Live exporters are suggesting a scheme that would allow sheep exports to the Middle East to continue throughout the periods of ban over the upcoming two northern summer seasons in order to collect data for future legislation. These expeditions would only take place when heat stress thresholds could be altered. The proposal follows a government study of live sheep shipments to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer, which proposed increasing absolute restriction periods for all Persian Gulf destinations (excluding Kuwait), but decreasing them for Red Sea destinations and Kuwait.
The moratorium is supported by live exporters, but they point out that the Middle East is a large region with the possibility to explore periods and destinations where animals may be delivered during the summer when the danger of heat stress is still bearable. The government investigation looked into the efficiency of the three-year-old moratorium, which spans from June 1 to September 14. It was implemented in response to public outrage over the Awassi Express accident in August 2017, in which 2400 passengers and crew members died as a result of heat stress.
However, tremendous progress in improving animal welfare has been made in recent years, including significant investments in heat stress studies and stocking rates. For the past few years, annual average mortality rates have hovered around 0.2 percent. That is, 99.8% of sheep carried for live export arrive in good condition. According to the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, data on mortalities and animal welfare outcomes obtained prior to 2018 is outdated. The sector’s survival, according to CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton, is dependent on Australia’s image as a dependable trader of high-quality animals to meet the food security demands of Middle Eastern trading partners.
Maintaining market share was becoming increasingly difficult in the face of expanding competition from Africa, South America, and Europe, he added, citing countries without similar animal welfare laws. The draught report from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment recognises that there are times near the conclusion of the present restriction period when risks can be handled through other means and shipping can take place safely. Mr Harvey-Sutton stated that the live export sector initiated the initial moratorium period and has remained adamant that shipping should not take place when it is unsafe to do so.
Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)