It comes after footage on Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program showed hundreds of sheep dying in extreme heat and filth aboard numerous ships from Australia to the Middle East, with two of the vessels loaded at Port Adelaide.
“Based on current evidence, the federal government must now exercise its legal and moral duty to permanently stop issuing permits for the export of live sheep to the Middle East,” RSPCA spokeswoman Rebekah Eyers said today.
The video, filmed by a navigation officer aboard multiple voyages, shows dozens of distressed sheep struggling to breathe while dead animals are thrown over the side of the boat.
Some of the footage allegedly came from a voyage by market giant Emanuel Experts, which is now the focus of a potential blockade.
Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said he was “shocked and deeply disturbed” by the vision.
“This is the livelihood of Australian farmers that are on that ship – that’s their pride and joy,” he said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
An Emanuel Exports ship carrying 65,000 live sheep and 250 cattle to the Middle East will be blocked from leaving Australia on Tuesday if the export company fails to meet strict new conditions.
The Agriculture Department wants the amount of stock on the ship to be reduced, and independently gathered video and photographs of conditions sent to the department every day after it sets sail.
The minister resisted calls from political opponents for a renewed ban on live exports, noting it would primarily punish farmers and exporters who had done nothing wrong.
South Australian Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said he had spoken to Littleproud about the 60 Minutes footage, which he described as “distressing”.
However, he cautioned against “kneejerk reactions”.
“Those exports are critically important to our economy,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide. “You have to make sure that that economy is underpinned by good regulatory requirements, particularly with livestock. Live shipping sheep and cattle has been around for 150 years … that visual experience that people have seen on TV last night was totally unacceptable.”
However, Eyers said the economic case for continuing live exports didn’t stack up.
“Most of the farmers who are sending the sheep from South Australia have other sources of income, they could transition over to … killing those animals on shore, under our own regulation here and then sending that meat chilled,” she said.
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