The brutal mass slaughter of thousands of Australian sheep in Pakistan represents the worst tragedy ever documented in the bleak history of Australia’s live export trade.
Video footage of the cull, obtained by Animals Australia, shows absolute chaos with animals being dragged, beaten, having their throats sawn at with blunt knives and thrown into mass graves -- some of them still alive hours later.
Animals Australia has provided the footage to DAFF to inform their investigation into serious breaches of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) by the exporter -- Wellard Rural Exports.
The ill-fated consignment of 22,000 sheep had been rejected by Bahrain due to disease concerns yet neither Wellard nor the importer PK Meats disclosed this to the government authorities in Pakistan.
"It is clear that Wellard's failure to be transparent with Pakistani authorities as to the history of this shipment was a major contributing factor to their loss of control and subsequent cruel killing of the sheep," said Animals Australia Campaign Director Lyn White.
"It was entirely predictable that when Pakistan discovered they had accepted sheep rejected by another country on health fears there would be dire repercussions -- especially as it would have appeared that parties had quietly colluded to keep the history of this shipment from them.
"Imagine how outraged our government would be if a consignment of goods that had been rejected by another country as diseased, was fast-tracked into Australia 'on the quiet', facilitated by another country's government.
"Whether the animals were healthy or not became irrelevant. The Pakistani government felt slighted and that they had been deliberately deceived. Once this occurred, these animals had no hope whatsoever of being treated humanely.
"Wellard's failure to have any real contingency plan in place in case of rejection also contributed to this animal welfare tragedy. Neither killing the sheep at sea as suggested by their CEO, or Pakistan -- which did not have regulatory approval to take Australian sheep when this shipment departed Fremantle -- could be concluded to be legitimate contingency plans.
"The Australian community would expect nothing less than the harshest possible action to be taken against this exporter. Wellard's culpability and complicity in what happened to these sheep justifies a loss of its export licence."
Despite continued assurances to the Australian community that the welfare of exported animals will be protected, government measures failed at every stage to protect these sheep.
"The Government to Government MOUs were introduced to ensure a Cormo Express-type rejection couldn't happen again. Well it has. ESCAS was a measure put in place to reassure the public that ‘Indonesia’ and such terrible cruelty couldn't happen again -- well it did -- and there was nothing that the industry or our government could do to prevent it.
"Exporters cannot deny responsibility -- they put live animals on ships -- knowing the scale of risks and factors outside their control. They cannot then say, 'it's not our fault' when the inevitable happens and something goes terribly wrong."
The government has admitted that such a terrible incident could well happen again. This is a damning admission and in itself is enough reason for both the Gillard government and Coalition to renounce their support of the live export trade.
Animals Australia says it's time for Australian sheep producers to also reconsider their support of the trade.
There are many sheep farmers who do not export and yet run very profitable businesses. There are 32 million sheep sold in Australia each year for domestic consumption and meat export, and less than 3 million sheep exported live.
"The Middle East export market for sheep meat is worth $72 million more than live export and is our biggest market and growing rapidly. The value of those sheep processed domestically is nearly 10 times more than live export.
"What is profitable has never been the defining argument between right and wrong in any civilised society. It is offensive to the majority of Australians that profit continues to be presented as justification for a trade that has been responsible for such suffering and cruelty."
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