The Minister for Agriculture should immediately launch an official investigation into the recent stranding of two shipments of Australian sheep with scabby mouth in the Middle East, said animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon in an urgency debate in the Senate today.
The Greens support Andrew Wilkie’s pre-slaughter stunning bill introduced today but believe it is inadequate to protect animal welfare and a complete ban on live exports is needed.
“Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig must initiate an independent, full and transparent investigation into the voyage of the Ocean Drover and the Al Shuwaikh. This stranding of 22,000 Australian sheep in sweltering conditions involved misleading cover-ups by the Department to protect the industry,” Senator Rhiannon said.
“Only when Animals Australia picked up the Middle East shipment rejection in a Bahraini newspaper did the scandal become public.
"The Department of Agriculture has not demonstrated that it is independent of the live export industry. The statements issued during the crisis worked to cover up the seriousness of the events that occurred.
"An independent inquiry is needed to help establish the Department’s role and to ensure that the mortality figures associated with these two shipments are accurate.
“Neither the RSPCA or Animals Australia were officially notified. The Department continued to cover-up and distort the truth even after the story broke.
“The Department of Agriculture should not have approved an export permit for these voyages without a guarantee the animals would be unloaded safely.
“The public deserves a detailed inquiry, in part to uncover how many sheep actually died before being unloaded in Pakistan after the government rushed approval through.
“Everything about the exercise made a mockery of the Memorandum of Understanding system designed to protect animal welfare.”
Senator Rhiannon used her Matter of Public Importance speech to underline the flaws in the government’s new live export regulations. She explained the solution to ending animal cruelty rests with building Australia’s onshore meat processing industry.
“The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System is broken. This was again seen in last week’s exposure of cruelty to Australian sheep in a Kuwait market.
“It is time the Gillard government bowed to public pressure and committed to end live exports, in line with the Greens’ bill currently before the Senate.
“The live export trade has been a drain on the meat processing industry. A ban on live exports could be a win-win for both animal welfare and Australian jobs,” Senator Rhiannon said.