We’ve reviewed live sheep exports to, or through, the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer. The review assessed the effectiveness of regulation for exports during the Northern Hemisphere summer (1 May to 31 October).
We introduced temporary restrictions during 1 May to 31 October 2019. This was pending the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) process. The RIS process reviewed policy options for the live sheep export trade.
In 2020 we implemented prohibition periods and more export conditions. The Export Control Act 2020 (the Act) and associated legislation continued these conditions. The Act took effect from 28 March 2021.
- studied animal welfare outcomes on ships during the Northern Hemisphere summer period from 2019 to 2021
- studied the effectiveness of regulation in lowering the risk of heat stress in sheep
- gave us the opportunity to review new science and research.
What we’ve done
We released a draft report on 17 December 2021. We invited public consultation and received nearly 700 submissions. Consultation closed on 28 January 2022.
We conducted more stakeholder engagement on the review due to the:
- high level of interest
- complexity of the issue
- important implications for animal welfare.
We met with:
- animal welfare organisations
- sheep producers
- industry representatives.
As well as information provided during public consultation, we considered:
- updated climatology information from the Bureau of Meteorology
- onboard data from the voyages that occurred during the review period
- other relevant science on heat stress in livestock.
Interim measures for 2022
We updated the Export Control (Animals) Rules 2021 on 5 April 2022 for May and June export conditions, to manage heat stress risks pending finalisation of the review. This gave industry time to prepare for the start of the 2022 Northern Hemisphere summer.
We based these changes on updated climatology data. Data indicated a greater heat stress risk than previously known for sheep travelling to parts of the Persian Gulf in late May. It also indicated a reduced risk for voyages to, or through, the Red Sea during early June.
The key changes made were:
- sheep sea exports from Australia to the Persian Gulf must meet extra heat stress risk mitigation standards. This applies for ships leaving Australia between 22 May and 31 May. These destinations include Qatar but not Oman and Kuwait
- sheep exports to, or through, the Red Sea can now occur from 1 to 14 June. Export during this period was not allowed before.
Additional conditions included measures to:
- improve heat tolerance of sheep, such as shorter wool or hair length and maximum weight limits
- lower the deck wet bulb temperatures, such as minimum pen air turnover rates and increased pen space allocation.
Review recommendations and next steps
The Northern Hemisphere summer review is now complete.
The review makes several recommendations to improve or maintain animal welfare. These include:
- sheep should be fed a minimum of 3% of their liveweight daily while on vessels travelling to, or through, the Middle East during the non-prohibited periods of the Northern Hemisphere summer
- each vessel exporting sheep must deploy a minimum of 1 data logger on the bridge to record ambient wet bulb temperature.
We’ll implement these recommendations. They’re in addition to the requirement for environmental recording on decks holding sheep under current rules.
The review makes several recommendations to reduce the prohibition period during the Northern Hemisphere summer to certain destinations where heat stress risks are less than previously understood. These recommendations will not be implemented.
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Submissions to the draft report where permission to publish was given can be viewed on our Have Your Say webpage.
GPO Box 858, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia