The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said mid-May that it supports the recommendations made by Dr Michael McCarthy, a vet with experience in the export industry, in his review of live sheep exports to the Middle East during the northern summer (Australia is currently undergoing winter), and will be working to implement them, subject to further public consultation and testing of the findings relating to heat stress risk assessment.
The review was called after distressing footage appeared of conditions on a ship
sending live sheep to the Middle East, including a high number of
deaths, and aimed to establish whether there were problems in the
preparation, selection or management of the consignment prior to export,
or if disease or other factors caused high mortalities during the
Dr McCarthy recommends moving from a heat stress risk assessment based on mitigating the risk of mortality (as few deaths as possible) to mitigating the risk of heat stress (ensuring the livestock are comfortably cool), which represents a paradigm shift in the management and regulation of live exports, the department said.
Several of the recommendations will be implemented immediately, including moving to an allometric model - a calculation based on size - to determine stocking density and reducing the notifiable mortality level for sheep exported by sea to the Middle East from 2% to 1%. In the past, mortality rates above 2% in consignments triggered a
review of the preparation and management of sheep during voyages.
"Others areas, such as the heat stress risk assessment, require more research, testing and public consultation to ensure an informed and effective implementation—which Dr McCarthy did not have capacity to complete in the timeframe," the department said in a statement.
"The department is committed to ensuring exporters manage animal welfare and will implement Dr McCarthy’s recommendations to improve conditions for sheep exported to the Middle East during this northern summer."
Read Dr McCarthy’s full report, the list of recommendations and the regulator’s response