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Review of live exports likely following sheep deaths at sea

Review of live exports likely following sheep deaths at sea article image

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will order a review of current live export regulations following the deaths of thousands of sheep during on route to the Middle East last year.

However, the Minister has ruled out any “knee-jerk” reaction which could damage or shut down Australia’s live export trade.

This follows the release of footage showing sheep dying of heat stress on live export ships.

An Agriculture Department report has confirmed 2,400 sheep died from heat stress on route from Fremantle to the Middle East.

Mr Littleproud said he was "shocked and gutted" by the footage sparking industry fees that the incident may lead to the tightening or regulations or at worst a total ban.

But In a statement, Mr Littleproud said he supported farmers and exporters who did the right thing.

He added: "I will not be afraid to call out and take strong action against those who have not fulfilled their responsibilities."

Regulations ‘need strengthening’ 

Shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon welcomed Mr Littleproud's response.

"I am confident that he will take a much different approach than Barnaby Joyce," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

However, Mr Fitzgibbon said he wanted to work with the Federal Government to tighten regulations.

"I think probably we need to strengthen it. It appears the sanctions and penalties currently imposed aren't sufficient disincentives for people to break the rules," he said.

WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook told ABC News that despite the distressing nature of these incidents, they did not reflect the standards of the wider live export industry.

Some people committed to shutting the industry down

Mr Seabrook said the release of the footage was motivated by activists intent on shutting the industry down.

"There are a group of people totally committed to shutting the industry down, they don't give a damn about the impact it might have throughout the whole length and depth of northern Australia," Mr Seabrook said.

"There's nobody in rural Australia that deals with sheep and cattle that wants to see this sort of thing happen but what does need to be recognised is that we stand like a beacon in the darkness when it comes down to animal welfare standards, especially live export.”

In 2011, the then Labor government announced a ban on cattle exports to Indonesia after footage was aired on Four Corners of mistreatment of Australian live export cattle.

Careful and measured approach needed

Mr Seabrook hoped the current Government would not have such a "knee-jerk" reaction this time around.

"We need a careful and measured approach here and we need to find a solution to the problem that works for everybody," he said.

"The implications to all Australians in the livestock industry are absolutely huge; we just need to make damn certain the system is improved to the point where exporters do not put stock in a situation where this can happen again."

The Australian Livestock Exporters' Council's chief executive Simon Westaway told the ABC  the industry does adhere to strict standards, but there were some issues that need to be addressed. 

He said they have been put those to a review into transport logistics for live exports.

"We've called for a number of important sensible changes, such as increasing weight limits of sheep and goats on ships and planes and also looking at standards that can be sensibly address to improve animal welfare outcomes and improve the performance of the trade," Mr Westaway said.

"We are on the record saying that we would be happy to see some national guidelines in place around animal welfare so we get more consistency across the country."

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