IN THE NEWS: On JUL 31, 2019
Live export company Emanuel Exports has been charged with breaching animal welfare laws in a deadly shipment that was filmed by whistleblowersand led to a federal crackdown on the export of live sheep to the Middle East.
More than 2,400 sheep died of heat stress on the Awassi Express voyage in August 2017, as temperatures on board soared to the mid-30s.
The ship was stocked by Perth-based Emanuel Exports, which lost its live export licence in August last year. The export licence of related company EMS Rural Exports Pty Ltd was also cancelled.
On Wednesday, the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said it had charged both the company and two of its former directors with animal cruelty, under the state's Animal Welfare Act.
They have been summoned to appear in court at a later date.
The specific offence relates to transporting an animal "in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, it unnecessary harm", and carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine or five years imprisonment.
The two directors, including former managing director Graham Daws, left the company last year at the same time the federal Department of Agriculture announced it was reviewing its export licence.
Emanuel Exports managing director Nicholas Daws, who took over from his father Graham in June last year, said the company would "vigorously defend the matter in court".
The RSPCA welcomed the charges and said the alleged cruelty should not go unpunished.
The investigation by the state authority began in February 2018 and was prompted by a mandatory report to the federal agriculture department, triggered by a reported mortality rate of 3.76% of the stock on board. The trigger point for a mandatory mortality report is 2%.
Two months later, the federal government called for an urgent review of the heat stress standards and the regulatory culture of the federal agriculture department. It placed a three-month moratorium on exporting to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer this year.
The department confirmed on Wednesday that the moratorium would be extended to 22 September, and that once trade resumed, shipments through the Middle East would be required to submit a heat stress management plan, adhere to new lower stocking densities, and automatically collect on-deck temperatures to send to the department.
The federal government also required an independent observer be placed on all live export ships to the Middle East, although the bulk of those reports are yet to be released.
WA agriculture minister, Alannah MacTiernan, warned exporters in 2017, following the death of more than 3,000 sheep on the Emanuel Exports ship Al Messilah, that the state government could prosecute live exporters under its own animal welfare laws and would do so if another mass-mortality event occurred.
She dismissed an accusation from the farming lobby that the charges were the result of her own personal vendetta against the company, telling Guardian Australia that incidents like the Awassi voyage "damages the whole livestock industry, not just live export".
"It damages Australian agriculture," she said.