At the beginning of this month, three years after being put out to pasture, live sheep exporter Emanuel Exports had its licence reinstated.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment said Emanuel Exports was ‘sufficiently rehabilitated’ following its 2017 Awassi Express disaster, which saw around 2400 sheep die in extreme heat conditions during the voyage.

As well as imposing the ban on Emanuel Exports, the animal welfare tragedy also prompted the department to put in place a prohibited live export period, which spans the hottest part of the northern summer.

The moratorium has only been in place since 2019 but already many quarters, not least the live export industry itself, are calling for it to be shortened.

The reasoning is that the annual mortality rate among sheep being subjected to live export has decreased from 0.8 per cent to 0.2 per cent since the moratorium was introduced.

This argument defies logic and, with the industry hanging its hat on mortality rates, it’s a sad day when the fact an animal hasn’t died is a measure of good welfare.

Public consultation is now open on the Federal Government’s draft review of the regulatory settings for the export of live sheep by sea to, or through, the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer.

The RSPCA continues to lobby the Government to end live export. Despite industry pressure to reduce the current ban on the export of live sheep today, the RSPCA advocates that the 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.

Meanwhile, Federal Government Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports, Ross Carter, reported this month that loss of control and traceability within Australia’s live export sector was still occurring at “low but chronic” levels, despite a decade having passed since the introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

The consensus seems to be that accurate counting of sheep for export is just too hard, leading for calls for improved technology to be implemented to improve outcomes, technology that may be a step closer with research body LiveCorp completing a successful trial of automated sensors to monitor environmental conditions on livestock ships.