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Why Australia's trade in live animal exports is world's WORST practice

Blinded sheep on truck Oman September 2007

The live export industry claims to have the highest standards in the world. Let's see how that stacks up.

Australia claims to have the best regulated live animal export trade in the world. But regulation is one thing, and enforcement is entirely another. The trade is supposedly regulated by the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock, and all available evidence indicates that while these industry-developed standards exist, they are largely unenforceable, unenforced, and barely provide these animals with any protection while they are still in Australia, much less when they leave Australian waters.

The Standards are monitored by AQIS, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, and this is how well it is done.

Animals Angels frequently attends loadings in Fremantle. They state that there are routinely no government inspectors present at the wharf to deal with transport mismanagement such as overloading, ill and injured animals arriving for export, and cruelty such as beating and throwing the animals and the overuse and inappropriate use of electric prod devices.

These are some examples cited by Animals Angels


On Sunday 01.06.2008, they had to call an AQIS inspector. Likewise on 3 Apr 2008, 25 Mar 2008, and 21 Dec 2007, when they actually have to call AQIS to attend. AQIS arrives, but does no inspections.

A review of the AQIS mortality reports that Animals Australia was able to obtain under Freedom of Information provisions indicates that in almost all cases, the animals are not given the mandated periods in "registered premises" (feedlots) to accustom them to pelletized fodder. In November 2006 on the "Maysora", more than 450 cattle died either on the ship or on arrival in Tzofar; these cattle were southern bred cattle loaded in contravention of the ASEL. Heat exhaustion, pneumonia, septicaemia were the causes of death reported. On a voyage from Tasmania in 2006 on the aging "Al Messilah", a former car transporter, ill and injured sheep were loaded, the animals only had a matter of hours in the feedlot and there was not enough feed on the ship for the journey. 1,632 died on the ship, from starvation, heat exhaustion and trauma.

The industry then would have us believe that it can influence the way animals are treated in importing countries. Please visit the link below to see how successful they are.

Further information attesting to this filmed by Animals Australia is at its
Live Export Indefensible website (

Now the Australian government (Rudd, the man who "cannot abide cruelty") is resuming the trade in cattle to Egypt. Most of the countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, to which Australia exports animals are signatories to (minimal) OIE (International Organization for Animal Health) animal welfare standards. You be the judge of their compliance.

No Memorandum of Understanding Australia has signed with any of these countries is legally enforceable, none has been tested, and they only provide for the animals to be offloaded from the ships in the event of a "dispute". They were developed to avert another public relations disaster like the 2003 "Cormo Express" tragedy, when 55,000 sheep were rejected by Saudi Arabia, and drifted around the Gulf for more than three months before Eritrea was persuaded to accept them. Representatives from Compassion in World Farming in Eritrea at the time claimed that only about 40,000 sheep were alive to be unloaded in Eritrea and left to a largely unkown fate. The "Cormo Express" was re-named the "Merino Express" very soon afterwards.

While the industry can claim that mortality rates on board the ships have improved, over 2 million animals have died on these voyages in recent years. The industry also claims that it can "improve" handling and slaughter practices in these countries where animal protection laws are non-existent. It is using your tax dollars in its token efforts to do so, and these wholly unsuccessful efforts are only in response to the massive public exposure on reputable documentary programs of the appalling brutality these animals face. Consider the human rights records of these countries. What hope do animals have? The images that remain in my mind are of cattle having their leg tendons slashed and eyes stabbed before being hacked to death, and the bull, hit so hard over the head with a metal bar that he was on his knees trembling - before the film was cut off. Sheep are thrown by ears and legs, and thrown into car boots or onto roofracks with their legs hobbled. They are dragged to slaughter by often broken legs, and their throats hacked at until they finally bleed to death, fully conscious.

This cruelty is outlawed in Australia, and it is unconscionable for the Australian government to allow animals to be treated like this half way across the world. Please remember, turning away from these hapless animals - saying "I can't look at this" - is abandoning these millions of animals, and telling the government that you find this disgraceful trade - and the fact that you are helping to fund it - acceptable.

