Northern summer ban still best option for live sheep trade

Hon. Diane Evers MLC (left) with the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance’s Jane Fuchsbichler.

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Greens (WA) agriculture spokesman Diane Evers says a ban on live sheep exports to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer is still the party’s preferred option to limit the number of animal deaths on export vessels.

“Short of ending the trade altogether, a more pragmatic fix would be to halt live exports during the northern summer, so that stock are not conveyed during sweltry, suffocating climes,” she said.

Ms Evers made the call in the wake of a review of the trade by livestock vet Michael McCarthy, commissioned by Federal Agriculture minister David Littleproud.

Released on Wednesday, the 23 recommendations of the review included a reduction in stocking density of up to 28 per cent for voyages during the hottest part of the year, and harsh new penalties for exporters who continue to flout the law, with jail terms of up to 10 years for company directors and individuals.

Fines ranging between $420,000 for individuals and $4.2 million for companies will also be included in legislation to be introduced in coming weeks.

“Sadly, the review did not recommend an end to shipping in the summer months,” Ms Evers said.

“Instead, it said any voyage with a mortality rate of more than one per cent will be investigated by the independent regulator, while all sheep and cattle ships will have an independent observer on board feeding back vision and reports to the regulator on a daily basis.”

Ms Evers said it was of concern that the recommendation for reduced densities needed more refinement.

Dr McCarthy indicated his new stocking density model required further modelling, given densities could be reduced from anywhere between 19 to 79 per cent. The economic impact of this on the trade also has yet to be examined, but it’s understood it will be part of future modelling.

“If densities are to be reduced, they need to be done as a matter of urgency,” Ms Evers said.

Ms Evers said the Greens acknowledge the flow-on effects of the export trade to farmers, associated industries and communities which rely on this income.

“But we are of the opinion that the livestock export industry is in immediate need of restructure. We need a plan with time-based measurable goals to transition the industry to a more humane and sustainable model where farmers’ livelihoods are secure,” she said.

Ms Evers said she would support moves by WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan for the state to go it alone in restricting live sheep exports in the northern summer months, irrespective of the results of the review.

WA has already sought legal advice on whether it could impose its own decisions on live sheep exports from WA ports.

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