The RSPCA today slammed a decision by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to yield to the live export lobby and continue to allow sheep to be packed on voyages to the Middle East.
A group of live exporters took legal action against the Federal Government after AQIS imposed additional space requirements of 10-15% for sheep on two-tiered open decks, in an attempt to manage heat stress.
RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said AQIS had avoided a law suit by easing rules to 5-10% more space but, by capitulating to live exporters, they may seriously compromise sheep welfare on future voyages.
“This decision simply proves that the live export industry will always put profits ahead of the welfare of animals,” Ms Neil said.
“AQIS implemented the stricter requirements – and these were only to be imposed until the end of October – because there was a problem and the fact that exporters took issue with it says a lot about where their priorities lie.
“Sheep exported from Australia face a journey of up to 35 days from the farm-gate to their overseas destination. On the way they may be subjected to extreme heat and humidity, and suffer from heat stress, salmonellosis and starvation.
“More than 37,000 sheep died on board these ships on their way to the Middle East last year – more deaths than in 2006.
“The unfortunate reality is that Australia’s live exporters measure their success by the number of animals still standing at the end of the sea voyage. And this is how AQIS will determine whether these eased requirements are satisfactory.
“The RSPCA is urging AQIS to refuse to be bullied by live exporters whose decisions are clearly ground in economics not animal welfare.”
For more information about the RSPCA’s campaign to end live exports visit www.rspca.org.au