Industry keen to continue

23 Jan, 2014 01:00 AM
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WAFarmers president Dale Park said every incident like this made the live export industry more fragile.
The Department of Agriculture has found that everything was done correctly.
WAFarmers president Dale Park said every incident like this made the live export industry more fragile.

PRODUCERS and industry stakeholders are concerned that continued animal welfare incidents are damaging the live shipping trade.

The industry is in the spotlight again following news of the death of more than 4000 sheep on board a live export vessel in September 2013.

In its report on the incident the Department of Agriculture indicated heat stress as the major cause of death of the animals and cleared the export company of any animal welfare breach.

While most producers have come out in support of the exporter involved in the incident, others have condemned the incident as preventable and unacceptable.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam was confident LSS was not at fault and said it could have happened to any exporter shipping to that region.

"The Department of Agriculture has found that everything was done correctly," he said.

"The trip was no different to the shipment previous.

"Unfortunately they ran into one particular day with extreme weather conditions which resulted in a bad situation."

Mr Gillam also condemned the comments made by Northern Territory Cattleman's Association executive director Luke Bowen.

Mr Bowen told ABC radio that if LSS was shown to have broken the rules, they need to throw the book at them.

"I doubt Mr Bowen would be making those same remarks had it been a Northern Territory exporter – the comments he made were ill-advised," Mr Gillam said.

"I do not believe there is an issue with LSS, they have done nothing wrong.

"Now all we can do is use our best endeavours to make sure this doesn't happen again."

WAFarmers president Dale Park said every incident like this made the live export industry more fragile than it should be and cautioned exporters to remain diligent when adhering to regulations.

"We all need to be more careful, we need to know what is going on at all times," Mr Park said.

"Maybe there needs to be more monitoring while the ships are at sea.

"I understand the ventilation on the older ships isn't as good as what is fitted on the newer ones which could be an issue."

He suggested there may be a need for more research into the suitability of ventilation standards across the industry.

WA Live Exporters Association (WALEA) chairman Nicholas Daws said it was disappointing for the whole industry when things like this occurred.

He said most participants understood everyone had been working extremely hard for improved animal welfare outcomes over the last few years.

"Which is why issues that happen that are beyond our control are so disappointing," he said.

Mr Daws said every business had its own set of risks and industry had developed a raft of strategies to mitigate any risk of operating in a northern summer.

"On this occasion the extreme conditions overtook the actions taken," he said.

"The records show that we have been extremely successful and have a record of improvement in heat stress incidents over the years.

"There are very few export companies operating in that part of the world which would have not experienced similar incidents in the past."

Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) chairman Peter Kane said the incident was most unfortunate.

"When there's an event that results in a large number – or even a small number – of animals dying, it hurts us all, especially at a time when we're working so hard to achieve the best possible welfare outcomes," Mr Kane said.

He said the incident was upsetting both to him personally and to ALEC's exporter members.

Toodyay farmer John Martin said he was very concerned about the impact the incident would have on the industry.

He said LSS should have its license revoked.

"As far as I am concerned it doesn't deserve to have an export license," he said.

"That is solely based on what has been happening lately.

"The five most recent live export incidents have been from this company."

Mr Martin said although losing a major exporting company would affect WA producers in the short term, the long-term damage from these incidents could be devastating.

"As producers we do everything to look after our stock and we want them looked after on the boat," he said.

"We also want our industry looked after and LSS isn't doing that."

Don Hoare, Balfour Downs station, defended the exporter and said the entire industry had done a brilliant job so far in getting as far as they had with animal welfare.

He admitted there had been a few problems but said all in all everyone was working towards a better outcome.

"LSS is shipping to the Middle East, one of the toughest and most politically unstable markets in the world," Mr Hoare said.

"It is doing a good job considering.

"This incident was unfortunate but it was unavoidable, these things happen from time to time when you are dealing with nature and animals."

Mr Hoare said calls for the exporter to be punished because of this incident were harsh.

"Do they stop people sailing on ships because they sink every now and then," he said.

"Just recently thousands of sheep have died from floods and fires, are we going to tell those producers they aren't allowed to run sheep any more?

"Losing 4000 sheep is penalty enough for LSS."

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