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Michelle Grattan: Live sheep exports tarnish Australia’s reputation and should be stopped

Michelle Grattan writes in The Conversation (12.4.18) about recent revelations of appalling conditions on board a vessel carrying live sheep exported from Australia to the Middle East. The author argues that ‘it doesn’t need a review to tell you that, for the sheep, these voyages – even when they go better than this one did – are hell, whatever “standards” are imposed.’

‘If a farmer were caught subjecting animals on his or her property to the suffering endured by the sheep on the Emanuel Exports ship last August, they’d find themselves in court, perhaps in jail, and almost certainly banned from possessing animals in future.

‘When it’s an export company, it gets a permit for another shipment.

‘The public, and new Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, have been predictably angered by the recent footage brought to light by Animals Australia, shot by a whistleblower on the ship.

‘In the August voyage about 2400 animals died horribly, some apparently literally melting, with another couple of hundred unaccounted for. A year before, more than 3000 sheep died on a ship from the same exporter, plying the same route.

‘For Australia, this is a national disgrace. Sara Netanyahu, wife of the Israeli prime minister, posted a video this week condemning the “tremendous cruelty”, and saying she would approach Lucy Turnbull (the August sheep weren’t bound for Israel, but it does import Australian sheep).

‘The live cattle trade, mainly centred on south east Asia, is bad enough. The sheep trade (worth A$250 million annually and involving about two million sheep) is worse. Most of the sheep are sent much further – to the Middle East, often into the sweltering northern summer heat. Anyone who has dealt with yarded sheep in hot weather knows how easily they become stressed, let alone in these cramped, frequently filthy conditions for weeks.

‘We should remember that the current scandal is just a new iteration of a very familiar story. Over the years, the plight of sheep bound for the Middle East has burst into the headlines. Then, after promises by the government of the day that things will change, attention has faded, while the pain and deaths have continued. The total mortality has run into millions.’

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