Recent footage of sheep deaths and conditions on a live export vessel have caused outrage.
But how representative was that coverage of the entire sheep live export industry?
Mecardo market analyst Matt Dalgleish said without a doubt the footage released by 60 Minutes was shocking and needed to be fully investigated.
“But it does beg the question – is this type of treatment of live sheep the industry standard or was this an outlier?,” he said.
Once emotions are taken out of the equation, the data shows that since 2004 the mortality rate of live export sheep has been in decline from 0.9 to to 0.7 per cent.
Mr Dalgleish said he suspected that sheep deaths in the paddock could be higher than the industry standard for live export.
“The data seems to suggest that the spike in mortality that Emanuel Exports Pty Ltd experienced, particularly during July 2016 and August 2017, were outliers compared to their long-run seasonal average mortality levels,” he said.
However, the data does show an increase in mortality rates into the third quarter of the season and the relative widening of the normal and extreme ranges during this time.
“Which suggests that it is a riskier time to be exporting live sheep, compared to the February through to May period,” Mr Dalgleish said.
He hopes the government authorities will take a careful and considered approach as any rash reaction could have severe consequences for sheep producers across Australia, but particularly those in Western Australia, where 65-100 per cent of total sheep consignments during the season were sourced from.
“The data shows us that the footage from Animals Australia is not representative of the industry as a whole,” Mr Dalgleish said.
“The result of making a rash decision would have a huge impact on many people’s livelihoods.”
In response to the footage, the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources indicated that a department veterinarian would be on the next live sheep voyage to the Middle East.
“The law that regulates the export of livestock includes strict requirements to ensure the health and welfare of animals. It is the responsibility of each exporter to ensure it meets those obligations,” the statement said.
“The vet will monitor and record the health and welfare of all animals on board, send back daily reports and images and will also be able to issue directions on the vessel to ensure the welfare of the sheep.”
Minister David Littleproud also announced a review of the standards for the sheep trade during the Middle Eastern summer.