DUBAI: Australian sheep are still being sold and brutally slaughtered at a notorious livestock market in Kuwait – in breach of live export regulations – despite Animals Australia notifying the Federal Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) five months ago.
A second formal complaint was lodged with the Department last week.
“We were shocked to see that the number of merchants selling Australian sheep at this cruel market has only increased. The exporter continues to blatantly disregard their legal obligation to ensure sheep are kept within approved supply chains,” said Animals Australia Campaign Director Lyn White.
At least 11 separate merchants were found to be selling Australian sheep at Al Rai last month. Many were being kept in outdoor pens with no access to shade, food or water. Other larger groups were confined indoors, in complete darkness, to restrict the ability to photograph them. Many of the merchants at the market offered slaughter onsite as an ’after sales’ service.
“The only notable change since the previous complaint in 2012 is that Australian sheep are now having their ear tags ripped out in what we can only assume is a deliberate attempt to rort the system. What merchants have failed to take into account is that Australian merinos are unique and easily distinguishable from other sheep in the region.”
Animals Australia has conducted a number of investigations at the notoriously cruel Al Rai livestock market in Kuwait city, each time documenting the brutal handling, transport and slaughter of Australian sheep.
“If there was one market that exporters should have been monitoring in the Middle East, it is Al Rai. The fact they have failed to do so, even after breaches were identified, shows how little they care and how prepared they are to flout the rules.
“This ongoing situation demands the strongest possible sanctions from DAFF. It is time to let exporters know that if protecting animals from cruelty is not enough to motivate compliance, then failing to do so will lead to severe repercussions.
“Preventing Australian sheep from being sold in such circumstances was a cornerstone of why ESCAS was implemented. If exporters are not prepared to comply with the new regulations, they should have their export licence removed.”
Animals Australia says it is unacceptable that investigations into ESCAS breaches are taking so long.
“During the five months since we first alerted DAFF to breaches in Kuwait, thousands of Australian sheep have continued to be sold and slaughtered in breach of regulations. If AQIS needs additional resources to allow them to investigate expediently – then they should be urgently provided with them.”
Background on Live Export
Live export from Brazil and Australia to the Islamic world is a controversial practice that sees thousands of animals crammed into small crates and transported by sea to their destination to be slaughtered for food.
Last year, some 3,000 of the cows died on a ship destined for Egypt after the Egyptian government refused to allow the ship to dock at a Red Sea port.
They were slaughtered as a “precaution,” the ministry said, outraging a number of Egyptians.
Animals Australia, the leading organization reporting on the controversial live export trade to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, said the incident was among the worst the industry had witnessed in years.
Animals Australia’s Campaign Director, Lyn White, said in a statement to Bikyanews.com that the ship was anchored at sea after being refused port in a number of countries, including Egypt, where the cattle were supposed to be offloaded.
It’s understood that ventilation problems on the converted livestock vessel, the MV Gracia Del Mar, had caused the deaths of more than half of the animals on board since the ship left South America for Egypt a few weeks ago. The ship was anchored in the Red Sea for weeks and saw more animals perish as a result.
“This is nothing short of an animal welfare disaster. If remaining cattle are not offloaded more of these animals will suffer appalling deaths at sea. We are appealing to authorities in Egypt to offload the remaining cattle at al-Sohkna, as was originally intended.
“This disaster is just another example of the inherent risks of transporting animals by sea. It was only nine years ago that 5,000 Australian sheep perished on board the MV Cormo Express after country after country refused to allow it to berth.
“And this isn’t the first time that mechanical issues have caused mass deaths on live export ships. We only need to look to the breakdown of the Al Messilah in Adelaide last year. Had that vessel broken down on the open ocean it would have caused a similar welfare catastrophe — as thousands of animals would have died.
“Australia also exports cattle to Al Sohkna Livestock company in Egypt. Whilst we have an MoU with Egypt which should ensure the offloading of our animals, it has never been put to the test. The Egyptians thus far have flatly refused to allow the MV Gracia Del Mar to dock despite the mass suffering of the animals on board.
“If they continue to refuse to allow the surviving animals to be unloaded it would provide little confidence that the non-binding agreement with Australia would be honored if a similar incident were to occur on an Australian livestock ship.
“It should not matter if these cattle aren’t Australian and if Brazil doesn’t have a similar piece of paper, they should not be abandoned to suffer and die at sea. We are appealing to Egyptian authorities to offload these cattle as a matter of urgency.”
Australia’s live sheep exports have fallen significantly over the past decade.
In 2010, three million sheep were exported compared with 6.3 million in 2001.
Australia’s government last year was to see a bill that would have banned live export to the world, but industry lobbyists fought back and forced the legislation off the table in a move that angered animal activists in the country and across the world, notably the Islamic world, which receives the lion’s share of live cattle and sheep from both Australia and Brazil.