IN THE NEWS: Live sheep exporter from West Perth has history of mass-mortality shipments

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IN THE NEWS: On APR 15, 2018

THE exporter at the centre of the latest sheep ship calamity is no stranger to carnage on the seas.

West Perth-based Emanuel Exports and sister companies EMS Rural Exports and International Livestock Exports have been involved in multiple mass-mortality shipments.

Animals Australia, which obtained the damning video footage aired by 60 Minutes last Sunday, claim there have been 37 shipments involving these companies where more than 1000 sheep have died on each voyage, since 2005.

It states a dozen of these were "reportable incidents" — where the mortality rate exceeds two per cent —requiring an investigation under the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).

In 2003, veterinarian Dr Tony Hill, formerly with International Livestock Exports, described the horrors he'd witnessed two years earlier on a voyage aboard the Al Khaleej. Although about 2000 sheep had died in searing heat, he claimed he was told by the ship's captain to report only 105 deaths.

Dr Hill said a build-up of damp manure had produced ammonia, which turned the ship into a "gas chamber". "We saw sheep leaning out of the ship and trying to throw themselves out through the bars and frothing at the mouth and then just expiring," he told media at the time.

Another Emanuel Exports' associated company, Rural Export and Trading (WA), had its licence suspended by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) in 2003 over four mass mortality shipments, including one in which more than 6 per cent of the sheep had perished. Then federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss described the situation as "clearly unacceptable."

The disaster that made national headlines and sparked public outcry, prompting a review of the trade and the introduction of ASEL, involved the MV Cormo Express in late 2003.

Some 5,600 sheep died during 70 cramped days at sea on the Cormo Express. After Saudi Arabia rejected the sheep, claiming they were diseased, Australia paid Eritrea to take those still alive. International Livestock Exports was the exporter.

In 2007, the WA Department of Local Government and Regional Development prosecuted Emanuel Exports and its directors, Graham Daws and Michael Stanton, for animal cruelty in what was regarded as a test case relating to a shipment of sheep to the Middle East aboard the MV Al Kuwaitin November 2003. More than 1000 sheep died, even though it wasn't summer in the northern hemisphere.

When the case was heard in 2008, Magistrate Catherine Crawford found the "elements of the offence of cruelty to sheep, in the way of transport, were proven", but she acquitted the accused because the WA Animal Welfare Act conflicted with Commonwealth law.

In 2008, Emanuel Exports and Rural Export and Trading (WA) took court action to overturn a decision by AQIS to reduce stocking densities on sheep ships with two-tiered decks. The AQIS decision followed a spate of mass mortality shipments. The exporters argued the decision had a significant adverse impact on them, reducing their "overall profitability."

Last November, Emanuel Exports' managing director Graham Daws was named the industry's LiveCorp Hall of Fame recipient at a gala dinner in Perth.

LiveCorp's new chairman Terry Enright said Mr Daws had been "a driving force in the live sheep trade from Western Australia to the Middle East." "His place in the industry's Hall of Fame is thoroughly deserved." he said.

Emanuel Exports were contacted for comment. The company issued a statement earlier in the week, apologising to farmers and the broader community for "absolutely unacceptable outcomes." "High mortality incidents like that which occurred in August 2017 on the Awassi Expressare devastating," Mr Daws said.

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