Every time we see a truck loaded with animals heading for a port we feel ashamed to be Australian.

We have all driven alongside or behind 4 tiered road trains carrying sheep and have been distressed and sickened by the sight of limbs of  trapped sheep sticking out of the bars, faces and heads squashed against the rails and we have felt the absolute despair when we looked into the eyes of these helpless creatures.

These animals are still under the protection of the animal welfare legislation within the applicable state- (Animal Welfare Act 2002, in Western Australia), right up until the time the loaded ship sails.

The Codes of Practice for Transport are unfortunately, entirely voluntary and self regulatory and because of the overwhelming number of road trains (trucks) and the pitifully few inspectors, prosecutions for breaches of the relevant state Animal Welfare statutes are rare.

The Australian Standards for Export of Livestock were developed to provide a standard to which the whole of the live export industry is required to meet. These standards are mandatory and enforceable however the level of enforcement is poor with AQIS visits to the port inconsistent.

After the Cormo Express fiasco the Federal Government appointed an independent inquiry (Keniry Inquiry report / summary) to audit the live export system and report back with recommendations. The recommendations were never taken up by a Govt determined on ensuring that this trade continues ‘unhindered’ with animal welfare measures.

In Australia there is no routine and pro active enforcement of the regulations governing live export and as a result little if any oversight in place. The welfare of animals in Australia is explained by Animals' Angels. Although Australia is no shining light in the way animals are treated, animals are certainly treated better here than in the Middle East, Asia, Turkey or Mexico.

Feb 2004 – photo courtesy of Animals' Angels

The transport of live sheep, cattle, wild and domesticated goats, deer, buffalo, and wild camels is just the beginning of the stress, pain and fear the animals will experience on the road to the ultimate barbaric slaughter overseas. The slaughter of animals in Australia is on paper regulated to ensure that suffering is minimized. There is legislation in Australia requiring animals to be pre stunned prior to slaughter. Halal abattoirs must adhere to the same regulations although some have been able to secure exemptions from this which allow killing without pre stunning. 

After the animals have been loaded onto the livestock ships, it gets worse for the doomed animals. It has been said that those who die on the voyage are the lucky ones. The overseas journey takes its toll and the Australian government considers a 2% mortality rate for sheep and goats, and 1% for cattle as acceptable. That is an incredible death toll for a shipment of 50,000 to 70,000 sheep and that is the "official" toll. In reality it is much higher.

A 4 level sheep truck with 1 crate averages 450 sheep. Even with 1% morality rate, (less than the "accepted rate of 2%") in the 4 million sheep as was exported in 2008, that is the equivalent of 89 trucks of dead sheep.

Statistics from relevant Government departments on mortality rates are not readily available for all animals exported live. It has been reported on various current affairs programmes over the years, that the official figures provided for sheep and cattle appear to differ from the real mortality rates. The report: An Action Plan for the Livestock Export Industry or APLEI, was drawn up by AFFA, AQIS, ALEC LiveCorp, MLA and AMSA in October 2002, which stated that "Consignments of goats (particularly feral goats) have been associated with high mortalities averaging in excess of 2.3%…" "Goats are inherently more difficult than sheep and cattle to prepare and transport."

Many animals routinely die because of breakdowns in ventilation systems on board the ship, bad weather and rough conditions. Suffocation, starvation, dehydration and disease, sleep deprivation, diarrhoea, heat stress, respiratory disease, trauma, pneumonia, motion sickness all take their toll and the animals who collapse, stay where they fall and die slowly and painfully. see Animal Health Problems. We are talking thousands of sheep, cattle, goat's, camels, buffalo, horses, deer etc. not the odd few or "acceptable mortality rate".

Death Files.

We often hear the claim that the mortality rates are decreasing. The following is what a vet had to say in a letter written to the Veterinary Surgeons' Board of WA – Newsletter September 2003 "The often quoted industry mantra "look at the mortality figures, things are getting better" is misleading and irrelevant as morbidity and individual suffering, which is the basis of law, is conveniently, in fact by necessity left out." (Our comment:- simply put, The mortality rate may be getting less but this cannot be used to cover up or justify the individual suffering and deaths, which is what animal cruelty laws are based on.) This simplistic term "accepted mortality rate", firstly recognises the absolute certainty of animal deaths aboard every voyage.

