The RSPCA has slammed the decision by the Morrison Government to relax new animal welfare conditions for live sheep exports only months after they were introduced.
In an Export Advisory Notice distributed to industry representatives earlier this week, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources confirmed that, as of 1 November, stocking density reductions for sheep would be relaxed by 37.5% from the restrictions put in place in July this year.
“This is an outright capitulation to the demands of live export companies and clearly shows that this Government is placing profits ahead of animal welfare,” said RSPCA Australia’s Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow.
“While Minister Littleproud talks tough on animal welfare, his actions are what count, and this capitulation shows he’s all talk,
“This decision means it’s back to business as usual for the live sheep trade,
“It’s a slap in the face for hundreds of thousands of concerned Australians who have contacted politicians over the past few months, and it’s a death sentence for the thousands of animals that will perish on board these ships over the coming year,
“This increase in stocking density will allow exporters to cram three 50 kg sheep into a space that is barely larger than a square metre.
“At these densities sheep will not be able to lie down at the same time, nor will they be able to easily access feed and water troughs, over a journey of some three to four weeks at sea,
“The Department of Agriculture knows full well that this decision has no scientific basis whatsoever, and they confirmed this publicly in Senate Estimates hearings on 24 May this year.”
It also completely ignores the advice of the Australian Veterinary Association which advised Government that the stocking density reductions introduced in July were “the minimum amount needed to alleviate adverse welfare outcomes and must be implemented across all body weights and all months of the year”.
“If the Minister is serious about animal welfare and not playing the public for fools, he will reverse this decision and maintain the stocking density reductions introduced in July,” says Dr Goodfellow.
“It has only been six months since the nation was shocked to its core following the horrific footage of what Australian sheep experience on-board live export vessels,
“The Government is obviously hoping we have short memories. It’s now up to the Australian public to show them that’s not the case.”