On the anniversary of Awassi Express footage, The Sheep Collective says the sector has significantly transformed, and will continue to innovate, to provide open transparency across the entire supply chain.
Regardless of confirmation that whistle-blower payments were made to record the Awassi Express footage, the sector acknowledged that not enough had been done in the past, and immediately endorsed sweeping changes in accordance with a range of independent reviews.
The Sheep Collective member and farmer, Bindi Murray said, “over the last 12 months the industry has continued to work hard and keep its focus on making real on-ground improvements well beyond what the official reviews recommended.”
“Exporters have made additional proactive changes beyond the regulatory changes that further improve animal welfare outcomes. For example the introduction of multiple automated environmental data collection devices on all vessels, to enable live tracking of temperatures,” she said.
The industry is also working on further technology advancements that can be used on the vessel and research is already underway. The McCarty Review, the Moss Review, the Heat Stress Risk Assessment Review and the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock Review have all been put forward in the last 12 months and the industry has quickly adopted the resulting regulatory recommendations including:
1. Increased space allocation by 17.5 per cent during the months of November to April (the Northern Hemisphere winter). This means the sheep have more space to move around, lie down and have easy access to food and water.
2. In the coming month of May, the space per animal will be increased even further based on the size and weight of the sheep. This could be up to 39pc of some classes of sheep. This will reduce the number of animals on each deck and help further mitigate against the risk of heat stress during warmer periods.
3. Independent auditing of ventilation systems – independent engineers audit the ventilation systems on all vessels going to the Middle East and this information is used to help with planning of stocking densities to ensure the best animal welfare outcomes.
4. The presence of an independent Federal Government-appointed observer on every vessel, in addition to the existing Australian Government-accredited veterinarian working on board. The sheep are also cared for by accredited stockpersons and up to 35 livestock crewmembers whose sole job is to manage animal welfare throughout the voyage. Engineers, electricians and shipboard officers monitor environmental conditions throughout the pens.
5. Environmental data recordings – you will see in this video a small orange device – this is an automated environmental data logger which is collecting both the dry and wet-bulb temperature data from the sheep decks every 10 minutes. This data is providing even more transparency around on-board animal welfare conditions
6. The industry signed a moratorium to not export sheep to the Middle East in the Northern Hemisphere summer months of June, July and August.
Bindi Murray added the discussion has become more than just about the exporting of sheep.
“We’re talking about our Australian farmers and the thousands of people employed in the sector in our regional communities,” she said.
“This situation has now evolved into how people choose to live their lives. This particularly relates to how people consume food. That is a personal choice which should remain personal. The growing trend of farmer’s homes and businesses being targeted and attacked is quite frankly, out of control. People’s personal choices and their homes must be respected,” Bindi said.
The Sheep Collective member and experienced industry vet Dr Holly Ludeman said, “Australia’s ‘clean, green’ sheep industry is meeting a specific demand.
“Given our unique capabilities in Australia, we have a clear obligation to continue to raise the bar in terms of animal welfare outcomes in the global livestock export trade, and we take this responsibility seriously,” she said.
“The imperatives of continuing livestock exports is an important one and there will be differing views in terms of eating meat and livestock production. But the recent trend of farming families being intimidated by trespassing activists is no way to go about having that conversation – no-one deserves to feel threatened in their home.”
“We are proud to able to show the reality of the care taken by those of us working with these animals right across the supply chain. I’m proud to be part of this important Australian sector,” Holly said.
The Sheep Collective consists of WA sheep producers, transport and feedlot operators, exporters and importers and have conducted a series of tours to open the sector to a range of interested parties.
The Sheep Collective aims to provide the untold story of the sheep industry, and the thousands of people employed in the sector throughout Western Australia. The focus is to share the facts relating to the sheep export trade, highlighting the care provided at every step of the journey.