live export shipping in Australia has attracted media attention over the last months, especially after a release of shocking footage depicting what Australian sheep experience onboard live export vessels. Awareness was increased especially on the aftermath of the death of 2,400 sheep from heat stress onboard the livestock carrier 'Awassi Express' in August 2017.
The notes and images were obtained by the RSPCA under the freedom of information and reveal sheep showing symptoms of “moderate to severe heat stress”, RSPCA says. However, access to a video footage has been denied. The Agriculture Department has on its website summaries only of observers’ reports.
More than 1,500 sheep died across these voyages collectively from heat stress, injury or disease, which was however under the official 'reportable mortality' rate, Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra, wrote to the Conversation. The reportable mortality rate when these voyages took place, was 2%. It has since been reduced to 1%.
In late 2018, Australian livestock exporters wrote to Western Australian sheep producers, advising of a new three-month moratorium in sheep shipments to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer. The moratorium, to take effect from 1 June 2019, will mean no shipments of Australian sheep will depart any Australian port for the Middle East during the highest heat stress risk period of the northern summer.
However, RSCPA, which in the past did not agree with the Australian government, stated that the live export industry made a move to attempt to salvage its shattered social licence, and is intended to forewarn the few remaining live sheep importers so they can plan to stockpile animals in the lead-up to the Middle Eastern summer next year.