A BAN has been placed on the live export of sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer, the Department of Agriculture and Resources has confirmed.
This follows a lengthy consultation phase and what the department said was extensive feedback and consultation.
The agriculture secretary has banned sheep exports from 1 June 2019 to 31 August 2019— understood to be the first prohibition on the export of sheep on animal welfare grounds.
Before the ban starts, exporters must comply with “strict conditions” during May 2019 under a separate order, including:
- allometric stocking densities requiring between 11% and 39% more space for sheep than prescribed under the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock;
- independent auditing of pen air turnover readings;
- automatic watering arrangements
- a reduced notifiable mortality level of 1%.
Similar conditions were applied during the previous northern summer and the department said there was “little evidence” of significant animal welfare issues.
Exporters also will be directed to comply with an additional requirement for automated data logging equipment to record wet bulb temperatures on any May shipments to the Middle East.
That data also must be reported to the department to provide a comprehensive picture of animal welfare.
According to the department, they remained “committed to a regulatory system that establishes the highest standards of animal welfare based on the best possible evidence”.
The prohibition and conditions were finalised after an examination of live export regulation.
“There has been a clear shift to an animal welfare based model of regulation, with greater scrutiny of the trade than ever before,” a departmental statement read.
Independent observers are expected to provide an additional layer of assurance that exporters are complying with requirements.
Conditions for September and October are still to be settled and are to be determined once the Heat Stress Risk Assessment panel has completed a review, a regulation impact statement has been done and additional evidence examined.
Live sheep exports hit the headlines a year ago when 60 Minutes broadcast footage of sheep enduring terrible heat on board the vessel Awassi Express.