The conditions in which livestock are shipped to the Middle East sparked a debate in the Australian parliament after an exposé by Australian current affairs program ’60 Minutes’. Images of sheep suffering from heat stress and dying of heat stroke caused great distress, and a month after this program was aired, it provoked many animal welfare activists and organizations to call for a ban on livestock exports in summer.
Some Australian legislators also demanded an official ban on exporting sheep to the Middle East. Parliamentarian Susan Lee introduced a legislation titled “Long-term sheep export ban for 2018”, and asked for a suspension of export of live sheep over the three months of summer – from July to September. I think the bill will not pass easily because this issue is about those who have been relying on this trade and making profits for many decades. But I guess reconsideration of export conditions will satisfy all parties and preserve the reputation of importing and exporting countries.
It is known that meat is a staple food on the Arab dining table in the Middle East in general, whether in Kuwait or any Arab country. While we enjoy a heavy meal of meat, we often do not think much about which country the meat was imported from or the conditions of the cattle during their transfer, whether humane or not. Animal welfare activists have raised a concern on the conditions of the livestock, as it forms a real wealth of Australia as a major exporter.
I believe that meeting health conditions during the shipping of cattle is the duty of exporting companies. We import sheep and therefore have to impose strict measures to ensure the healthy transfer of these animals and that they are free of defects and in good health until their arrival in the country of import. There has to be mutual understanding and agreement over this.
Kuwait Times published a report that Al-Mawashi company in Kuwait, which is the largest importer of live Australian sheep, is looking to find other sources of livestock as a result of Australia’s talk of banning the trade. If so, I think it’s the right decision, because focusing on food security is far more important than maximizing profits at the expense of animal welfare.
It is best to wait until the discussions are over and a final decision is made, especially bearing in mind that the trust of local consumers is something I don’t think anyone wants to jeopardize. Taking immediate actions to ensure animal welfare is maintained is essential.
By Muna Al-Fuzai