See also: Live exports - a litany of disasters of 1 Sep 08 by Jenny Hume on WebDiary.


And we are intensifying domestic animal farming here in Australia, with new laws passed to make it worse for pigs. And with spurious notions of efficiency pushing for feedlot farming and the quick, sick dollar.

Australia's economy is out of control in more ways than one.

Good writing, Stoptac. Keep it up. We are a wussy lot and have to start coping with the truth.

Daisy U

There is no way a vet can supervise multiple thousand of animals on board these death ships, …

We constantly hear that we in Australia have the "highest animal welfare standards" in the world, but how are we to believe it? With live animal exports recommencing to Egypt, against all the evidence contrary to animal welfare, and into a country with no standards of animal treatment, we cannot believe this industry's claims, or our Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke. This trade is purely about sacrificing the welfare of animals on the altar of high monetary returns, not on any ideals! The atrocities committed in Egypt were not revealed by government officials but by the not-for-profit organisation Animals Australia, and Sixty Minutes.

Tens of thousands of cattle from Australia sent there will suffer the terror of being slaughtered whilst fully conscious.

There is no way a vet can supervise multiple thousand of animals on board these death ships, and any way to guarantee each animal's humane treatment. Egypt does not require animals be stunned prior to slaughter. Tens of thousands of cattle from Australia sent there will suffer the terror of being slaughtered whilst fully conscious.

So many local jobs are being lost due to not exporting frozen meat. Australia's reputation is being degraded by allowing ánimal cruelty.

The mortality statistics for 2007, for animals who died at loading, on ships, or during "discharge" are available at LiveCorp's website. At the DAFF Animal Welfare/Live Exports site, the true "collateral damage" is revealed: a rise in mortality rates for sheep and goats; and the total "damage" for the year 2007 was more than 38,000 animals (despite an overall drop in sheep exports). Emanuel Exports, who faced cruelty charges in Western Australia this year was responsible for the deaths of about 4,500 sheep in just four voyages between June and December, a six month period. These people still have a licence, and no sanctions were ever imposed. Another exporter managed to kill 12.5% of the goats on board - but was able to continue exporting other animals.
This is, of course, the story of the "lucky" ones. The survivors face the most egregious cruelty to have been shown on Australian television. Furthermore, Middle Eastern countries are now "onforwarding" Australian animals to other countries, in conditions of unspeakable cruelty.
Who is laughing all the way to the bank? The exporters, and the importing countries, in which all the jobs have been created.
The Australian government now says it is investing funds in importing countries. This we have seen before, with facilities funded substantially by Australian taxpayers to prop up this obscene trade in cruelty not even being used.
If you believe this is unacceptable - that Australian animals destined for food deserve at the very least a humane life and a humane death, TAKE ACTION with the politicians who are actively supporting this trade in wretched animal misery.

Submitted to the Hobart Mercury, the Examiner (Launceston) and the Advocate (NW Tasmania)

Dear Editor
The last direct shipment of Tasmanian sheep left Devonport in February 2006, amid a storm of angry protest.

71,309 sheep, many ill and injured, were loaded onto the aging "Al Messilah", a former car transporter, and 1,632 died on the ship during the marathon 27 day journey. A report by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) identified that a major cause of the mortalities was the fact that Tasmanian sheep are particularly poorly adapted to the heat exhaustion they suffer on lengthy, cross-equatorial journeys, along with disease, other trauma and starvation.

This was not, however, the end of the live export trade in Tasmanian sheep (or cattle). They are now shipped and trucked to Portland in Victoria, and exported from there, although this does not appear on LiveCorp's "State of Origin" statistics.

Enquiries to the Minister for Primary Industries, David Llewellyn, have elicted the extraordinary response that the Department doesn't actually know how many animals are involved, but he thinks it may be "possibly 15,000 to 20,000 in 2007 - 2008".

Why does his Department not know, for Heavens sake?

