A Federal Government-ordered review into live sheep exports has recommended a major reduction in animals on ships bound for the Middle East during the dangerous hot months in the middle of the year.
- Major recommendation from review is to increase space for sheep and reduce number of animals on ships during hot months
- Independent regulator will also investigate ships with mortality rate of 1 per cent of sheep or more
- Government also toughening penalties for companies that breach these rules
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud initiated the review after footage emerged showing almost 2,500 sheep dying from heat stress during a trip to the Middle East last year.
Amid other reviews into live sheep exports, Mr Littleproud asked livestock veterinarian Michael McCarthy to review the standards for the sheep trade during the Middle Eastern summer.
Mr Littleproud said one of Dr McCarthy’s major recommendations, which will be adopted for this year’s summer trade, would be the “stocking density model”, which would increase space for sheep by up to 39 per cent.
“In a sweeping change, Dr McCarthy recommended a seismic shift from stocking density based on animal mortality to one based on animal welfare,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The greater mortality is heat stress. Dr McCarthy has created a new model which goes towards addressing this deducing the probability of sheep with heat stress and ventilation and airflow on boats.
“This model could have the potential merit of giving exporters incentive to improve ventilation and airflow to increase their carrying capacity.”
The new formula means sheep numbers will have to drop by almost 30 per cent in the hottest months.
The stocking density will vary depending on the month, meaning that as the heat increases, sheep numbers must decrease.
Those who profit from breaching rules face 10 years’ jail
Under another key recommendation, the number of sheep deaths that would trigger a review from the independent regulator would also change, from the current 2 per cent threshold to 1 per cent.
Mr Littleproud said the Government would introduce legislation to punish exporters who break export rules including those around stocking densities:
Companies would face fines of $4.2 million, three times the benefit gained or 10 per cent of the company’s annual turnover, and directors could face 10 years’ prison or a fine of $2.1 million.
Other individuals convicted under the same offence would face 10 years in jail and a $420,000 fine.
“I intend to hold them to account, and I don’t think we have held them to account properly as a government,” Mr Littleproud said.
“I want to make sure there is a legacy that no matter who comes in after me, that this cannot be broken down.”
Mandatory independent observers, automated watering
The report also recommended automated watering systems and that all ships planning to go to Kuwait should stop there first.
By the 2019 Middle Eastern summer, ships must have automated environment monitoring equipment fitted in the pens.
Independent observers will become mandatory on all live export ships of sheep and cattle, a change that the Agriculture Minister said would be phased in over the coming months.
“We will be able to get underneath the bonnet of it and by actually having observers on the boats, we will get better proof and truth about what is happening,” he said.
Mr Littleproud said the Government had accepted all 23 recommendations from the report, and would implement most of these changes by the next northern summer.