Government kowtows to live exporters, ignores own scientific panel on heat stress

The Department of Agriculture will ask no more of live sheep exporters for the upcoming Northern Summer period, and will allow Australian sheep to continue suffering heat stress.

That’s the damning condemnation from the RSPCA, after the much-anticipated regulations proposed for sheep exports during the May to October 2019 period were released by the Department last week.

The proposal ignores the advice of the Australian Veterinary Association, and contradicts a key recommendation of the McCarthy Review, to move the regulatory framework from one based on mortality to one based on animal welfare.

The conditions mirror the minimal voluntary commitment made by the Australian Live Export Council in December last year, to temporarily halt exports during June to August only.

The Department is deferring the decision on exports during September and October (when temperatures are still extremely hot), until later in the year.

RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow criticised the Department’s proposal saying it ignored its own scientific advice and was knowingly sending animals to face severe and prolonged heat stress.

“This is a poor response from a regulator that is evidently still under the thumb of the live export industry,

“Minister David Littleproud has repeatedly told the Australian public he will be acting on the scientific evidence to stop animal suffering, but it is clear his Department is not getting the memo,

“The evidence from their own Heat Stress Technical Panel shows conclusively that conditions on-board live export vessels to the Middle East during May-October will routinely exceed the heat stress thresholds of Australian Merino sheep,*

“Both humidity levels and death rates rise in September. If the Department says it has the evidence to stop exports from June to August, it certainly has the evidence to do so for September as well,

“It appears the only difference is the Department has the industry’s blessing to stop June to August; it doesn’t for September and October,” said Dr Goodfellow.

* Graph from the Draft Report of the Independent Heat Stress Risk Assessment Technical Review Panel showing the Heat Stress Threshold of the average “shipper sheep” (56kg Merino Wether) is exceeded from May to October.

Southern Australia to Middle East voyages 98th percentile temperatures