We have pointed out that if Tasmanian sheep cannot cope with a direct journey from Devonport, they arguably suffer far, far more with added journey from farm in Tasmania all the way to Portland, and all before being loaded on to live export ships.

Mr Llewellyn is "awaiting advice" on this. So are we.

PO Box 252

There is no doubt this is pure Evil and to think John Howard and now Rudd has turned their backs on it again is a sad reflection of our own worth because we voted them in.
However given the fact people have now been protesting for twenty pluss years- I am just wondering where is a plan- a project to phaze out this barbaric process.

HWC was launched- Um yes. What is it?

No I mean, what is the Handle with care all about. More pictures- more letters encouraged to be written to these same people that have turned their backs for years.

More funds raised- But to do what? Come on guys where is the plan?

What is the plan- other than show these pictures and ask for more funds?

I just dont get it. Why not employ some farmers x farmers. Get out in the bush and open some Aussie Abattoirs. Go and buy up stock and arrange to contract slaughter exporting carcuss only.

Or dont do that.

So what ARE you all doing? What is Handle With Care all about.

It would apprear just more hipe and hoohay+ fund raising...

Animal cruelty is one of the worst forms of immorality. Animals have no say and are complete victims of their human masters.

If one was lucky enough to have received a golden executive parachute and somehow preserved one's super against the GFC Mark I, then a selfish person may consider 'social' and 'environmental' priorities matters for others.

Many in our community presume that if an ethical or social issue does not affect them directly, they can be morally justified in relegating them to the lot of noble charities. But charities don't just happen. Animal not-for-profit charities like WIRES and the RSPCA exist despite of government neglect of moral duty.

In my view, such selfishly disengaged members of our community deserve attracting higher tax premiums.
Few people experience such cruelty directly and so it is easy for them to ignore the issue as relevant or important to them. Many immoral issues fall into the same 'out-of sight-out-of-mind' category, including live sheep export well below animal welfare standards.

Once again, rural Australians choosing to lower themselves to profiteering from live sheep trading to Saudia Arabia, Egypt and Eritrea simply forgo ethical principles, as if so desperate that the lure of a quick buck from animal exploitation is ingrained like a colonial cultural contagion.

Pragmatically, many justify that they are too busy with their lives to take an interest outside their backyards in such issues. Blissful ignorance of social and ethical issues is the norm of the maintream. Busy parents and primary and secondary schools still don't teach life issues of morality or ethics at a child's impressionable age.

Contributors to this website that simply mud sling do nothing to add to the exploring the issue at hand. If 'Anonymous' contributers do so, I recommend their input be deleted as trash. They only demean this website. They may find more joy contributing to Ralph magazine.

Tigerquoll, it seems that more is being done by individuals than by the charities that we pay money to take action here.

So far, I have dozens of requests for information, and FOIs with DAFF (which they are doing their best to ignore, as is Ludwig). But they can't hide forever.

I have one complaint with the Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia over the matter of the broken down Al Messilah in Adelaide last year - ALEC (The Australian Live Exporters Council) employed a Victorian veterinarian, Tristan Jubb, to provide 'advice' about the sheep who were unloaded. Jubb is not registered to practice in SA. The Board is doing its best to dismiss the complaint, despite all the evidence. In the course of our enquiries, it emerged that 2,519 sheep simply 'went missing', and in the maze of data, more sheep were UNloaded from the broken down ship than were loaded in the first instance. That's what I mean about the mortality statsitics.

I have two complaints before the Vet Surgeons Board of WA, about AQIS accredited veterinarians approving for transport to the port of Fremantle sheep who were suffering from serious clinical opthalmic diseases (including blindness), and also approving transports to the port in temperatures of 43 degrees plus, including video and photographic evidence of the sheep, left on trucks for hours, gasping for air. The Board will not reply to requests for an outcome to the complaints.

If the complaints were to be found to be substantiated, veterinarians involved in the trade might be forced to reconsider - and the trade cannot operate without them. Veterinarians are people to whom we look to for leadership in the care and welfare of animals, and these ones fail dismally. We should be able to hold them to a higher standard, yet when their own governing Boards fail to act, it goes nowhere.

