The RSPCA has slammed the McCarthy Review released today, saying the decisions are weak, not based on science or evidence, and have effectively left farmers holding a ticking time bomb.
The report has failed to stop voyages during the high-risk heat stress period, in direct conflict with the advice of the Australian Veterinary Association, and which RSPCA Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer Dr Bidda Jones said is likely to result in more catastrophic mortality events while allowing the industry’s entrenched animal cruelty to continue.
"These recommendations completely ignore the science, and are not enough to reduce the risk of either consistent harm to animals or the catastrophic conditions we've seen previously," she said.
“It's frankly extraordinary that this review will allow May to October voyages to continue, taking winter-acclimatised animals into temperatures of more than 40 degrees, and humidity of up to 80 per cent,
“There’s no stocking density limit that can protect sheep in those kinds of conditions. A single sheep standing on a deck will suffer and can die under those heat and humidity levels.”
The recommendations also only require sheep be given between 11 and 39 per cent more space, and that's only during the hottest and highest-risk time of the year.
For a 50kg sheep, 39 per cent more space equates to around 28% reduction in stocking density.
“To be clear, a 30% stocking density reduction throughout the remainder of the year is the absolute minimum required to avoid consistent harm,
"Halving the stocking density is what's required to allow all sheep to lie down and to easily access food and water, and therefore, avoid the outcomes seen in the Awassi footage,
“Given the gravity of the situation and the response from the Australian community, we would’ve expected the Minister to reflect the evidence that says sheep need at least double the space they've previously been given,
“This review was meant to improve conditions for animals and address the community’s rightful outrage over this volatile trade, this industry’s callous disregard for animal welfare and its long history of reckless disdain and non-compliance with our standards,
“The Minister asked the Australian community to trust him, and assured us all that he would be tough on live export standards and reflect the science and evidence in his decision making,
"He assured us, even as Dr McCarthy's independence - as a live-export-employed vet - was understandably questioned,
“Instead, this review has guaranteed that we will see more horrific suffering, we will see more catastrophic mortality events, and we know this because the facts and evidence show these results are entirely predictable,
“In kowtowing to the live exporters, the Minister has betrayed our trust and the trust of the Australian public,
“Just like his predecessor, he has decided against change, and sided with live export companies against the Australian community,
“This result offers no certainty for farmers, who have been left with what is essentially a ticking time bomb,
“And it’s not enough to meet the Australian public’s expectations of how our animals should be treated,
“As long as live animal exports continue, there will always be another disaster just around the corner. The risks are simply too great and they cannot be managed,
“We will now direct our efforts to encouraging and supporting the two Private Members’ Bills that are being planned now, to achieve a steady phase-out of live sheep exports in favour of a more sustainable trade in chilled and frozen meat,” said Dr Jones.
“This is the only way the problem that is live export will ever really be solved," said Dr Jones.
The RSPCA will be holding a press conference in the Senate Courtyard at Australia’s Parliament House at 10.20am this morning