Live Export Shame

All News Updates & Public Comment => Live Export News Updates => : WA Export News November 06, 2012, 02:29:08 PM

: Vet group says scabby mouth will cause more live export rejections. 6.11.2012
: WA Export News November 06, 2012, 02:29:08 PM
Vet group says scabby mouth will cause more live export rejections.

 Monday’s 4 Corners program, describing yet another disaster for the live export
industry, prompts the need to focus on a disease of sheep which is minor in health
terms but has major importance as an excuse for rejection of sheep shipments.
Vets Against Live Export (VALE) state that the latest rejection of 20,000 Australian
sheep from Bahrain, ending in their brutal killing in Pakistan, illustrates how the
much-trumpeted supply chain assurance system, and the inter-government
memoranda of understanding, have failed to prevent a large-scale animal welfare
disaster.
 
But what has not been emphasised is the crucial role that scabby mouth disease in
sheep has played in determining whether or not importing countries in the Middle
East reject shipments. History has shown that those rejections result in repeated and
significant animal welfare disasters. The scabby mouth excuse can be brought into
play by the importing country at will. It is clear that many shipments with scabby
mouth are in fact accepted, as pointed out in the program by the Chief Veterinary
Officer Dr Mark Schipp. The claim by Alison Penfold of the Australian Livestock Exporters’
Council that this is an “isolated incident” is in our view untrue. Sheep shipments have
been rejected because of claims they are infected with scabby mouth over and over
again for decades. Scabby mouth was the “reason” for this particular disaster and
also that of the Cormo Express in which nearly 6000 sheep died before the Australian
government gifted the rejected sheep to Eritrea.
 
In the 4 Corners program, both the Deputy Secretary of the Department of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), Phillip Glyde, and the Chief Veterinary
Officer played down the importance of scabby mouth disease in live export sheep.
Dr Schipp described the disease as unimportant and Mr Glyde reinforced this when
he said that it was not a requirement of importing countries that sheep be free of
scabby mouth. The exporter, Wellard, has made a similar statement to the effect that
scabby mouth is unimportant.
 
VALE spokesperson Dr Sue Foster says “These statements miss the point. In the
late 1990s, scabby mouth in Australian sheep was seen by the biggest export
market, Saudi Arabia, as so important that several shipments were rejected and
eventually the trade ceased.”
 
The only way live exporters and the Australian Government could restart the trade
was to ensure that sheep going to Saudi Arabia were vaccinated against scabby
mouth. The law that requires the scabby mouth vaccination is still in place. Also, a
live exporter is obliged by law to reject any sheep showing signs of scabby mouth
from a shipment. So it is simply wrong to claim that scabby mouth is unimportant,
because regardless of what the Australian Government says, the presence of
scabby mouth allows importing countries to reject sheep shipments at any time.
 
Scabby mouth is highly contagious and widespread. Even if all sheep showing signs
of the disease are filtered out, there will still be sheep on live export ships that carry
the disease. The importance of this is illustrated in the 2001 Handbook for Shipboard
Veterinarians on live export voyages going to Saudi Arabia, which says that
conditions on the ships are “…ideal for scabby mouth spread.” In other words, the
disease cannot be eradicated from live export ships and will continue to be used as
justification for rejection of shipments for political or commercial reasons while this
trade continues. So far as animal welfare is concerned, the consequences of this
clinically minor disease are therefore profound indeed.
 
It is VALE’s view that claiming that scabby mouth is unimportant graphically
illustrates how, in order to protect this trade, the government, the Chief Veterinary
Officer and the exporter are prepared to rewrite and misrepresent history.
 
ENDS


VETS AGAINST LIVE EXPORT | WWW.VALE.ORG.AU
6 November 2012
MEDIA RELEASE
For more information contact Dr Sue Foster on 0423 783 689, info@vale.org.au