The federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says it’s “bulls––t” that sheep continue to die at sea on live export ships.
His comments came after animal activists presented him with footage from a ship that he says left him “shocked and gutted”.
The incident relates to a shipment of almost 64,000 sheep sent from Fremantle in Western Australia to the Middle East in August last year.
About 2400 sheep died from heat stress, which is almost double the industry standard.
“I’ve seen that footage and I was absolutely shocked and gutted,” Mr Littleproud said.
“This is the livelihoods of Australian farmers that are on that ship.
“That is their pride and joy and it’s just total bullshit that what I saw is taking place.”
Watch: Agriculture Minister slams live export sheep deaths
The Department of Agriculture released a report on the incident last week, but Mr Littleproud said he only saw footage of the sheep yesterday.
He praised Animals Australia for showing him the vision.
“This cannot go on,” the minister said.
“If you are doing the wrong thing you are going to get nailed.
“We saw sheep that basically died from a heat event that were left and decayed, that were unable to get to water and food, and it disturbs me greatly that this has happened.”
Emanuel Exports was the exporter responsible for the consignment.
Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes has obtained exclusive rights to the footage.
Animals Australia declined to comment further, other than to say the vision would “shock farmers and the community”.
“This announcement by the minister speaks to the seriousness of this situation and the strength of the evidence provided to the government,” the activist group said.
Exporter labels the deaths as ‘devastating’
The shipment encountered extreme heat and humidity in Doha.
Emanuel Exports’ Graham Daws said the incident had prompted the company to change its protocols.
“High mortality incidents like that which occurred in August 2017 on the Awassi Express are devastating,” he said.
“Emanuel Exports has taken steps over more than six months to address the issues arising from our own extensive review of the voyage and the findings from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources investigation.
“This includes reduced stocking rates in summer up to 15 per cent beyond the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) benchmark.”
Last year in a different matter, a Federal Department of Agriculture investigation into an Emanuel Exports shipment found it had no way of knowing how many sheep died on a livestock ship to the Middle East in July 2016.
In that incident, Emanuel Exports sent more than 69,000 sheep from Fremantle to the Middle East and an investigation was triggered when it was revealed more than 2 per cent of the sheep died on board from heat stress.
After the most recent incident, the department is considering a revised heat management plan for sheep exported to the Middle East during the hottest months of the year — July and August.
Those changes are expected to be implemented this year.
The Australian Live Exporters’ Council said it had viewed the footage and described it as “highly distressing”.
Chief executive Simon Westaway said the industry needed to do more to prevent sheep deaths during summer in the northern hemisphere.
“Even if the circumstances can be explained, these deaths are plainly unacceptable,” he said.
“We’re committed to further reform and ongoing improvement in terms of animal welfare in our $250 million live sheep trade.”