GREATER space for animals to move and a reduction in the proportion of sheep deaths considered acceptable are features of the McCarthy Review into the live sheep export trade.
Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud announced the publication of the Review this week, but while the government says the recommendations are significant they have failed to assuage industry critics.
There was outrage recently after television program 60 Minutes broadcast confronting footage of Australian sheep kept in cruel conditions on board a vessel bound for the Middle East.
Mr Littleproud said the government accepted all 23 recommendations made by Dr McCarthy, noting further testing and consultation would be required to implement recommendations on heat stress.
“There will be immediate changes that impact now on the live sheep trade during the current Middle Eastern Summer and there will be changes that will be take more time to introduce,” he said.
“The live sheep trade will move now to the allometric stocking density system, which takes into account animal weight and size.
“This means sheep will get up to 39% more space and reducing stocking densities by up to 28%. This change will affect shipments during the Middle Eastern Summer this year.”
The reportable mortality level is to be halved from 2% to 1%, which means if more than 1% of sheep die it must be reported immediately and investigated.
The independent regulator is to move towards a model focused on animal welfare rather than mortality.
A separate Moss Review into the independent regulator, seen by some to have failed spectacularly, is due to report in late August.
“The independent regulator will work closely with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which will be doing its own review of Marine Order 43 that has direct implications on the live export trade,” Mr Littleproud said.
He said the livelihoods of farmers depended on the live sheep trade.
“The Liberal Nationals Government supports a live trade which is sustainable and respects animal welfare outcomes and community views,” he said.
“Further, this industry is part of Australia’s strong standing as a secure source of food and agribusiness investment location for a number of Middle East countries.”
The minister is to introduce a bill increasing penalties and creating a new offence of profiting from poor animal welfare outcomes.
This is set to mean:
- A director of a company could face 10 years prison or $2.1 million fine;
- An individual convicted under the same offence would face 10 years and $420,000 fine;
- For a company, the fine is to be $4.2m, three times the benefit gained, or 10% of the company’s annual turnover, whichever is greater.
Under the current Australian Meat and Livestock Act, penalties are to increase from the current five years prison and/or a $63,000 fine for an individual to eight years jail and/or $100,800 fine.
For a company the fine is to be increased from $315,000 to $504,000.
“I also want an independent observer on every voyage carrying either sheep or cattle – not just the sheep voyages during the northern summer – reporting back daily to the Independent Regulator. This reform will take effect now,” Mr Littleproud said.
The full report and response to the recommendations can be found by visiting: agriculture.gov.au/LAE
The Review has failed to satisfy industry critics, among them Member for Denison Andrew Wilkie.
“This is all the proof we need that the government has no intentions of reining in the cruel live export trade,” Mr Wilkie said.
“The small changes that are recommended by the McCarthy Review will not stop the horrific animal welfare abuses in the live sheep export industry because the fact is the industry is systemically cruel.
“There’ll still be tens of thousands of animals sweltering in the heat on these hell ships and making minor changes won’t stop this.”