Australia may extend Middle East livestock export ban through summer
Australia’s ban on the export of live sheep to the Middle East could be extended right through the summer to the end of September amid concerns of the risk of heat stress under a proposal from federal regulators, reports The Guardian.
The ban, which began in June, may be extended for another three months amid backlash over whistleblower footage of a voyage on which more than 2,000 sheep died.
The Department of Agriculture in Australia is yet to determine whether the export of live sheep to the Middle East will be allowed in high-risk months from 2020 onward.
The department said that based on the available evidence on average temperatures and sheep mortality rates in September, it “believes this option [of resuming trade on 1 September] presents a higher risk of heat stress event, and does not prefer this option”.
“The options take into account evidence that demonstrates September remains as hot, or hotter than June and has historically experienced the third highest average monthly mortality rates after July and August,” it said.
The average mortality rate for sheep on live export ships to the Middle East in September is just over 0.8%. The month with the highest average mortality rate was August, with 1.25%, followed by July with just under 1%.
The deadly voyage on the Awassi Express in August 2017, which triggered the review of Australia’s heat stress guidelines and the ban on summer voyages, had a mortality rate of 3.76%, or 2,400 sheep.
The RSPCA says that allowing the live sheep trade to resume in September was not supported by the department’s own evidence on the impact of heat stress, as set out in the draft Heat Stress Risk Assessment (HSRA) report released in December.