The theme for this year’s International Day of Forests (21 March) is ‘forests and health’. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the important role that forests play in our lives and whether our national environmental laws, which are currently under review, are doing enough to ensure that future generations...
We couldn’t blame you if you weren’t able to watch the 60 Minutes report into the live sheep export trade on the weekend.
The images were absolutely horrifying—animals lying deep in faeces in the sweltering heat, panting out their last desperate breaths. Thousands died in the overcrowded conditions—their carcasses callously thrown overboard. There was also pitiful images of lambs born into these horrendous conditions when pregnant ewes should never be allowed on board.
A heroic whistle blower brought the shocking brutality of live sheep exports to light. Faisal Ullah bravely recorded secret footage on board several live sheep export journeys to the Middle East. On one particular journey, 2400 sheep died from Western Australia to Kuwait and Qatar.
Faisal took a great personal risk because he wanted Australians to see the truth and to take action. We always knew sheep suffer terribly on long haul journeys but for the first time we were provided damning and undeniable evidence. And Australians are now rightly up in arms about the horrific conditions these animals face when shipped to the Middle East.
According to Australian live-export regulations, pregnant animals are not to be loaded on these vessels. But that’s exactly what this whistle-blower saw. Then, shockingly, crew were ordered to cut the throats of the lambs and throw them overboard. #60Mins pic.twitter.com/9skIhzVfv9
— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) April 8, 2018
The live export industry has been in damage control since the footage aired on Sunday evening, and has been blaming the sheep deaths on “extreme weather”. The conditions on board the ships we saw on 60 Minutes are standard for a live export ship and extreme heat in the Middle East is almost a constant.
WA Minister for Agriculture Alannah MacTiernan and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud are the two ministers who have the power to put a stop to the suffering.
As the footage went to air, Minister MacTiernan launched an investigation into the deaths of the sheep, and has called for a ban on live export ships in summer. Minister Littleproud announced a new whistleblower hotline will be established by the end of the week. While Minister Littleproud’s support for whistle blowers is very welcome, reliance on them going forward would be an admission that the government’s own enforcement and compliance is broken.
The ship responsible for the 2400 deaths last year is set to leave from Fremantle this week with another 65,000 sheep on board. Not surprisingly, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority found that the ship did not meet safety guidelines and has said it will not be able to leave Australia unless conditions improve.
However, we do not want to see one operator scapegoated in this appalling scandal. The Department of Agriculture signed off on the standards on the journeys shown in Faisal’s footage. Minister Littleproud has acknowledged this means the standards are a problem and has announced a snap review of them. The Federal Opposition has said so too and offered bipartisan support not to revert to ‘business as usual’.
However, tweaking the standards is simply not the answer. Live exports will always equal animal cruelty. They always have and always will.
The live export of sheep must be banned in order to prevent anything like this from happening again.
We’ve already had thousands join our call to Ministers MacTiernan and Littleproud to take action to end the live export of sheep. Please join them by taking a moment of your time to let these Ministers know that if they act to stop this cruelty, they will have your support.