Some Riverina farmers are calling for an end to all live exports from Australia after shocking images emerged of sheep being kept in appalling conditions on a routine voyage to the Middle East.
The footage, captured by a concerned crew member, showed sheep aboard the Awassi Express gasping for air and unable to lie down or reach for food and water.
Director of Local Land Services Paul Funnell said the footage was “sickening” and called for the immediate suspension of all live exports.
“To actually see footage of five loads – not just one – of sheep treated like this is beyond comprehension – to say sickened is an understatement,” Mr Funnell said.
“We have such strict regulations and high standards we’re expected to adhere to in Australia, and yet our lazy, duplicitous, gutless politicians are prepared to let that ship reload this week knowing full well there’s nothing in place to stop them.”
Mr Funnell said the industry would quickly adjust to a live export ban, adding that real farmers were not the ones truly benefiting from the practice.
“I had eight phone calls before 9am today from concerned growers saying to shut it down – every single one of them said ‘who cares, I’ll get over it, we'll adjust’ – they don’t want this happening to their animals,” he said.
“They always say we’ll lose agricultural industry with a ban, but what the live exports are actually doing is sending our blood lines and genetics overseas, and in a few years they’ll start their own breeding programs using Australian livestock.”
Member for Riverina and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he was horrified by the footage, but did not believe a ban on live exports was the answer.
“That vision was horrendous and I understand that – horrendous not just for the poor sheep concerned, horrendous not just for the viewing public, but for the farmers, who are the best environmentalists and animal welfare participants in Australia,” Mr McCormack said.
“If we stop live animal exports as what happened with that knee-jerk reaction under the Gillard Government, it’s only going to provide those countries that don't have quality export assurances and provisions whereby animal welfare comes first and foremost the opportunity to take our markets.”