Official figures are misleading and do not take into account the losses of animals once they are loaded at the farm gate, right through the system until they are loaded on the ship and the outright losses due to ships sinking or burning and losing the entire shipments. For instance in 1996, 67,488 sheep were left to burn on the Uniceb when it caught fire and took eight days to sink. The sheer horror for the animals being burnt to death over an unknown period of time is unforgivable in anyone's language. In the past twenty years the number of animals dying in catastrophes due to weather, shipments being rejected, ships sinking or experiencing equipment failure is in the hundreds of thousands. These deaths are slow, terrifying and cruel. For more information on the long history of suffering and death see Death Files.


The arrival of the animals into countries with high temperatures and high humidity is the beginning of yet another ultimately shameful, unforgivable and terrifying series of events. Animals are offloaded under inhumane and uncaring circumstances. They are thrown, driven, belted and hacked to get them under control. Cattle are immobilized by men who slice the tendons in their legs to bring them down and poke out their eyes with knives to force the cattle to drop. Animals are left with broken bones and other painful injuries until they die or are slaughtered by having their throats cut and left to bleed to death. Read  Petra Sidhom's account in Egyptian abattoir. Animals Australia investigations over the years have provided proof of the ongoing suffering by Australian animals yet sucessive Governments are determined to permit the trade to continue.

There is no religious or cultural excuse for this kind of ignorance and cruelty. This trade is unacceptable to any reasonable, compassionate society and Australians have every reason to be outraged by the live animal export industry. It is uncivilized, cruel and unnecessary to treat any animals in this way when there are economically viable and humane alternatives. Opposition from both rural and city folk, to Australia 's live animal export industry grows day by day as people see past the trade's propaganda and appreciate the extent of the horrific treatment, stress and cruelty suffered by the animals. Some sectors of agricultural production are absolutely appalled by this industry and the resultant decimation of the economies of many small Australian rural communities.

The economics of the live animal export trade are questionable. Its impact on the Australian work force has been negative and over 40,000 jobs have been lost to overseas interests along with the profits. Despite those economic considerations – this industry brings in around $900 million per annum, it comes at a far greater cost and Australians are saying this barbaric trade is not worth it – The Meat Workers Union released media comment many years ago and their view remains unchanged. 

The Government and industry have always advocated that there is a lack of refrigeration and infrastructure in these countries therefore there is a need to provide live animals. Saudi Arabia alone has spent one trillion dollars on infrastructure and there is more than adequate refrigeration in the Middle East. They have supermarkets in both the cities and outlying communities equal to the very best in Australia, providing all forms of fresh processed packaged meat.

Following is an extract from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia website (Sorry, page at Saudi site has been removed) pertaining to the Hajj which explains how in 2001 – 637,669 animals (goats, camels, sheep and cattle) were SACRIFICED over a three day period. This equates to over 8,856 animals per hour, for the full 72 hours.

Below is an extract from a letter written by an oil rig employee who worked in the Arabian Gulf for some years. Click here to read the full letter.

“I worked in the Arabian Gulf on an offshore drilling rig for many years and have seen these ships carrying these sheep go past on a regular basis. You can smell these ships long before they come over the horizon, and for days afterward dead sheep would be floating past the rig, this is because the tide runs in a circular motion. We could not understand why there were so many sheep tossed into the sea on a single day, until we saw a couple of them trying to swim, then we realised that this must have been the final clear out of those animals that would not have passed inspection, or would have died before sale. Unless you have lived in the Middle East, you can have no comprehension of the people or customs or conditions that exist in that area. To say that you have to send sheep live because there is no refrigeration is absolute bullshit. There are supermarkets there just as there are here, and they sell frozen meat of every description. I have seen an animal killed in the back streets of one of these countries and it was not a pretty sight. I only saw one and do not wish to see another. That poor sheep was being skinned with its throat only half cut, hanging up by its heels. The fate of some of these animals can only be described as being horrific. There is no way that anyone with any sense of decency could ever condone the live animal trade! Not only is it cruel beyond belief, it is also economic stupidity. The fate that falls to some of these animals is indescribable and horrific.”

We know and are very concerned that this export trade has provided millions of animals and still does, for a sacrificial ceremony which happens every year, to the detriment of thousands of Australian jobs. The money this trade returns can be replaced with processed meat. The reality is that there are a few exporters and overseas importers who make an enormous amount of money while economies of rural and regional Australia are dying due to abattoir and related industry closures which provided the bulk of employment in many towns. The ultimate price is paid by the thousands and thousands of animals suffering and dying in deplorable conditions due to this live export trade. These animals are the innocent victims of human greed.