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Live exports - a litany of disasters

(The illustration is of Pam Ahern's well-treated sheep at Edgar's Mission, Kilsythe Australia, where animals are saved from apalling circumstances.)

Animals Australia has given permission for me to publish on Webdiary its record of major incidents in the trade. It is an appalling record. In reading the facts relating to these incidents one can get some idea of the enormous level of suffering of large numbers of animals in this trade. - Jenny Hume

As a follow up to my last piece on the live animal exports issue Animals Australia has given permission for me to publish on Webdiary its record of major incidents in the trade. It is an appalling record. This record does not even include the routine losses that occur on voyages. Only when a large number of animals are lost in specific incidents or losses exceed 3% is a report required by the Australian Marine Safety Authority (AMSA). Total losses per annum are however tabled in Parliament every six months so cumulative totals are known.

For instance it does not include the approximately 1000 sheep that died on the Al Kuwait, a routine shipment with routine losses that was the subject of the successful court case in WA against the company shipping those sheep. The basis of the that case was that to ship animals live while knowing the risks involved, the company had knowingly transported animals in a manner that would cause them unnecessary suffering, in contravention to the animal welfare laws of that State. The case was proven.

Hence a tally of the losses in the incidents here for the years 2000-6 will not even come part way to adding up to the documented losses in that period alone of close to 350 000 animals, nor does it include the 30 608 that died in 2007. It touches on major onshore incidents but does not reflect the issue of cruelty to surviving animals in handling and slaughtering procedures in importing countries. While the majority of animals go to Middle Eastern countries, large numbers are also exported to Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea.

In reading the facts relating to these incidents one can get some idea of the enormous level of suffering of large numbers of animals in this trade. The list below does not include more recent incidents and will be updated at a later date.

Cattle Export 'Incidents' Record

1996: 1592 cattle drowned when the Guernsey Express sank after taking water on its way to Osaka. Japan. No report has yet been provided.

1998: The 'Anomis' arrived in Malaysia from Geraldtown WA in January with over 2,400 goats and cattle but could not unload due to a financial dispute between the exporter, shipper and importer. The ship was held up for over two weeks and some 283 goats and 154 cattle are reported to have died. No report has yet been provided.

1998: The MV 'Charolais Express' hit heavy weather on route from Bunbury (WA) to Jordan in July. 346 cattle, of the 1,200 loaded, are reported to have died due to inadequate ventilation. Fifty cattle then died in a Jordanian port, and a further 174 were injured or ill and were subsequently rejected by Jordan, then by Yemen, and ultimately disposed of at sea.

1999: The 'Temburong', 829 cattle suffocate when power loss causes ventilation failure on the ship during the voyage from Darwin to Irian Jaya in January. The formal report recommended improved management of back-up power sources (

1999: Some 800 cattle were loaded onto the 'Kalymnian Express' in December 1999 in Western Australia bound for Indonesia. Over 300 cattle died of injuries, or were destroyed later due to their injuries, when the ship met a cyclone off the north west coast of Western Australia. (report at

2000: Two shipments of cattle to Korea were rejected at their destination when local farmers believed the trade would threaten their local 'Hanwoo' cattle industry. Six cattle were beaten to death while the remainder had to be held in quarantine and on board ship until the Korean Government were able to move them to slaughter.

2002: 99 cattle died on the NV Norvantes en route to Jakarta in February when the ship hit bad weather. The vessel left Darwin carrying 1,169 cattle. (report at

2002: The Israeli Government reported that in July, cattle and sheep on the M.V. Maysora arrived from Australia and experienced heat, unloading and transport delays, and were delayed at border-crossings. Some 200 cattle died, most after arrival. Israel temporarily halted all imports of Australian cattle for several weeks until the delays and transport problems were said to be 'resolved'.

2002: The MV Becrux, on its maiden voyage and boasting the ability to provide the highest standard of animal welfare and comfort, carried 1,995 cattle and 60,000 sheep from Portland Victoria to Saudi Arabia in July. 880 cattle and 1,400 sheep died after the vessel met extreme temperatures (45 degrees) and humidity in the Arabian Gulf. The remaining animals were rejected by Saudi officials and had to remain on board until another buyer was found to accept them (in the U.A.E).

2004: The MV Maysora delayed in Aqaba port in Jordan with 3,300 cattle languishing on board for almost a week whilst importers argued about feedlot space.

2005: Australian cattle offloaded in Israel from the Bader III were held up for some 24 hours in heat at the border crossing with The Palestinian Authority. Local animal advocates documented the distressed animals which had had no food and water during their truck journey and delay at the crossing.

2006: At least 247 cattle died aboard the MV Maysora on a journey from Portland (Victoria) and Fremantle (WA) to Israel in October/November. At least a further 200 Australian cattle (and some reports suggest up to 500) died in quarantine feedlots in Israel after arrival, and were buried in pits. Formal AQIS and AMSA investigations were triggered as the on-board cattle death rate was over 3%. The cattle died due to septicaemia (from infected injuries), heat stress and pneumonia (respiratory disease). Only 30 - 40 of the cattle were euthanased.

2007: 3,500 Australian cattle were caught up in an Israeli agriculture and veterinary workers strike in January. The cattle were delayed, and then unloaded into quarantine feedlots, but without standard veterinary health checks. Half were destined for Israeli slaughterhouses, and the rest were to be transported to the Palestinian Territories.