Other complaints relate to the use of electric proddng devices on sheep. The OIE Code for Terrestrial Animals is clear that these panful shocklng devices should never be used on sheep or goats, yet there is a vast body of evidence at of them being used violently and gratuitously on the faces and ano-genital regions of the sheep.

Australia leads the world in animal welfare? It can't even get it right while the animals are still in Australia.

A new position of Independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports will be established to review and audit Australia’s live animal export trade processes and systems. There's nothing "independent' about this appointment. This Inspector-General of Animal Welfare will be supporting the live export trade and government interests.
Ironically, this position was appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joel Fitzgibbon. This person will report directly to the Minister. It sounds like "Yes Minister", and a comic collusion of interests, but not funny!
“The Independent Inspector-General will audit and review the live animal export regulator across the supply chain, including our investigation and compliance procedures, adding an important layer of independence to the regulatory system to ensure it delivers animal welfare outcomes.”
New watchdog for live animal exports
It's to attempt to justify and defend the indefensible. It's assured that Independent Inspector-General would not create additional red-tape or regulatory burden for farmers or the broader industry. So, basically, nothing will really be done to ruffle any feathers in the industry!
Our world-leading standards of animal welfare will not be unnecessarily burdened by any extra demands on graziers, or any extra regulations. It sounds like a paper-tiger, full of hypocrisy and without any powers to actually change anything.
According to Animals Australia, this position is about ensuring live export remains sustainable and 'enjoys' the confidence of the community. Taxpayers are even funding workshops to help the live export industry improve their public image.
The "new" animal welfare initiative for live export is the inversion cage. Animals will be trapped inside it, with their necks extended, so they can be killed while still conscious while having their throats slit. Without mandatory pre-stunning, and the crowded stench and suffering of death-ships, there is no "animal welfare" in the live export trade - an industry littered by mistakes, misery, horrific "incidents", secrecy and blood.

The federal government wants to restart the live export trade with Saudi Arabia even though the Islamic country is refusing to sign up to tough animal welfare standards.

See more: Joyce wants live sheep exports to Saudis at

Despite all the protests, and activism by animal welfare groups, and empty assurances that Australia is exporting animal welfare, the industry continues to expand - unhampered by vile and continued revelations of grotesque cruelty, corruption and the failure of the Supply chain assurance scheme.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says restarting the live sheep trade with Saudi Arabia could be worth $100 million a year. There are a lot of industries, and commodities, that could produce filthy lucre - such as pornography, the slave trade, logging native forests and the export of wildlife. Money cannot justify the unjustifiable.

Saudi Arabia won't sign up to the standards of animal husbandry standards, and the Saudi's say it's in violation of the sovereignty. Once the own the animals, they can be as cruel and brutal as they like. Saudi Arabia home of the Islamic faith, and they are not capable of the humane treatment of animals.

Most of the sheep died on an afternoon of extreme heat 15 days after leaving Fremantle on board the Livestock Shipping Services Pty Ltd–operated Bader III. They were travelling to the Middle East. The "incident" was covered up and not reported within the time line, of 12 hours. This death rate was well over the accepted mortality rates, but the Department of Agriculture was not notified until after 13 days!
The on board veterinarian did not supply daily health reports as required by the law. This is about as relevant as having a doctor in a death camp, or a chaplain for the slave trade!
The DoA, which made no adverse findings against LSS after investigating the incidents, rejected claims from Animals Australia that it covered up the reporting delay and the lack of daily updates. No "bad news" is allowed to seep through the thick veneer of how lucrative and "safe" the live export trade really is. Nobody wants scandal!
The sheep arrived dead at the Doha in Qatar. The live export trade is Australia's trade of shame, exporting animal cruelty and lies.

Yesterday I singed up to give a monthly donation to Animals Australia for their campaign against live animal exports from Australia. Today I hear there is a new $1 billion deal to export 1 million animals to China. It seems to dwarf our efforts. Oh well, I guess the best thing to do now is double our efforts against this inhumane, greedy practice.