60 Minutes' sheep footage leaves farmers concerned

LIVE EXPORT: Sheep suffering from heat stress Photo: 60 MINUTES
LIVE EXPORT: Sheep suffering from heat stress Photo: 60 MINUTES

DISTURBING footage of dead and dying sheep aboard a live export ship to the Middle East has left the region’s graziers concerned.

The footage, which aired on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, showed sheep packed in together with little room to move in temperatures up to 40 degrees as they fought to reach food and water.

Filmed secretly by a worker aboard multiple voyages, the images captured some of the 2400 sheep dying aboard the Awassi Express on a trip from Perth to Doha in August due to extreme heat.

Although the affected sheep were predominantly mature animals from Western Australia and the region’s graziers rear stock for the domestic market, they were concerned about the repercussions for the entire industry. 

Blayney deputy mayor David Kingham raises merinos on his property and is a former Sheepmeat Council of Australia chairman.

“I was horrified – customers wouldn’t be buying from Australia if this was a normal thing,” he said. 

“I would imagine the importer would be ropeable because [the sheep were] the purchaser’s responsibility.” 

He said sheep were prone to dehydration if a ship remained in port for an extended period of time, but this was a different issue.

“There’s no reason for the sheep to be wet and for the manure to be piling up – I’ve never seen that,” he said. 

Grazier Geoff Crockett, formerly of Orange, said he would rather meat to be processed in Australia and boost domestic jobs. 

Lucknow grazier Chris Blunt raises prime lambs and said he could not bring himself to watch the footage.

“We put so much effort into raising them so to see animal welfare let down after they leave the farm is really disappointing,” he said. 

“We really love our sheep and really care for them and the way we present them to the market.”

Mr Blunt said it would be better if live trade was not necessary, but there were standards in place and they had been honed after the Indonesian beef live export scandal.

“The standards have got to be adhered to and that’s what the problem is,” he said.

“They’ve got to be monitored for the whole trip.”

Jessie Legge runs Ridgehaven Dorset Stud near Cudal with her son and said the culprits needed to be held responsible.

“If we did that on our farms, we would have felt the full force of the law,” she said.