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The latest heart-breaking exposé of the live-export industry shows the horrifying conditions endured by nearly 64,000 sheep sent from Fremantle to the Middle East aboard the Awassi Express – a vessel run by Australia's largest sheep exporter, Emanuel Exports. Approximately 2,400 of the animals died from heat stress, prompting an Australian government review.
As part of the government's own Heat Stress Risk Assessment review, scientific evidence was found indicating that conditions onboard live-export ships to the Middle East between May and October routinely exceed the heat-stress thresholds of Australian Merino sheep.
Despite its own experts' advice, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has proposed to proceed with exports to the Northern Hemisphere to the end of May, capitulating to the industry's terms of a three-month stoppage from June to August.
Stopping the trade for only three months instead of the required six is simply not enough to prevent the horrific suffering we saw aboard the Awassi Express.
© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
The footage filmed on the Awassi Express and other Emanuel Exports voyages isn't exceptional in the live-export industry. Every year, Australia exports millions of live animals to countries in the Middle East, forcing them to endure a gruelling trip across the Indian Ocean, sometimes in searing heat, that may take weeks. More than 200 million animals have been crammed onto filthy cargo ships over the last 30 years, and more than 2.5 million of them have been trampled to death or have died from dehydration, starvation, or disease.
The suffering that the sheep endure doesn't end for those who survive the journey. There are virtually no laws in place in the Middle East to protect these animals, and they're often subjected to abuse and methods of slaughter that would be illegal in this country. Investigators have seen animals being roughly dragged from ships, sometimes by their legs. Many are thrown into trucks and cars, and most of their throats are cut with blunt or unsuitable knives – while they're still conscious.
Not only is live export bad for animals, it's also bad for the environment. The live-export trade is one of the top 40 carbon dioxide emitters in Australia. Cattle and sheep may be transported thousands of kilometres by truck before reaching the ships, while the empty vessels journeying back to Australia collect their next load and create further emissions.
By refusing to end live export during the hottest months of the year, the government is complicit in the suffering and deaths of sensitive, gentle animals. Make sure federal Minister for Agriculture Senator Bridget McKenzie knows this by sending her a letter via the form below.