THE Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council has responded to extremely distressing video of live sheep export conditions by proposing a range of steps to strengthen accountability and transparency in the industry.
ALEC CEO Simon Westaway said in a statement on Thursday the on-board conditions filmed were plainly unacceptable.
He said industry was acutely aware the footage, aired on 60 Minutes this evening, shows more needs to be done to reduce risks during voyages to the Arabian Gulf by building on existing welfare practices.
“The regulations provide the framework for mitigating heat stress, managing sick sheep, ensuring access to food, water and ventilation, and the maintenance of dry and appropriately stocked pens,” Mr Westaway said.
“Not only are industry, government, producers and welfare groups already revisiting that framework, we now need to reinforce the independence of the reporting processes to ensure standards are met.”
Exporters will be working with the Federal Government to strengthen transparency and reporting. ALEC will present a range of steps to the Federal Agriculture Minister on Monday as part of its plan, which includes:
- Investigating the reduction in stocking densities for sheep to the Arabian Gulf during high risk periods such as the Northern Hemisphere summer
- More effective monitoring and recording of on-board conditions using technology to support Australian Government Accredited Veterinarians
- Additional independent on-board personnel, as deemed appropriate by the Federal regulator, and auditing of livestock infrastructure including ventilation and drainage
- Strengthening the policies, inputs, regulation and enforcement of the heat stress risk assessment model and its application by industry to better mitigate welfare risks
- Building greater scientific integrity into the way the well-being of livestock on-board is monitored by fast-tracking industry’s research into the development of animal welfare indicators; and
- Additional training and development for on-board vets and stockpersons
“Vets are at the front line of understanding animal welfare issues and risks. It is imperative they be heard,” Mr Westaway said.
He confirmed industry had regularly engaged with vets involved in voyages featured in the Animals Australia video and introduced effective practical measures over recent months based on their advice and experiences.
“Exporters have proven they are willing to embrace a science-based approach to reform, to improve welfare, accountability and alignment with community expectations,” Mr Westaway said.