Live Animal Exports from Australia to Egypt Must Stop

Live-export furyNarelle Towie Environment Reporter

24 October 2010

Sunday Times (Perth)

Inquiry reveals cattle cruelty at sea

ALMOST 300 cattle that perished on a live-export voyage from Fremantle to Egypt suffered a slow, cruel death, a Federal Government inquiry has found.

During 22 days at sea about 7400 cattle on the lower decks of Wellard Rural Export’s MV Ocean Shearer were “panting and gasping” for air and suffering from heat stress while standing in their own excrement, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service report says.

Seventeen animals were too decomposed to determine death and some cattle had to be treated for lameness, infections and stomach problems.

Some of the animals were in such bad condition they were slumped on the deck or hunched over and drooling. Others were agitated and panting.

The investigation was launched after nearly 300 cattle out of 16,460 died on the voyage in February.

More than 360 sheep out of 40,282 also perished on the same trip, which continued to Qatar, but because the number was below 1 per cent of deaths the sheep incidents were not investigated.

 The cattle that suffered most were kept in enclosed lower-level compartments that, after 10 days, were given the worst possible condition ranking.

The report, released this week, stated: “Mortalities for the first few days were low and started to rise on day five of the voyage as deck temperatures and humidity increased. The main cause of cattle mortality was reported to be pneumonia.”

Several factors were found to have contributed to the pneumonia, including heat stress, deck conditions, lack of crew, infectious pathogens and breed.

 Twenty-five animals had to be euthanased in the last three days of the voyage.

The animals were the first to be exported to Egypt since a ban was imposed in 2006.

Animal activists have condemned conditions on the ship, calling the live-export trade cruel and demanding that a ban be reintroduced.

“The formal report confirms the absolutely squalid and horrid conditions that these cattle endured,” Animals Australia director Glenys Oogjes said. “This tragedy is just another in a long line of similar tragedies when you send live animals to the other side of the world. The live-export profit motive overshadows any care and proper concern for the animals.”

 “The trade is inherently risky. No amount of PR can protect Australian animals once they step foot on a ship.”

 Wellard Rural Export managing director Steve Meerwald said the incident was  “disappointing” but isolated. The result for the cattle on this particular voyage is particularly disappointing for Wellard, which ships sheep and cattle week in, week out from ports all around Australia without incident,” Mr Meerwald said.

He said that in 2009, 99.9 per cent of Australian cattle arrived fit and healthy at their destination.

Federal Fremantle MP Melissa Park said: “Live export is inhumane and it also has a detrimental effect on the local meat-processing industry, affecting jobs and the economy. It makes no economic sense to continue with the live-export trade when a high-value alternative exists.”

 Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service recommended special conditions be placed on consignments of cattle exported through the Middle East or North Africa by Wellard Exports.

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