Exporter Wellard Rural Exports said the sheep, rejected by Bahrain quarantine officials on 29 August because they were infected with the viral disease scabby mouth, would now be processed through an Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS)-compliant supply chain.
The unloading of the vessel was overseen by an Australian government accredited veterinarian, an independent vet accredited by the World Animal Health Organisation and a leading international veterinarian specialising in animal welfare, as well as five Wellard staff.
The company denied that there was any compromises made on the welfare of the sheep, who were onboard the MV Ocean Drover for over 30 days in total.
“The welfare of the animals at all times has been maintained at the highest levels in keeping with our company standards. While on board the sheep have been cared for by an AQIS accredited veterinarian, two Livecorp accredited stockmen and 47 on-board officers and crew,” said a spokesperson.
“The mortality rate on-board the vessel remains well below the Australian Government specified upper limit.”
Wellard said that the ability to identify an alternative market for the sheep that met Australian animal welfare standards was proof that the ESCAS system worked. “The ability to discharge into an ESCAS accredited supply chain which meets OIE standards guarantees the animal welfare outcomes required by Wellard and the Australian Government,” said the spokesperson.
However, Australia’s Green Party said the incident, which happened as another shipment was stranded off the coast of Kuwait, proved that the Australian live export trade was flawed.
“The requirement that sheep be unloaded within 36 hours of reaching port has been flagrantly ignored twice in one week, making a mockery of the government’s ability to manage the live export trade without inflicting cruelty on animals,” said the Green spokesperson for animal welfare, Senator Lee Rhiannon.
“This incident underlines the unacceptable risks for animals shipped overseas for the live export and the need for an immediate ban on this cruel trade."
Rhiannon criticised the Australian Government’s handling of the incident, stating that “rather than waiting for months for mortality reports, the government should immediately send public officials to monitor and report on the welfare of the sheep and the number of animals that have died on board”.
She called for Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to “initiate a full and transparent investigation” into the two incidents.