Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Two Governments Call for Opinions on the Shipment of Live Animal Exports

Abhorrence of Cruel Trade Continues as Shocking Images Revealed
Shipping News Feature
UK – AUSTRALIA – WORLDWIDE – The subject of live animal exports will always be a contentious issue as long as the trade continues. As the British government reveals plans this week to explore an end to the trade by launching an online survey calling for evidence and opinions, so another horror story reaches out from the other side of the world telling of the needless and abject cruelty inflicted on helpless animals making reminiscences of pagan rituals seem almost humane by comparison.

In the UK there is a strong body of opinion that live animal exports is an unnecessary method of dealing with creatures which are simply headed for slaughter elsewhere. With many of the country’s smaller abattoirs closed in the past few years there have already been strenuous objections to animals being transported ever further for slaughter for the domestic market. Now respondents have 6 weeks to put their views on the matter and one can be sure there will be those on both sides of the debate keen to comment.

Whilst the Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths said the Welsh Government backed the ban, citing animal welfare as a predominant factor, the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) said any ban was ‘short sighted’, conjuring up the spectre of ‘EU tariffs of 50%’. No ban can currently be introduced due to European Union rules, a factor which will become irrelevant post Brexit. Environment Secretary Michael Gove pointed out that Britain liked to think of itself as a country with more consideration for animals, saying:

”We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world which we are strengthening further by raising maximum sentences for animal cruelty to five years and introducing mandatory CCTV in abattoirs. All animals deserve to get the respect and care they deserve at every stage of their lives.

”This call for evidence begins to deliver on our manifesto commitment which aims to control the export of live animals for slaughter once we leave the European Union. With all options being considered, I am keen to hear from industry, the devolved authorities and charities on all possible options and evidence on this vital issue.”

In 2015 the government updated the protocols for caring for farm animals and the latest figures available show that in any one year over four thousand sheep alone are transported from the UK to continental Europe for slaughter. British Veterinary Association President John Fishwick commented:

“The BVA welcomes the launch of the government’s call for evidence on live animal exports. We believe that production animals should not be transported long distances to the abattoir but should be slaughtered as near to the point of production as possible. Animals should be transported on the hook, as meat, not on the hoof, as live animals.

“It is vital that we maintain the UK’s current high standards of animal welfare post-Brexit and seek opportunities to improve them. We look forward to contributing to this call and seeing the results once the evidence has been collected.”

Sadly such an attitude does not always exist and a story regarding such voyages between Australia and the Middle East, with vessels capable of carrying up to 125,000 animals, have ended in unspeakable horror, some details of which are just becoming public after film of one of the incidents last August was revealed on the 60 Minutes television programme shown last week.

During the voyage of the Awassi Express around 2,400 sheep died in the most appalling conditions below decks apparently en route to an annual Muslim sacrificial festival. The trade from Australia is principally aimed at Islamic countries which demand halal meat. The shipment, consigned by a company called Emanuel Exports, a firm with 10 employees but a turnover exceeding A$100 million and no website, has prompted the Australian Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to launch an investigation into the trade.

This is no isolated incident. Last year the same company was investigated after over 2% of a consignment of 69,000 sheep died aboard the vessel. In all cases the deaths are normally due to heat exhaustion and the recent film revealed decomposing bodies in pens with still living animals, pregnant ewes birthing, only to witness their offspring dying in enclosures caked with faeces and urine. There are also shots of still living animals simply being cast over the side to drown.

The 60 Minutes show heard 10 years ago from a vet who worked for Emanuel Exports admit he had ‘revised’ paperwork lowering a death toll aboard one of the ships from 2,000 to 105 and in the subsequent years there have been even heavier casualties than those just revealed. Since that original programme there are reports of 6,000 fatalities on the Al Shuwaikh due to heat and disease, 6,000 more on the Corriedale Express when the ventilation system shut down and subsequently a similar total on a voyage of the Cormo Express.

The problems do not stop at sea however. There have been previous suspensions of exports after overseas slaughterhouses have been found to use inhumane methods of despatching livestock, even employing sledgehammers to kill cattle in Vietnam and acts of extreme cruelty in Indonesia.

Despite the Federal action of launching a five week investigation, the pressure from Western Australian farmers is likely to ensure a limited amount of change to current affairs. There is talk of air conditioning ships, perhaps even a moratorium on summer shipments, but the groundswell of world opinion seems to be that support for the practices of an alien culture is not an aim to be pursued, no matter the profits to some.

In 1995 came the tragic death in the UK of animal rights campaigner Jill Phipps, who stepped into the path of a lorry carrying veal calves for live export. In the appropriately named Port of Ramsgate live exports were suspended in 2012 after the deaths of dozens of sheep and two French truck drivers and a livestock shipping boss all found guilty of wilful cruelty. The export ban was lifted after the local council was forced to pay £2.3 million in compensation to companies involved as it had transgressed EU regulations but demonstrations against the trade continue to this day.