2007: A ship with 1,695 cattle on board traveling from Fremantle (WA) to Jakarta (operated by Halleen Australasian Livestock Traders Pty Ltd) was battered by a cyclone. 68 cattle died (4.01%) during the 8-day voyage.

Sheep Export ‘Incidents'

1980: The total cargo (40,605 sheep) perish in a fire aboard the Farid Fares.
Disease outbreak causes the death of 2,713 sheep on the Kahleej Express.

1981: 635 sheep die in the transfer from the Kahleej Express to the A1 Shuuwaikh.
8,764 sheep perished onboard The Persia from ventilation breakdown.

1983: 15,000 sheep die from exposure in Portland feedlots while waiting loading.

1984: Ventilation breakdown in the Mukairish Althaleth causes the death of 70 sheep each day.

1985: 15,000 sheep die of heat exhaustion on board the Fernanda F.

1989-90: Many Australian shipments rejected due to claims of scabby mouth and other diseases, by Saudi Arabia . Death rates on board soared to an average of 6% as sheep waited on board ships languishing outside ports or en route to alternative ports.

1990: One rejected ship, the Mawashi AI Gasseem was forced to stay on the water for 16 weeks before a country would accept its remaining sheep.

1990: The "state of the art" Cormo Express left New Zealand in May 1990 and almost 10,000 sheep died en route to the Middle East due to inadequate ventilation causing heat stroke, pneumonia, other diseases and failure to eat.

1991: At the end of the Gulf War, Australian sheep arrived in war-devastated Kuwait and some 30,000 sheep died from heat stroke and dehydration due to poor infrastructure and feedlot facilities.

1991: Published studies show death rates in Middle East feedlots to be, on average, 3 per cent over the 3-week holding period.

1992: Published figures show increased on-board death rates, rising to almost 3 per cent, the rise being attributed mainly due a large number of ships unloading at more than one Middle East port attributed mainly due a large number of ships unloading at more than one Middle East port.

1996:67,488 sheep died when fire broke out on board the Uniceb; 8 days elapsed before any rescue attempt was made.

2002: The MV Becrux, on its maiden voyage boasting the ability to provide the highest standard of animal welfare, carried 60,000 sheep and 1,995 cattle from Portland Victoria to Saudi Arabia . 1,400 sheep died along with 880 cattle after the vessel met high temperatures (45 degrees) and humidity in the Arabian Gulf .

2002: In July and August 4 shipments of sheep recorded high death rates during export to the Middle East , and a total of 15,156 sheep died during the voyage and discharge phase. Cormo Express: 1064 sheep died, Corriedale Express: 6119 sheep died, Al Shuwaikh: 5,800 sheep died, and Al Messilah: 2173 sheep died. AMSA/AFFA and AQIS conducting 4 separate inquiries. At least one ship, the Al Shuwaikh, was allowed to load more sheep in September and leave for the ME before any reports are completed, albeit with an AQIS vet on board. A further 2,304 (3%) sheep died.

2003: Saudi Arabia rejects the MV Cormo Express (allegedly on disease grounds) in August, with 57,000 sheep on board. No other country would take the sheep – and it was late October before Eritrea agreed to offload them. 10%, around 6,000 sheep, died during the three month-long voyage. Australia suspended all live export too Saudi Arabia (resumed in mid 2005)

2005: The MV Maysora was delayed fully laden with 80,000 sheep in Fremantle harbour when engine problems occurred. No animal welfare authorities were alerted.

2006: In February 2006 the MV Al Messilah loaded 786 cattle in Portland (Vic.), and then loaded 71,309 sheep in Devonport (Tas.) for the trip to several Middle East countries including Kuwait. Thousands of sheep were rejected at the feedlot prior to loading due to 'pink eye' infections and other problems. Fully laden the staff resources were not sufficient to treat all the cattle (6 died) and sheep that became ill - 1683 (2.36%) of the sheep died - due to heat stress and failure to eat, exacerbated by pink eye and other problems.

The MV Maysora arrived in Eilat Israel in early November and a consignment of sheep was rejected - said to be due to a suspected scabie mouth outbreak in sheep from an earlier voyage on the MV Bader III. Some of the sheep were offloaded in nearby Jordan and others (approximately 40,000) were unexpectedly taken to Egypt and killed during the Eid Al Adha festival. 862 sheep died on the month long voyage (under the reportable death rate).

The continuing loss of tens of thousands of animals every year and the incidents above clearly demonstrate one of the conclusions reached in two major inquiries into the trade - that the trade by its very nature had animal welfare implications. As demonstrated by the the trade can never be made humane.

This article also published on WebDiary with the permission of Animals Australia.
See also: Why Australia's trade in live animal exports is world's WORST practice of 18 Jun 08, Live Exports – Another 36,408 animals dead on ships yet the trade goes on of 28 Aug 08 by Jenny Hume on WebDiary,,

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The litany of disasters is nothing to what animals have to endure when they arrive at their distinations. We hear that farmers care for their animals, and we have "best practices" in animal care, but while live exports continue we are exporting cruelty overseas. There are NO laws to protect animals in the Middle East, and even avoiding all the deaths on board the ships would not alleviate the suffering and sadism they can endure in foreign countries. We already have the evidence from Animals Australia. The only way to ease this pain is to stop this trade. Profits cannot turn what is evil into something ethical and acceptable.

Hi mate just want to let you know I think you are doing a great job. It's important to keep the truth out there so people really know whats going on! How long will it take the Australian Government to phase out this trade? It's an absolute blemish to us all.. I pray that I will see an end to live export in my life time. Poor things it's so upsetting.