PETA calls for live animal exports ban as horrific sheep cruelty exposed

Thousands of sheep are packed onboard the vessels. Source: Channel 9/60 Minutes.

Animal rights group PETA has called for an urgent end to “cruel” live animal exports during the hottest months of the year, after shocking and “heartbreaking” footage exposed the conditions experienced by thousands of sheep on livestock vessels.

Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes aired footage on Sunday night, taken onboard a livestock carrier, showing sheep packed onboard for three weeks, and dying from heat stress and “terrible” living conditions.

Brave young trainee navigator Faisal Ullah blew the whistle on the horrific conditions after recording secret videos onboard the giant livestock carrier, Awassi Express.

“Once I was on board the ship, and when I saw the animal’s condition on board, it was just, I mean, terrible inside,” Ullah said on the show.

Animal welfare group Animals Australia worked with 60 Minutes to expose the horrific conditions the sheep were subjected to while onboard the carrier. 

Video footage showed the sheep stacked up to 10 storeys high and forced to stay standing for three weeks, with many not surviving the journey. Once in the Middle East, the heat onboard was staggering – and one voyage recorded 880 sheep dying in just one day from heat stress. Ullah added: “It is the same as putting animals into the oven. I mean, you are just putting live animals into the oven.”

As well as breaking Australian export regulations and animal cruelty laws, the videos have thrown into question the entire industry’s protocols.

Read more: Let’s talk: Should you break into a stranger’s car to rescue an animal?

Now PETA has called for people to sign a petition, calling for a ban on live exports in the hottest months. The online form reads: “Millions of animals are crammed onto filthy cargo ships every year, bound for the Middle East on journeys that may take weeks, sometimes in searing heat.

“More than 2.5 million animals have been trampled to death or died from dehydration, starvation or disease on these gruelling voyages. Thirty sheep and cattle died recently when the ship carrying them was stranded for a week in Fremantle port.”

It concludes: “Please, reduce the suffering of these gentle, intelligent beings by stopping ships exporting live animals from travelling during the hottest months of the year.”

Leading animal welfare scientist Professor Clive Phillips told 60 Minutes of his distress at watching the animals appear to “give up and die”, and added: “It’s a behaviour I’d read about, I’d never actually seen it. It is deliberate cruelty because the exporters know what the animals may face during the voyage.”

Export regulations state “any sick or injured livestock be given immediate treatment and be killed humanely where euthanasia is necessary”. However, a vet onboard the ship couldn’t keep up with the amount of animals needing attention due to the conditions.

Meanwhile, regulations also state no pregnant sheep should be loaded onboard – but the footage revealed some sheep were giving birth, before crew slit the throats of the lambs and threw them overboard.

“I have seen a lot of really young lambs died,” Ullah added. “They’ve been crushed under the feet of other animals. It’s so distressing. They just go over the side [of the vessel].”

However, the show claims the live export sheep trade earns Australia an average of $250 million a year – proving a huge source of income not only for farmers, but the country as a whole.

Read more: Let’s Talk: Is this animal cruelty or just plain fun?

When approached for comment, Chief Executive of the Australian Live Exporters Council, Simon Westaway, defended the industry and said: “Reality is Australia actually has the best standards in the world when it comes to livestock exports and movement of livestock by transport.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has since declared that the Live Export industry will face an investigation and potential ban. He told the show: “No one’s beyond reproach in this and I don’t give a rats. I’m going to go and make sure the sun shines on in this. It’s too important to us to not get this right.”

He said the footage left him “shocked to the core”, and told the Today Show on Monday: “I received a report that basically said this shipment met all the standards. I had some serious concerns about that and asked them immediately to give me a brief about whether their actions were satisfactory. I’m still reviewing that brief.

“I intend to make sure that we’re a fair country and that everyone gets a fair go but the reality is… if standards haven’t been breached here today, then really, the standards aren’t good enough.

“If they’re not I intend to work collaboratively – I’m meeting with Animals Australis and the RSPCA and industry today to get a way forward.”

Emanuel Exports is run by Graham Daws, and responding to the footage, he has since confirmed less sheep will be transported on the vessels. The Live Exporters Council also signalled it will make urgent improvements.

Do you think live animal exports should be banned?

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