Farmers and state call for action on live exports

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WAFarmers says farmers expect exporters to prove the big loss of livestock such as what happened on the Awassi Express will never happen again. File picture

WAFARMERS says it supports a review into the Australian standards for the export of livestock.

President Tony York said federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud had announced the review, which would consider live export into northern hemisphere summer conditions, would happen during the next four weeks.

The review to be headed by Michael McCarthy from Global Livestock Solutions was announced as a result of footage aired on 60 Minutes showing horrific conditions on the Awassi Express ship in 2017.
Mr York said many producers felt the live export industry had been misrepresented.
“Like most, I had accepted the assurances that guidelines and protocols were being met, that arrangements were in place and that adequately ensured compliance of our best practice, standards and guidelines, however this is clearly not the case,” he said.
“We feel very strongly that if conditions cannot be managed then a ship must not be allowed to sail with our livestock on board, so we welcome any announcement into reviews and changes that would support this condition and that would see confidence restored in the industry.
“We expect exporters to prove that this loss of livestock will never happen again, and demand a collaborative and transparent review system which include the exporters releasing information regarding all voyages and vessels in the past few years so that high risk periods, such as northern hemisphere summers, can be clearly identified.
“Further, we demand that independent inspectors, which may include independent veterinarians, be on board during voyages, to monitor livestock conditions.
“It is our right as producers to demand this, and it is the responsibility of government, exporters and carriers to uphold these demands.”
Mr York said Mr McCarthy would be a strong representative for the live export trade, given his experience in the livestock sector and his qualifications as a veterinarian.

Meanwhile, on Monday, April 9 the McGowan Government said it was continuing an investigation into potential animal cruelty charges related to the high-mortality voyage in August last year.

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the investigation would now include the footage aired on 60 Minutes the previous night.

Ms MacTiernan said the Turnbull Government had to improve and enforce live export animal welfare standards to restore public confidence in live exports.

She said in February after learning about the high mortality rate on the August 2017 voyage she had directed the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to investigate the voyage.

“That followed advice from the state solicitor general that state animal welfare laws apply on board live export ships, and that WA’s legal obligations are not inconsistent with federal laws regarding live export,’’ she said.

“Penalties for breaches of the WA Animal Welfare Act include a maximum fine of $250,000 for corporate entities and up to five years imprisonment for individuals.’’

She said the McGowan Government also supported the federal Opposition’s calls for a federal inspector general and independent office for animal welfare.

“The conditions shown in the 60 Minutes footage are completely unacceptable and Western Australians will be rightfully appalled,’’ she said.

“Decent welfare standards on live export voyages are absolutely critical to continued public confidence in the livestock industries and live export.

“We have been very concerned about federal inaction, which is why we decided to use powers available to us under state laws to investigate this incident.

“We welcome any action from the new Federal Agriculture Minister on this issue but we do note that less than two weeks ago, his own department said there was no breach of standards on this voyage.

“The federal government needs to seriously consider if and how basic animal welfare requirements can be met when taking sheep on voyages from the Western Australian winter to the height of Middle Eastern summer.

“We will also continue to look at how to encourage more onshore meat processing, to get more value out of our livestock and create more jobs in Western Australian abattoirs.”