12 October 2021

On 18 September, the livestock carrier Al Messilah, carrying 58,000 sheep, became the first live sheep ship to leave WA in more than three months, following the prohibited Northern Summer period.

As the prohibited trading period ends and livestock are again being transported from Fremantle Port, some sectors are calling for the Northern Summer export ban to be considerably shortened.

The prohibited period was introduced following the August 2017 Awassi Express disaster, which saw about 2400 sheep die in extreme heat conditions while being transported from Fremantle to the Middle East. It’s been in place since 2019.

A group of Coalition MPs and the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council has called on the Federal Government to speed up its planned review of the Northern Summer ban to provide certainty for the industry in 2022. They want the review to consider dropping the months of June and September from the current three-and-a-half-month export ban period.

They cite the example of the Al Kuwait livestock carrier which was given an exemption to set sail three weeks into the prohibited period in June last year after the initial departure date was delayed due to COVID-19 cases among crew members. The Government observer from that voyage noted that all sheep suffered some degree of heat stress with approximately 1000 sheep experiencing extreme heat stress with tongues protruding, and another 4000 experienced open mouth panting. This suffering shows precisely why the Northern Summer ban was enacted.

The RSPCA believes the prohibited period should be extended to cover the entire highest-risk period of May to October, which has been recognised by government as when exported animals experience the highest rates of heat stress.

The Federal Government has confirmed the review is underway and will be available for consultation late this year. It’s expected to be finalised in February 2022.