Sheep ships carrying up to 111,000 sheep for 3-4 weeks are gross breaches of animal welfare

NEWS AND OPINION – PERTH, AUSTRALIA: This is another horror story about how humankind treats animals. Some people don’t care but I, for one, do. Massive livestock transport ships which I believe are owned by two companies: the Kuwaiti-owned Livestock Shipping Services and Rural Export and Trading WA (Retwa), based in Perth, ship vast quantities of live sheep from Australia to the Middle East, specifically Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Israel.

Live sheep exported from Australia to Middle East
Live sheep exported from Australia to Middle East. Image: MikeB.

The conditions are clearly inhumane. When the ships dock at Perth, residents living in the area can smell the animals crammed on board the ships from 1 mile away. They then make the 3–4-week journey across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East where they are slaughtered.

During the journey, they are provided with no bedding. They are forced to sleep on the excrement that they produce and which builds up during the journey.

When they arrive at their destination, they are killed in the halal manner (or kosher in Israel) which means without stunning. The throat is slit with a sharp knife. Veterinarians in the UK think that this is cruel. Muslims believe that it isn’t.

Normally, between 60,000 and 70,000 sheep are driven from farms across Western Australia and loaded up onto the ships at Perth. As the Infographic on this page shows, one ship can accommodate 111,000 sheep. The ships can be 10 stories high and almost 200 m in length.

The Australian government has, however, pledged to ban the export of live sheep in this manner because of condemnation of the business in Australia. There is also criticism abroad. New Zealand is planning to outlaw all live animal exports from the end of April 2023.

Boris Johnson’s administration instigated the first ban of live exports in Europe in 2020. The Australian government is going to stick to their pledge. It is currently led by Anthony Albanese. A committee has been set up to work out how and when the ban will be introduced. They are due to report back in September of this year.

The ban will apply to sheep only and any law created will not be in force until after 2025 according to The Times newspaper. Its enactment will therefore rely on the Labour government winning a second term. This is not guaranteed because there is a strong farming lobby threatening to derail the new animal welfare law.

At Western Australia’s biggest sheep show last Friday, Peter Dutton, the opposition Liberal leader, promised to reverse any ban if the Liberal National Coalition won the next election which takes place in two years’ time.

The farmers argue that a ban on the trade would hurt about 3000 W. Australian families who rely on this business for their livelihoods.

It is a great shame that 3000 families rely on a business which is grossly inhumane in terms of animal welfare.

In one journey, it is reported that 2400 of the approximately 63,000 sheep on board died during a 21-day journey many of heat exhaustion. It is said that workers throw decomposing sheep carcasses into the ocean. Two former directors of the Perth-based ship operator Emanuel Exports have been charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty and are awaiting trial. The Kuwaiti Livestock Transport and Trading Company was a long-term trading partner of this business in sharing some of the directors and ships.

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