RSPCA Australia is writing to the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and all major live exporter companies, proposing to place an RSPCA observer - independent of government and industry – on at least the next eight long-haul live sheep shipments.
“At this point in time, we are very concerned the Department is making decisions that do not reflect the gravity of the situation or the seriousness of the risks to animal health and welfare,” said RSPCA Australia Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer Dr Bidda Jones.
“The Department has already granted an export permit for the MV Maysora, which left under cover of darkness early Thursday morning crammed full with around 77,000 sheep and 9,500 cattle.
The MV Bader III, another livestock carrier with a similar capacity, was expected to arrive for loading in Fremantle around 4pm WST on Friday.
“The only change is the presence of a Departmental observer on board the Maysora, and as yet, it’s unclear how much information they’ll be able to share,
“Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the live exporters,
“Right now, the animals on the Maysora are enduring the same overcrowding seen on the Awassi Express.
“These conditions do not allow sheep to all lie down over the 4+ week journey and do not allow them to readily access water and food – these are basic needs that no one responsible for the care of animals should be permitted to deny,
“It defies belief and common-sense that within a week of finding out about the appalling conditions that sheep are exposed to on these horrendous voyages, we could see more than 160,000 animals depart our shores, with no significant change to the standards on-board those vessels,” Dr Jones.
“It’s clear from the outpouring of concern we’ve received from the public that they no longer trust the regulator to act to protect the welfare of exported animals,
“That’s why the RSPCA is stepping up to provide this important oversight,” she said
“There are many people who are qualified and experienced in assessing the welfare of animals, and furthermore, the RSPCA has a strong and enduring reputation as a credible advocate and source of information,
“We need to make sure farmers and the public are not let down again, and that the welfare of these animals is properly monitored,
The RSPCA’s offer comes after Australians were shocked by never-seen-before footage shown on the 60 Minutes program last Sunday night, documenting the routine conditions and appalling suffering Australian sheep are facing on board live export vessels.
While the vessel at the centre of that footage – the Awassi Express – has since been detained in Fremantle, the Maysora is now headed to Turkey via Egypt.
“These animals face one of the longest of all long-haul voyages – confined to these appalling conditions for up to 31 days and facing rising temperatures and potentially rough conditions at sea,
“And as with the Awassi Express, there is only one veterinarian on-board responsible for the health and welfare of over 86,000 animals,
“We’ve been advised that Western Australian government representatives inspected the ship yesterday and we remain very keen to see the report on their findings,” said Dr Jones.
The Maysora, Bader and the MV Al Shuwaikh are the only remaining twin-tier livestock export vessels in operation; this type of vessel is slated to be phased out due to ventilation and inspection issues.
While mortality alone is a poor indicator of animal welfare - (as this recent evidence shows, many animals suffer terribly but may survive) – the Bader has the worst mortality record of any current live export vessel, with an official death toll of 4,179 sheep during a single voyage in September 2013.