OPINION: Case grows stronger for a temporary ban on live animal exports

More images have surfaced, and they show in even more graphic detail the absolutely hellish conditions these animals died in. But they also show the plight of the crew who were left to - literally - clean up the stinking mess.

OPINION: By EDITORIAL -- SYDNEY MORNING HERALD on MAY 7, 2018 | The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia.
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When video footage emerged a couple of weeks ago of the appalling deaths of Australian sheep while en route to the Middle East, it triggered widespread community outrage and sparked a growing wave of calls for a ban to live animal exports.

Now, more images have surfaced from the same journey, and they show in even more graphic detail the absolutely hellish conditions these animals died in. But they also show the plight of the crew who were left to - literally - clean up the stinking mess.

The footage, filmed last August by a whistleblower and provided to Animals Australia, shows sheep carcasses disintegrating in the hands of workers. The men wear gumboots but no protective gear, standing in a deep slurry of animal waste.

Our reporter Latika Bourke spoke to former live export vet Lynne Simpson, who said the state of the carcasses showed the extreme heat the sheep endured before being "boiled to death".

The ship workers were at risk of contracting salmonella, ringworm and a scabbing condition and Ms Simpson said the foul conditions meant the crew were at high risk of back injury from lifting heavy animals while trying to "stand as far back as they possibly can".

She said the crew would also be exposed to unsafe levels of ammonia. While the focus so far has been on the animals, the workers tasked with crewing these ships also endure these hellish journeys.

The Maritime Union of Australia said it was shocking that workers should be forced to work in such conditions.

"This new footage is a terrifying reminder of what life can be like at sea when workers have no rights. It's a living hell," the union said.

The MUA wants a temporary ban on the trade while the industry ponders its future.

The RSPCA has also called for a temporary ban from May to October, summer in the northern hemisphere. Animals Australia and other animal welfare groups and the Greens want a permanent ban on live trade.

Labor this week said it was convinced the trade could not be fixed and pledged to phase out live exports for good if it wins the next election.

And two government MPs, Victorians Sussan Ley and Jason Wood have also backed a total ban and Ms Ley has said she will introduce a private members bill for a ban into the lower house.

Following the original airing of the footage, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud ordered a review of both the trade itself and his department's handling of it. That report is due soon.

While both the Prime Minister and Mr Littleproud have warned against a kneejerk reaction on introducing a ban, there is clearly a mood for change in the air.

Even the National Farmers Federation has said it was open to a summer halt in the live export trade, saying it would consider a policy that would delay 60 ships a year, affecting 3 million sheep.

It is important to wait to see what the experts have to say. But even before their report is handed down, it seems clear that something must be done, and done quickly to prevent these sorts of horrors from happening again.

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