Death not the best measure of cruelty according to Animal Welfare Unit

The percentage of animals who die on live export ships is not the best measure of animal welfare, since it doesn’t indicate suffering and can drastically under-represent onboard mortality rates when compared with on-farm mortality rates.

The comments were made by Dr Jeni Hood, Scientific and General Inspector of the State’s Animal Welfare Unit. Dr Hood was speaking at Wednesday’s public hearing before the Environment and Public Affairs Committee into the live export trade.  

Dr Hood also pointed out that while a shipment might have an overall mortality rate of under 1%, in some cases prime sheep, such as Class A wethers, had a startling 3.4% mortality rate.

“A slow death on a ship bound for the Middle East is surely animal cruelty. It’s not as though these animals were going to die naturally anyway. This journey causes their deaths,” said Lynn MacLaren, MLC for the South Metropolitan Region and Greens WA spokesperson for Animals.

“The Animal Welfare Unit is chronically understaffed, with only 2 inspectors in the state. They could be assisted in their enforcement role by a range of other Government Departments from Agriculture and Food to the West Australian Police.

“Dr Hood explained that when animals are exported, deaths occur in short timeframes, up to 21 days. So compared with on-farm mortalities, deaths during export are exponentially higher. This shows that live export causes suffering and death,” added Ms MacLaren.

Many of the questions at the hearing focused on resourcing of the Animal Welfare Unit

“With only 2 inspectors, how can they investigate cruelty complaints throughout the whole state?  Apart from monitoring compliance of the use of animals in scientific experiments, most complaints (99%) are in relation to live exports.

“The Local Government Minister recently admitted he will no longer give reports on animal experimentation,” according to Ms MacLaren.

The Environment and Public Affairs Committee are currently reviewing a petition tabled by People Against Cruelty in Animal Transport.

The petition, which was signed by thousands of West Australians, asks that the Legislative Council investigates the trade, citing concerns about considerable suffering during shipment, being slaughtered in a cruel manner which would be illegal in Australia, that Legislation covering road transportation and loading of animals is not being adequately policed and that the live animal trade is undermining the more lucrative, job creating, processed meat trade.

“This cruelty has to stop. Much more can be done to enforce our animal welfare laws, but so far the government pretty much turns a blind eye to millions of exported animals each year,” added Ms MacLaren.