The recent release of footage covering on-board treatment of sheep, over a series of voyages to the Middle East, last year shocked the Australian community, undermining public confidence in the trade. For the livestock export trade to continue, the public expects the Australian industry to uphold and comply with the highest animal welfare standards throughout the entire supply chain.
In response to the footage, the government commissioned this review to advise on conditions and any changes to the administration of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) and/or actions that would be required to assure the health and welfare outcomes for sheep being transported to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the findings of this review may have implications for the trade and the farm gate price for Australian sheep, the terms of reference are clear, and refer specifically to what is required to assure the health and welfare of the sheep during the northern hemisphere summer period.
The review has been undertaken with a view to provide a roadmap for the way forward. It has not been undertaken with a view to being a blue-print for new legislation, nor is it meant, in any way, to replace or usurp the work being undertaken by the ASEL Review Technical Advisory Committee.
The review has considered the best evidence in the time available, including consideration of the scientific literature, recent live sheep export-related video footage, reports from observers on recent voyages and other relevant information.
The review’s recommendations fall into two categories. There are those recommendations that should be implemented as soon as practical if the trade continues during the higher risk 2018 northern hemisphere summer. These recommendations address the immediate and specific challenges of exporting sheep from Australia to the Middle East during that period. These are interim measures to apply until October 2018. The review recognises that some other recommendations may require more time to implement and these will be considered by the ASEL review committee within their own time frame.
Overall, this review concludes that the live export industry is at the crossroads. What has occurred in the past must not happen in the future, and industry must therefore retreat to a ‘safe’ position, consolidate and then build a new way forward based on science, trust and performance.