The truth is in: unacceptable heat stress is ‘unavoidable’ on live export ships to the Middle East

The Australian Government’s mission to achieve ‘truth and proof’ continues to reveal the fundamental flaws in live sheep exports, after the first and only summary of more than 18 long-awaited “independent” observer reports was finally released.

The three-page document provides a snapshot of the observations of an officer from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on-board the MV Bahijah as it sailed to the Middle East with 9,227 sheep and 3,695 cattle in June this year.

The report reveals that the voyage complied with the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock but despite this, “a degree of heat stress existed for the sheep on board the vessel from the equator until passage of the Suez Canal” (a period of eight to ten days), peaking one particular afternoon when “open mouth panting and higher levels of heat stress existed across the ship.”

The report noted that the heat stress was “unavoidable in the conditions.”

RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow described the report as damning.

 “The report confirms what the RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association have been saying all along – it is simply not possible to export sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer period of May to October without animals suffering heat stress,

“With all sheep affected by heat stress to a moderate or elevated degree, the outcomes of this voyage would have breached the new heat stress risk parameters set to be introduced following the McCarthy Review,

“In reality, when Australian sheep are sent into the Middle Eastern summer there is a 100% probability of 100% of the animals suffering heat stress,  

“The only way to avoid that outcome is to completely cease exporting sheep to the Middle East from May to October. We ask, how much more evidence does the Government need before it acts?

“There is little good news in this report, and it is a very selective summary – but what’s even more worrying is that we’re still awaiting the report from nine shipments before this one, and a further 13 shipments since, 

“Why is it taking so long to ‘process’ those reports, and what critical information is being removed in the summarising?,” said Dr Goodfellow.

Dr Goodfellow also revealed details of the RSPCA’s lengthy and ongoing fight to secure the release of these reports in the public’s interest.

“Despite the claims of greater transparency and high level of public concern, the RSPCA has been battling the Department of Agriculture for more than three months to obtain copies of the observer reports under Freedom of Information laws,” he said.

“Multiple amendments to requests, many hours of work by the RSPCA, and $1,600 in processing fees later, and we’re still none the wiser,

“How many more animals will this Government knowingly subject to unnecessary suffering just to keep a dying trade alive?,

“Australians have overwhelmingly made it clear they don’t accept that animal suffering is ok because there’s a buck to be made, and time and again, the evidence shows this trade cannot operate without animal suffering.”