Map exposes Australia’s shame
EVER since a horrific video showed the sorts of conditions sheep suffer through as they're shipped around the world, Australia's live export industry has been dragged into the spotlight.
But even before the video was released, there have long been murmurs about the live export industry - specifically, if the nation even needs to be doing the brutal trade anymore.
Liberal backbencher Sussan Ley introduced a private members bill earlier this week and has said she's "dead serious" about seeing the industry call it quits over the next five years.
The MP said introducing the bill had nothing to do with aligning herself with either party or the "left or the right".
"I just see it as absolutely the right thing to do. It's a common sense response," she said.
Ms Ley insisted Australia had plenty of options to end the industry with zero negative impacts on farmers who care for the animals before they're shipped off.
Less than six per cent of all of Australia's exported meat is alive - the rest of it is killed here and then shipped across the globe. The nation exports 1.8 million live animals every year, 1.6 million of which comes from Western Australia.
Most animals involved in the live export industry are sent to Middle Eastern countries, the majority of which end up in Kuwait.
Yesterday, Kuwait's Livestock Transport and Trading (Al Mawashi) said Ms Ley's introduction of the legislation to possibly end live exports had left them no choice to shop elsewhere.
"Our trust in Australia as a supplier of sheep to Kuwait has weakened," Al Mawashi CEO Osama Khaled Boodai told a press conference on Wednesday.
Kuwait said it was chatting with South Africa, Sudan and Horn of Africa countries. The nation exported 1.28 million livestock from Australia in 2017.
Ironically, much of the live sheep Australia sends to Kuwait is then processed by them and sent to other Middle Eastern countries including Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
The money Kuwait makes off processing live animals from Australia is something we could be doing here - without the added extra headache of exporting the animals across the world, Ms Ley said.
"Kuwait is using some of the sheep for human consumption but they're also reprocessing a lot of it and sending it around the Middle East. It's a value-adding process that's taking place overseas and not in Australia.
"And yes I understand it's a desert country so it can't farm and does have to import its food product but it effectively wants to be a processor the same way we do.
"It effectively wants an industry in slaughtering and processing meat. It's important we understand the reasoning Kuwait is determined to access our live sheep," she said.
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
The Turnbull Government announced a series of reforms to the $250 million live export industry including more room for sheep on ships and reducing the number of animals aboard.
In a nut shell, the stricter rules are supposed to make sure sheep have access to places to rest, access to adequate food and water and be in a position where they're not going to be exposed to heat stress.
Ms Ley said if exporters do follow these rules to the letter and the regulations are properly enforced, the industry would fall over.
"It's impossible to transport animals humanely over long distances and if the rules were followed, it wouldn't be commercial," she said.
"I watched the industry for years and was reassured many times that the continual litany of disasters are not business as usual but have reluctantly concluded that the industry has no foundation either economically or from an animal welfare point of view."
There are a number of options available to farmers if the live export industry was to completely cease - including keeping the sheep two years longer for their wool or processing them in Australia rather than overseas.
In Senate estimates, the Department of Agriculture said it could have the ability to process an extra two million sheep on Australian shores.
The world is in transition and the industry is at a tipping point, Ms Ley insisted.
Even Kuwait, Australia's biggest live export customer, is exporting less live animals and more chilled carcasses.
"That's a reason why live trade has dropped by two thirds in the last five years because the Middle Eastern markets, who are our main customer, are taking more of our processed meat," Ms Ley said.
Before the Department of Agriculture stepped in as a regulator, exporters were allowed to lose two per cent of their sheep.
This means, on a typical ship of 75,000 sheep, 1500 dying is "OK".
That percentage has now been dropped to one per cent but Ms Ley said, even 750 sheep dying in less than three weeks is not normal.
"Healthy sheep do not die at that rate. You do have losses, I've been a sheep farmer myself and I absolutely get that, but you don't have losses to that extent.
"It shows how poor the legislation is that we would accept 1500 dying in a 15 day period," Ms Ley said.
"We know we can get there, let's do it in the best way possible for our farmers and for our local industries that depend on this trade.
"We're already transitioning so let's do it so we can be in a stronger position than we are now," she said.
- With wires