A WA farmers group has called for recommendations into the live sheep trade to be implemented, despite State Government claims the McCarthy report’s measures were “not going to be enough.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association’s (PGA) policy advisor Ian Randles said implementing the McCarthy report’s recommendations would be a “really good start” that would lead to changes in current industry practices to protect livestock.
“The PGA has welcomed the McCarthy report and its recommendations,” Mr Randles said.
“It’s a major shift in how we measure the welfare of animals on voyages to the Middle East and it’s a shift from measuring mortality to measuring animal welfare outcomes.”
“That’s significant and very important.”
Mr Randles said the report was a roadmap to improvement in the industry.
“It’s going to show us how to get better and how to maintain the industry going into the future.”
The report by livestock veterinarian Dr Michael McCarthy released on Thursday introduced 23 recommendations into the live sheep trade.
It included reducing the number of sheep being transported by 28 per cent, independent inspectors on every ship and harsher penalties for exporters who break export standards.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud initiated the review after video emerged showing almost 2,500 sheep dying from heat stress during a voyage to the Middle East last year.
WA’s State Government said the review did not go far enough despite improvements.
“There is no doubt that there is improvements in what has been proposed,” Agriculture Minister Allanah MacTiernan said.
“(But) it really is simply not going to be enough to address the animal welfare issues and also to restore any public credibility of this industry.”
“The sheep farmers in Western Australia do rely on the live export industry to a considerable extent.”
“This report is not going to help them.”
Ms MacTiernan said the measures would not solve the heat stress issue.
“We particularly note that the reliance on reductions in stocking densities, the science is telling us, those are not going to deal with those fundamental problems that we see in the high Middle Eastern summer,” she said.
She added temporary bans during the Middle Eastern Summer are still a possibility to protect livestock.
“Under our Animal Welfare Act, we have an obligation to take preventative action if we believe an act of cruelty is about to occur to an animal,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“It may well be then that we have the obligation if we think that these sheep are being sent into the Middle East at a time and in circumstances that aren’t going to deal with the real heat stress issue that we may have to take action to place a pause during those months.”
However, Mr Randles said if bans were instituted, jobs were at risk, including for young people working in the industry.
“It is a big employer in regional areas,” he said.
“A lot of these jobs, truck drivers, stockmen, they’re entry level jobs for young people out in these rural and regional areas.”
However, federal opposition leader Bill Shorten said a permanent ban of the industry was more likely in the future.
“No industry like the live sheep export trade cannot have a viable long term future if it relies on cruelty as part of its operations,” Mr Shorten said.
He denied being at loggerheads with WA Premier Mark McGowan, who believed the industry should not be axed.
“I think the state government is trying to do the absolute best it can,” Mr Shorten said.
However, he said the footage released in April provided adequate evidence that the trade needed to be shut down.
“We’ve seen shocking footage, not once but time and time again emanating about the live sheep export trade,” Mr Shorten said.
“Just all Australians were shocked by that footage, it’s harrowing.”