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WA government supports decision to suspend livestock shipping company's licence

WA government supports decision to suspend livestock shipping company's licence article image

The West Australian government is supporting the federal government's decision to suspend an embattled livestock shipping company's licence.

Australia's largest live sheep exporter Emanuel Exports had its export licence suspended by the Agriculture Department last week.

The WA government is conducting a separate investigation into Emanuel under its own animal welfare laws. State authorities executed a search warrant to obtain the conditions of its export licence, among other documents.

The WA government is also investigating the possibility of laying criminal charges against the company under the state's Animal Welfare Act.

About 600,000 sheep were exported from Australia, primarily WA, from June to September last year.

The licence suspension follows the release of pictures earlier this year of dead and heat-stressed sheep aboard an Emanuel Exports shipment to the Middle East. The footage sparked public outrage and led to a government inquiry into the live export trade.

Health and welfare of animals

"The laws that regulate the export of livestock include strict requirements to ensure the health and welfare of animals," the Agriculture Department said in a statement.

"It is the responsibility of each exporter to ensure it meets those obligations. The department takes those responsibilities very seriously.

"It is not appropriate for the department to provide more information while the investigation is ongoing.

"Further information will be released following a full review."

The company said in a statement on Friday night: "Emanuel Exports will cooperate fully with the Department in its review."

It said it exported "well in excess of one million sheep per year to the Middle East".

Alternative markets

In a statement at the weekend, WA's Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said: "It was always going to be unsustainable to allow ships to go to the Middle East in the northern high summer months. The federal government's decision reflects that reality."

Ms MacTiernan said efforts are now being made to find alternative markets to supply meat to the Middle East. This includes working with meat processors and the merit of chilled and boxed meat exports.

The Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) told the ABC it was still absorbing the announcement and its implications for the $250-million-a-year industry.

ALEC CEO Simon Westaway said Emanuel Exports was working with regulators to determine what it could do to get the suspension lifted.

The news is the second body blow this week for the industry.

Last week, another major live exporter, Livestock Shipping Services, said it would redirect ships to South America while it reviewed the commercial viability of operations in Australia.

This follows proposed new rules which would reduce the number of sheep on ships by 28 per cent.

Highest standards

It's estimated LSS and Emanuel account for two-thirds of Australia's live trade to the Middle East.

WA Premier Mark McGowan told reporters in Perth at the weekend he supported "the highest standards of animal welfare".

"The images we've seen on a few occasions have been unacceptable to me and the vast majority of Australians, and if agencies are enforcing high standards, well that's a good thing," he said.

The Department of Agriculture said Emanuel’s export licence has been suspended "pending a full review of the company's response to a show cause notice". It is understood the company responded with a 30-page statement. 

The company has agreed to co-operate with authorities.

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