FOOTAGE of hundreds of Australian sheep, cramped together and dying aboard a squalid live export ship, has shone the light on “shocking” failures of the industry.
The sector is now being pressured to meet higher standards — or face a blockade. The video, filmed by a navigation officer aboard multiple voyages from Australia to the Middle East, reportedly shows thousands of animals packed into ship’s pens — panting in the extreme heat.
More than 1300 sheep allegedly died in two days during an intense heatwave in the Persian Gulf.
The navigation officer told 60 Minutes that crew fainted while the sheep, unable to leave the boat, were essentially being “put in an oven”.
Crew members are seen tossing carcasses from the boat into the sea while others fight for food or collapse and die in filth below deck.
It is alleged Emanuel Exports was behind one of the recorded journeys. Industry regulations forbid pregnant sheep being exported on the ships but the footage shows young lambs crammed in with the flock.
“I have seen a lot of little young lambs die — they’ve been crushed under the feet of other animals,” the officer said in a video diary aired by 60 Minutes. “It’s so distressing.”
Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said he was “shocked and deeply disturbed” by the vision.
“This is the livelihood of Australian farmers that are on that ship — that’s their pride and joy,” he said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
“And it’s total bulls*** what I saw taking place.” The minister has requested an urgent briefing from his department and the industry.
He said he would take “strong action” against exporters, regulators or crew who failed to fulfil their responsibilities.
An Emanuel Exports ship carrying 65,000 live sheep and 250 cattle to the Middle East will be blocked from leaving Australia if the export company fails to meet strict new conditions.
The Agriculture Department wants the amount of stock on the ship to be reduced, and independently gathered video and photographs of conditions sent to the department every day after it sets sail.
Emanuel will need departmental approval to export its current shipment, which is due to leave Fremantle for Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar on Tuesday.