WAFarmers has released a series of recommendations relating to the future of the live export industry, with the organisation calling for regulators and potential independent observers to be held to account.
WAFarmers President Tony York and Livestock Section President David Slade said the recommendations were based on significant member, industry and political feedback, and that implementation of the conditions would work towards re-igniting confidence in the trade.
“The impression that Australia has set the world standard for animal welfare for live exports has been well and truly decimated following the release of vision obtained on the Awassi Express,” Mr York said.
“At present, the live export regulator is not upholding its duty to ensure the highest standard of animal welfare practices, resulting in abhorrent conditions such as that experienced on the ship.
“While there is a responsibility demanded of exporters to ensure livestock being transported are treated humanely, the primary onus is on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as the regulator to ensure this situation never occurs again.
“The eight recommendations presented by WAFarmers address need for appropriate preparation of livestock prior to loading, possible implementation of on-board camera systems, the need for all vessels regardless of age to meet current live export animal welfare practices, flexibility in pen configuration in keeping with live export animal welfare regulations, and consideration of small vessels for use in high risk areas.
“In addition, WAFarmers calls for the appointment of independent observers with best practice management capabilities to be employed on each vessel, with those appointed to be allowed to advise the captain and direct stockmen on welfare issues as they occur.”
Mr York said trade conditions specific to northern hemisphere summer conditions during July and August should also be considered, with licence suspensions to be delivered to exporters that do not meet these conditions.
“Only ships with the best possible animal welfare delivery mechanisms, coupled with the best track records, should be used to transport into high risk areas during summer months,” he said.
“Limits should be set on the number of ports where sheep are offloaded. Ports should be rated under a risk matrix related to historical climatic conditions during the high risk season, with the order of port delivery to then be dictated by this risk matrix.
“If these conditions cannot be met, air conditioning systems including but not limited to de-humidifiers must be fitted to live export vessels.
“If live export vessels do not meet animal welfare standards, exporters should have their export licences suspended during this high-risk period.”
Mr York said Western Australia represented 85 per cent of the national live sheep export trade, and that cessation of the trade would be devastating to the Western Australian agricultural economy.
“While we recognise that implementation of these recommendations will involve an increase in costs along the supply chain, this is preferred outcome for industry given the alternative,” he said.
“A ban on live sheep exports would be deeply detrimental in terms of lost revenue to Western Australian producers, with between $80 and $150 million being lost per annum.
“We urge the decision-makers to recognise the importance of this trade to the local and national economy, and to put these recommendations in place so that the future of the industry can be safeguarded.”
Mr York said the organisation would welcome industry consultation on these recommendations, and would be happy to be guided by the most recent research findings and scientific evidence.
All media requests must be directed to WAFarmers Media and Communications Officer Melanie Dunn on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].