The RSPCA has today confirmed it has written to the Federal Agriculture Minister seeking urgent assurance that sheep intended for export from Western Australia will not be sent into torturous heat and humidity after the exporter’s timing gamble backfired.

Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow said the RSPCA was gravely concerned by reports the exporter is seeking exemption from the new live export regulations designed to protect Australian animals from the conditions, and which were enacted just two months ago.

“We understand this exporter - already notorious for their record on animal welfare – is seeking an exemption to send the sheep after the 1 June prohibited period, where the extreme heat and humidity would mean severe heat stress, suffering and death are all but guaranteed,” said Dr Goodfellow.

“This is the most dangerous time of the year for sheep exported to the Middle East, and the science and data show there’s nothing that can be done to mitigate these risks.

“There is clear and overwhelming evidence that sheep will suffer extreme heat stress if sent into Middle Eastern waters in June. That's on the public record, and that’s why the government and Department of Agriculture put these new regulations in place.

“Now, in the first season since those regulations were enacted, we're already facing the threat of a live exporter seeking exemption from those rules, which risks completely undermining the new regulations and further damaging the broader industry’s reputation.

“As has happened on multiple previous occasions where this volatile trade has been disrupted, sheep can be held safely and comfortably in the feedlot where they are now, until they can be transported and slaughtered humanely in WA abattoirs.

“The only financial impact will be on the multi-million-dollar companies that own these sheep, Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading (KLTT) and its subsidiary Rural Exports and Trading WA (RETWA).

“These are companies that – given the delays that routinely occur in live export loading – took a very unreasonable risk in trying to rush out this last shipment so close to the deadline.

“That risk has now foreseeably backfired, and these sheep – as well as the reputation of the wider industry – should not be forced to pay the price for that dangerous risk-taking behaviour,” said Dr Goodfellow.

The RSPCA also understands the exporter plans to fly a whole new crew from overseas into Australia to manage the animals, and is further concerned this may cause significant further delays, given Australia’s strict current border controls and quarantine measures.

For media inquiries, please contact RSPCA Australia.