Whistle-blower Sheds Light on Nightmarish Treatment of Exported Livestock
The Australian television program 60 Minutes recently released a video showing appalling treatment of livestock that were exported from Fremantle, Australia and sent to Doha, Qatar. Since then, the video has rapidly circulated and sparked outrage in Australia.
Filmed by a navigation officer named Faisal Ullah, the video clip documented five different voyages over a seven month period last year. In the video, sheep were packed together in overcrowded spaces, forced to tread over each other and were covered in feces. During the journey, corpses were simply thrown overboard into the ocean. Liam Bartlett, a journalist for 60 Minutes wrote on Nine Network, describing the scene as an “animal equivalent of a Dickensian trade operating in a modern world.”
Many journalists and activists have accused the company, Emanuel Exports, of violations of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock. For instance, the standards mandated “the master of the vessel” to report any “shipboard mortality rate equal to or greater than a reportable level”, which is 2 percent in the case of sheep. However, in the documented journey, it was alleged that 2,400 sheep (3 percent of the total number) died due to heat stress.
However, the company wasn’t fined or punished by the authorities in any way despite having a history of mistreating livestock. Previous reports revealed that 3,000 sheep died on July 2016 while being shipped from Fremantle to Doha by the same company. In that incident, there was no punishment meted out to either the executives or the company.
While the video sheds light on one export company, it is speculated that the mistreatment of exported livestock is widespread in the entire industry.
In light of the scandal, the Australian government vowed to crackdown on illegal practices. On Monday, the government announced further investigations into the mistreatment of livestock.
The issue has attracted criticism from numerous Australian politicians. Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud stated that he was “shocked and gutted” after watching the video. Josh Wilson, a Member of Parliament from Fremantle, expressed his disapproval against the governing Liberal Party, noting that the situation was “an abject failure”. Independent politician, Andrew Wilkie commented that the situation was “beyond shocking,” and “the whole lot of them [in the government] are complicit”.
Still, massive changes might not be on the horizon despite immense pressure from MPs and the public. The livestock export trade to the Middle East is worth about AUD$1 billion Australian dollars (US$766 million) annually. Most of the livestock bred in Fremantle, Australia are raised for the sole purpose of export. While animal rights groups, such as Stop Live Exports, continue to push for a total ban on livestock exports to the Middle East, states like Fremantle will experience economic hardships without the industry.
Western Australia’s agriculture minister Alannah MacTiernan offered an alternative solution, suggesting onshore butchering, which according to her, would increase jobs and “get more value out of our livestock”.
Australian citizens and NGOs are clamoring for further oversight over the treatment of exported livestock and many gathered for protests outside the headquarters of Emanuel Exports in Perth, Australia. Bowing to public pressure, the director of the company publicly apologized to “farmers and the broader community” for the apparent transgressions and “unacceptable outcomes.”