) 47%
‘Inanition’ is term used when sheep – grazing animals familiar only with eating grass - fail to eat the pellet food provided. This causes metabolic changes which make them susceptible to other problems such as overwhelming salmonella infection and diarrhea. In addition to these deaths, many animals suffer, but survive, illness or injury.
For example, sheep are susceptible to eye irritations and infections caused by dusty environments on board and some eye problems (e.g. pink eye) can cause blindness even during a 2 week voyage. In addition, it is not known how many more animals die due to illness soon after unloading.
Upon arrival in overseas countries, animals endure further transport, feed-lotting, and handling practices (dragging, trussing, transportation in car boots), practices that are both unacceptable and illegal in Australia.
The routine slaughter method in the majority of importing countries is cutting of throat without pre-stunning. Animals killed in this way can endure prolonged, painful, fearful deaths. Such slaughter is, quite rightly, illegal in Australia.
This is an industry responsible for sending millions of Australian animals to their deaths in countries recognised as some of the cruelest in the world. Australia has no control over the treatment of Australian animals once they are imported into another country. Once Australian animals arrive in an importing country they are entirely subject to the customs and practices of that country. However, some efforts to negotiations with other countries to increase animal welfare.
'Standards' do not and cannot alter the inherent problems of long distance transportation fear and stress, inanition in sheep, transportation to another hemisphere and persistent dangers of the sea. And of course the Australian 'Standards' cannot influence what happens to animals in the importing countries.
Already there have been persistent and significant breaches of the standards documented. Injured and ill animals are often transported to ship side in Fremantle (from where 80% of sheep are exported). This is despite the Standards requiring individual inspection by Government officers before loading at feedlots. In Fremantle this inspection only occurs ship side.
Sheep's that fail to eat the pellet diet provided are not routinely detected and excluded from live exportation. Inanition (failure to eat) is the direct cause of 47% of sheep deaths on ship, and the precursor to deaths due to salmonellosis (a further 27%). Ref - Live sheep export industry, Journal of Agriculture. This failure to detect and exclude these animals from shipments led to the suffering and ultimate death of approximately 29,750 sheep in one year alone.
A single veterinarian on a ship is in charge of up to (and sometimes more than) 100,000 animals, and will therefore have great difficulty attempting to treat all sick animals.
Sick animals are not routinely euthanized, let alone any pretense made of treating sick animals. Again, a veterinarian (and/or stockman) would be able to recognize ill animals, and perhaps direct the quarantining of animals to prevent a greater spread of diseases, or may attempt to reduce the impact of a heat stress episode, but the presence of a single veterinarian and/or stockman cannot change the key problems on livestock ships, nor can these individuals influence the treatment of animals after unloading in an importing country.