Protesters rally behind stranded sheep

The animal welfare debacle that unfolded in front of Adelaide residents has clearly revealed the terrible risks faced by animals on all live export journeys.


PUBLISHED ON: 21 August 2011

300 sheep died while trapped on the Al Messilah, a broken down live export ship originally bound for the Middle East. After only one day at sea, the stricken 28 year old converted car carrier, carrying 67,000 sheep was forced to return to Adelaide due to mechanical failure. After languising aboard for ten days, the sheep were finally given a reprieve and were offloaded.

In a remarkable show of commitment, Adelaide residents joined Animals Australia for five separate rallies at Port Adelaide to call for mercy on behalf of these animals, and the millions of others who suffer in the live export trade every year.

Despite a flood of public concern from across the country, the export company that owns these sheep decided to again export them to the Middle East. Sadly, this decision will see hundreds more animals suffer and die on the gruelling three week journey, before reaching their destination, where the remaining sheep will have their throats cut while fully conscious.

The presence of hundreds of dedicated protesters at the docks appears to have significantly impacted the re-loading of animals onto the MV Al Shuwaikh. For consecutive days, the live exporters appeared to be in hiding and chose to delay loading any sheep while the public eye was watching. Remarkably, this delay not only cost the live exporters considerable funds, it gave several days' grace to thousands of animals and turned a one-day protest into a three day media story. Sheep were hurried onto the ship in the cover of darkness in the lead up to our final protest, when hundreds of locals laid flowers in a tribute to the suffering of these animals and the millions who had gone before them (see photos here). The memorial was again broadcast on all television stations, sending a clear message to our politicians that caring Australians want live export banned.

Only a few days after the Al Shuwaikh left Port Adelaide, WA residents rallied for two consecutive days at Fremantle Port, as the ship docked to load more animals. Animals Australia supporters joined local member society Stop Live Exports, Melissa Parke (Labor MP) and Lynn McLaren (Greens) at the docks, with the media also in strong attendance once again.

Animals Australia extends a heartfelt thank-you to South Australians and West Australians who have travelled at very short notice from near and far to give their voice to these animals. News of these live export rallies not only reminded Australians that live export is inherently cruel — it has also added significant pressure on Government to address the cruelty of live export at a most critical time. Soon Labor will discuss a motion that could end the worst abuses of the trade.

Tragically the deaths on board the Al Messilah are not unusual. On board live export ships, animals are confined in crowded pens and provided only an unnatural pellet diet — which many animals refuse to eat, leading to 'inanition' (starvation). The stresses of shipping and refusal to eat pellets also increases salmonella outbreaks which is the cause of most deaths on these huge ships. Other sheep suffer from eye infections. 2.6 million sheep have perished on live export vessels since the trade began. Last year alone, nearly 27,000 died before reaching their destination. The live export industry now has an 'acceptable death rate' for every shipment.

The routine suffering and death on board every live export vessel again points to the callousness of an industry that is prepared to export live animals regardless of how cruelly they will be treated.

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