Welfare solution for WA live sheep exports ‘possible’

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Footage captured by a whistleblower aboard live export ships shows sheep in distress.
Camera IconFootage captured by a whistleblower aboard live export ships shows sheep in distress. Credit: Animals Austraila

A well-known livestock consultant says recent animal welfare concerns could be addressed if an industry standard for modern well-ventilated ships is enforced in the live sheep trade.

“Wellard have a couple and Livestock Shipping Services have a couple,” Midwest Agribusiness representative Craig Walker said.

“Their ships are fully insulated, they are open to the weather to allow breeze through, with very good ventilation, a very good feeding process and state-of-the-art ship building.”

He said sheep were so well managed on a recent Wellard shipment to Oman they were safer than they would have been on a farm.

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Mr Walker said on that voyage only 40 out of nearly 30,000 sheep died, including five that were injured and humanely put down at loading.

“When you look at sheep farming on an ordinary property you are looking at 3 per cent losses through natural attrition,” he said.

Mr Walker said it was alarming Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan had considered banning the live sheep trade during winter when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan created peak demand.

“My proposal is over those months, the permit is on ventilation capacity and not on head space or trough space as is currently defined under exporters’ laws,” he said.

VideoCalls for a ban come after horrific footage emerged of livestock dying onboard a Perth live exporter's vessel.

Shadow agriculture minister and Member for Geraldton Ian Blayney called on Premier Mark McGowan to tackle Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on his “ill-considered” call to ban live sheep exports.

Mr Ian Blayney said Mr Shorten’s call for the suspension of live sheep exports would put WA’s $200 million annual live sheep export trade at risk.

“WA supplies 72 per cent of the total national export flock each year,” he said. “A live export ban would jeopardise the viability of many of the 4500 sheep producers in WA.

“These are farmers who have done nothing wrong and pride themselves on the animal welfare controls they have in place on their properties.”

Renewed calls to ban live exports began after a TV documentary showed scenes of suffering and dead sheep on a ship earlier this month.

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