RSPCA Australia continues to hold serious concerns about the ongoing welfare of 7,400 sheep and 5,600 cattle on board the MV Ocean Outback which has now been docked off the port of Fremantle for over 10 days due to mechanical failure.
We are aware that current contingency plans for the livestock include unloading the sheep at the port of Fremantle to be either sold to a domestic processor or re-exported at a later stage, and for the cattle to be shipped to a market in South East Asia on the same malfunctioning vessel early next week.
We welcome the possibility for the sheep to be slaughtered here in Australia to Australian standards. We would be extremely concerned if the sheep were to be re-exported at a later stage. They have endured enough already and should not be subjected to stress of another sea voyage and the trauma of undergoing unstunned slaughter in the Middle East.
The cattle will have been onboard the Ocean Outback for two weeks by the time they finally depart for South East Asia. Under the power of a single engine, this is likely to be a long journey. This is a wholly unacceptable situation and again demonstrates the inherent and unavoidable risks of the live animal trade.
We strongly encourage the exporter to put the animals' welfare first in making further decisions about the future of the 13,000 animals involved. Equally, the Department of Agriculture, which is charged with protecting the welfare of exported animals, should be doing everything in its power to ensure that any decisions made are in the best interests of these animals.
Once again we call upon the Australian Government to seriously consider the merits of transitioning to a more stable, sustainable, and ethical trade in chilled and frozen meat processed here in Australia to Australian standards.