WA farmers have expressed support for the decision to drop animal cruelty charges against Emanuel Exports, saying it was a “good outcome for the industry”. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development discontinued its prosecution of Australia’s largest live sheep exporter and its two previous directors Graham Daws and Michael Stanton in the Perth Magistrates Court on November 14, citing it was no longer in the public interest to pursue a conviction. The prosecution of Emanuel Exports began in 2019 after DPIRD undertook “a thorough investigation” into the deaths of 2400 sheep on board the Awassi Express bound for the Middle East in August 2017. Charges were brought against them under the WA Animal Welfare Act 2002. Emanuel Exports had argued that the incident occurred in international waters outside the jurisdiction of the State’s laws and was likely to not be successful if brought to trial. “After considering all circumstances and available facts in preparation for the trial, DPIRD has decided that it is not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution,” a DPIRD spokeswoman said. “All charges against the company and its directors have been discontinued. “DPIRD’s decision took into account the complexity of the case, the public cost of a trial, the administrative sanction (penalty) already incurred by the company and changes to operating practices made by the company to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future.” She said DPIRD also considered the changed industry operating conditions, including the moratorium on live exports during the northern hemisphere summer. Emanuel Exports was relieved by DPIRD’s decision against the company and its former directors — who “fully support the significant changes implemented across the industry”. “The significant improvements implemented in the last five years has demonstrated the livestock export industry is viable, sustainable, and responsive to community expectations around animal welfare outcomes,” an Emanuel Exports spokesman said. “Emanuel have proudly been part of the continuous improvements implemented across the supply chain and actively promoted and supported innovation and technology improvements.” He said good animal welfare outcomes were the core of the company’s business operations and it would continue to advocate for the livestock export industry because Australia were world leaders and should continue to be part of filling international demand for protein. “In the current environment we are seeing how important this trade is especially to regional WA,” the spokesman said. “Emanuel remains committed to our company goals, rural communities, and stakeholders in the WA sheep industry and we want to continue supplying our Middle East customers with a valuable source of protein.” Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said the prosecution had been “unfair” and should not have happened in the first place. “Common sense has prevailed,” Mr Seabrook said. WAFarmers president John Hassell said he was “disappointed” at the length of time it had taken for DPIRD to drop the case. “I’m very pleased with the outcome — it was clear that there was not enough evidence and nothing to be gained by continuing to prosecute Emanuel Exports,” Mr Hassell said. Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the decision by DPIRD was “good news” for the WA sheep industry, because it had cost Emanuel Exports “a considerable amount of money and resources defending their good name and reputation” — money which could have been otherwise spent exporting more sheep. “Now they can get back to what they do best,” Mr Wilson said. Mr Wilson had previously called for intervention by WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis but she said it was out of her hands. Ms Jarvis said DPIRD made a “difficult decision” to discontinue the case based on legal advice from the State Solicitor’s office. “I am disappointed by this decision, but lawyers advise it was in the best interest of WA taxpayers,” Ms Jarvis said. “This case was complex — the animal welfare breaches happened on the high seas beyond the State’s jurisdictional limits and there was no guarantee of a conviction. Ms Jarvis said the incident that led to the prosecution was “horrifying” and as a direct result of the case a range of measures have been implemented, including the northern summer export ban, which has improved animal welfare on live export ships.