Minister moves on live sheep exports

The Awassi Express is seen docked at the port of Fremantle Perth Australia

The Awassi Express is seen docked at the port of Fremantle Perth Australia

"Scientific advice from the Australian Veterinary Association tells us it is impossible to avoid animal deaths in the heat and humidity of a Middle East summer, regardless of lower density rates or moves towards better ventilation", Ms Ley told The Conversation.

Australia's live animal export trade, worth more than Aus$800 million annually, has been under scrutiny in recent years after footage shot at offshore abattoirs showed cattle being mistreated.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud on Thursday labelled the footage "disgraceful" but resisted calls to outlaw live exports entirely after a government review.

"It's going to be quite complex but we will act, if we have an obligation to act", Ms MacTiernan said. That makes live exports a potential federal election issue.

"This is a lily-livered government response created to protect exporters not animals", Ms White said.

The policy comes as Australia attempts to stem public anger after footage emerged showing 2,400 sheep dying from heat stress on a vessel bound for the Middle East previous year. The government said the whole industry needed to change.

Under the draft legislation, a director of an export company could face a 10-year jail term or a hefty fine if rules are not observed.

For a company, the fine will be $4.2 million, three times the benefit gained, or 10 per cent of the company's annual turnover, whichever is greater.

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The same is true of promises of more "independent observers" and a stiffening of the penalties to be imposed on companies, company directors and others who flout the regulations in order to maximise profits.

The government in Australia said Thursday it had prepared legislation to penalize exporters of live cattle and sheep if new welfare standards were not observed.

"The standard we walk past, is the standard we accept", Mr Littleproud said.

But Mr Littleproud said people were kidding themselves if they thought the global demand for live sheep would go away. "We have a responsibility, not only to the animals, but to our farmers, to get it right".

"If you leave a dog in a hot auto (in Australia) you are prosecuted and you potentially go to jail", said Lyn White from Animals Australia, the advocacy group that released the shocking video.

National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson backed the new measures, but admitted there was no guarantee sheep would no longer die in large numbers on export ships.

"We need to fix it, not ban it".

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