The standards for the export of livestock are very clear in requiring exporters to ensure the health and welfare of animals in their care at every stage of the export chain.
This includes a requirement to have an accredited veterinarian and an accredited stockman on board—who are responsible for managing and reporting on the health and welfare of animals on the voyage.
Their expertise is critical in assessing and ensuring animal health and welfare.
In regulating the live sheep trade, the department has used above 2% mortality rates in consignments as the trigger for initiating a review of the preparation and management of sheep during voyages.
The purpose of the review is to establish whether there were problems in the preparation, selection or management of the consignment prior to export, or if disease or other factors caused high mortalities during the voyage.
Mortality report assessments have focused on identifying the causes of mortality and mitigating those risks on future voyages. This system has seen the average mortality rates of exported animals fall over the past six years.
The release of live export footage this week on a series of voyages clearly demonstrates that mortality events are only one indicator of welfare outcomes on board a vessel.
The department takes this information very seriously and is working to immediately ensure that the welfare of exported animals is protected to the full extent of the law.
The department welcomes the review into the capability, powers and culture of the department as a regulator of the trade, announced today by Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud.
The department is also prescribing
high standards for the transport of sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer.
In addition, a comprehensive review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) commenced in February this year, which will examine the long-term legislative requirements required to ensure animal health and welfare on all voyages.
The department has a national hotline available to the public in response to this incident - phone 1800 234 002 (Monday to Friday, 8 am – 8 pm).