Live shipping moratorium’s extension casts doubt

Zach RelphCountryman
Livestock trucks preparing to load sheep onto a vessel at the Fremantle Port earlier this year.
Camera IconLivestock trucks preparing to load sheep onto a vessel at the Fremantle Port earlier this year. Credit: Sharon Smith

Australia’s animal welfare regulator will keep live sheep vessels from leaving port for another three weeks, casting more doubt over the embattled trade’s future.

The Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said last week it would extend the three-month live sheep moratorium, poised to end on August 31, until September 22.

A live sheep shipping standstill decision for next year is yet to be determined.

In a statement, DAWR said the decision to extend the shipping prohibition for Middle East-destined sheep voyages was based on the “best available science and evidence”.

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“Evidence indicates the risk of heat stress for voyages departing Australia in the first three weeks of September is comparable to, or higher than in June,” it read.

“The department determined conditions in June (along with July and August) are too hot for sheep exports.

Sheep departing Australia in early to mid-September are acclimatised to cooler Australian temperatures and therefore less heat tolerant than sheep departing in Australian summer or autumn months.

The announcement followed last month’s consultation period, with DAWR receiving more than 200 responses, on three proposed Middle East shipping options for the northern hemisphere summer.

A decision on a live sheep shipping pause for next year is yet to be decided.
Camera IconA decision on a live sheep shipping pause for next year is yet to be decided. Credit: Sharon Smith

Extending the ban until September 30 to resume shipments on October 1 or opening the trade on September 1, as initially intended, were also considered alongside the September 22 option.

Mt Barker producer and WAFarmers livestock president David Slade said the decision would have an impact on farmers and failed to take into account May’s successful Middle East shipments.

“It appears the department has ignored industry data, particularly around the minimal animal welfare risks recorded in the 2019 May shipments,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that the live sheep trade will be further jeopardised by these moratorium changes.”

In May, Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading chartered the Wellard-owned MV Ocean Drover to carry 56,915 sheep to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Only 62 mortalities occurred, marking a mortality total of 0.11 per cent.

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton said May’s results proved shipping during September was viable.

“The sheep exports to the Middle East undertaken in May of this year achieved excellent animal welfare outcomes and record low mortalities using the new reduced stocking densities,” he said.

“Similar animal welfare outcomes were expected for September shipments.

“Exporters remain optimistic that data collected from vessels after recommencement this year, that will be provided to the department, will enable resumption of sheep exports to the Middle East.”

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