Each year Australia exports millions of live sheep, cattle, and goats to overseas markets. These animals endure up to 35 days at sea, with thousands dying en route due to the cramped, filthy, and hot conditions on board.
The destination for most live export ships, are countries with little or no legislation in place to protect these animals. As a consequence, investigations have revealed the shocking mishandling and brutal slaughter practices within these countries, including Indonesia, Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, Mauritius, Malaysia and more. Since the introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) by former Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig frequent breaches have been documented, highlighting the inability of the Government to protect the animals outside of Australian jurisdiction.
Sheep make up the majority of this number, with 2,279,622 exported in 2012. Sheep are primarily exported to the Middle East, cattle to Indonesia and China, while Malaysia is Australia’s primary market for live goats. Live exporting only equates to 0.3% of Australia's exporting industry.
After enduring crowded truck journeys of several hundred kilometres through Australia’s climate conditions, the animals are loaded onto the ships in crates. Frequently the heads and legs of these animals become trapped on the outside of the crates due to being filled over capacity. Once loaded, live export vessels can experience mechanical failure or administrative delays, leaving the animals stranded in the port. In 2011, 300 sheep died on board the Al Messilah, which had broken down in Port Adelaide leaving 67,000 sheep stranded. Ships may also become stranded at their destination.
The animals are packed tightly together and allowed an area just large enough for themselves. This area is so small that they cannot turn around or lie down together, or even reach their feed troughs. The animals are forced to stand and lay in their own waste for up to a month. The unhygienic conditions, combined with fear and stress, make the animals susceptible to diseases, sea-sickness, extreme temperatures, and injuries. Recent footage revealed that many sheep actually give birth on board. The younger ones, or those that are too sick to defend themselves, are often trampled to death or suffocated.
Investigations have frequently shown horrific treatment of the animals in their destination country. Animals have been packed tightly into the back of vehicles, buried alive, had their throats cut whilst fully conscious, had legs broken, tendons slashed, and witnessed other animals slaughtered in front of them.