Progress for Live Sheep shipments

30 Mar, 2005 08:45 PM
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A MEMORANDUM of Understanding (MOU) signed between Australia and Kuwait represents the second bilateral agreement covering the live animal trade to the Middle East.

Following the signing of a MoU with the United Arab Emirates in December 2004.

Mr Truss said the MoU sets out the procedures that are to be followed regarding the live export trade, including arrangements to unload animals into a quarantine facility if a problem arises with a shipment on arrival.

"Kuwait is Australia's largest Middle Eastern market for live sheep, taking more than 1.1 million head, worth over $76 million in 2004." Mr Truss said.

"Australia is a world leader in animal welfare, and the MoUs are an important part of a broader strategy to further improve animal welfare arrangements along the export chain from the on-farm preparation right through to their unloading at the port of destination,

"The community expects the livestock trade to be conducted in a humane way. The Australian Government has indicated by recent actions how serious it is to ensure community concerns are addressed,

"Progress is being made on finalizing MoUs with other countries in the Middle East, and I look forward to maintaining the impetus when I visit the region for bilateral agricultural trade discussions next month."

Mr Truss said sheep mortalities had declined from 1.34 per cent in 1999 to 1.05 per cent in the year ended 30 June 2004. Cattle mortalities also declined over the same period from 0.34 per cent of stock shipped to 0.09 per cent in 2004.

A spokesperson for Minister Truss said that final negotiations were still taking place for the signing of an MoU with Saudi Arabia and this would still needed to go through parliament before the trade could recommence.

However the spokesperson said that they were hoping to make an announcement soon.

Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett has questioned the governments decision to sign an MoU with Kuwait and the proposed signing of a MoU with Saudi Arabia following claims in the Weekend Australian which said the government knew there had been fraudulent under reporting of the numbers of deaths on livestock vessels since 2001 but had remained silent.

"The live animal export industry, with the Government's knowledge, is under-reporting deaths and disease." Mr Bartlett said.

Mr Bartlett said the government should not be trying to restart the live sheep trade to Saudi Arabia when they can give no credible assurances that the underreporting of the secrecy surrounding death and disease amongst the animals will not recur, with the same likelihood of more rejected shipments and more animal suffering.

"Given that the death figures are likely to be under-reported, and that the one per cent fatality rate Minister Truss bragged about represents a minimum 11,000 individual mortalities during shipment to Kuwait in 2004 alone, we can assume this year's mortalities will again number in the tens of thousands." Mr Bartlett said.

"The Government is doing nothing to stop large numbers of fatalities but are still cashing in on trade with Kuwait and seeking to trade with Saudi Arabia.

"The Saudis are right to mistrust this Government's ability to deliver healthy sheep after weeks at sea, especially given the industry's track record of deception,

"Minister Truss' reassurances that $4 million has been set aside for progressing 'animal welfare initiatives' are pointless if the industry is allowed to include in those initiatives distortion of true mortality figures, and the Government simply accepts that thousands of animals must die unnecessarily cruel deaths as part of this gruesome trade."

A government spokesman rejected the claims, saying that any time allegations of impropriety in the live export trade arose, it had been investigated.

WA Livestock Exporters Association, chairman, John Edwards said Mr Bartlett was just trying to grandstand on the issue and re-fire the live sheep debate.

He said he did not know where Mr Bartlett was getting his figures from but that mortality rates were of a very credible level in all live export markets.

"Dead sheep are a cost to the industry, nothing is gained by high mortality levels, with every shipment it is in the best interest of exporters to do everything possible to keep sheep mortalities to a minimum." Mr Edwards said.

"Federal inquiries have clearly shown no underreporting has occurred.

"All reporting has been water tight with government enquiries showing accusations of underreporting was incorrect."

Mr Edwards said the signing of a MoU with Kuwait reaffirms the trading relationship that already exists between Australia and Kuwait in the eyes of the government.

He said the MoU was certainly an aid for promoting better animal welfare conditions for live export but that commercial operations were also doing all they could to improve conditions.

Mr Edwards said that WA sheep producers should be confident trade with Saudi Arabia would resume soon.

"Without question, the industry is confident trade will resume, as soon as both countries arrive at a unilateral understanding that in a suspect animal health outcome there will be facilities for sheep to be unloaded. The MoU will act like a safeguard, we will only reopen trade with this agreement in place."

Mr Edwards said the resumption of trade with Saudi Arabia is expected to improve export numbers, however, where the extra sheep will come from could cause a problem with the demographics of the Australian sheep flock now having more ewes and crossbred lambs and less wethers.

"2005 looks rosey, live exports will add value to the young sheep market providing a good opportunity for sheep producers in WA."

"There is a level of optimism in the live sheep trade industry that we haven't seen for a long time."

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COMMENTS

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#blueysmegacarshowandcruise2019 10 years on Daniels Ute will be apart of another massive cause.
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Australia's live animal trade is nothing but a blood stained industry that suits those who