A Project of Animal Place
October 7, 2003
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Number #31 Volume 2
STRANDED SHEEP UPDATE
Nine weeks at sea and rejected by some 25 countries  in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America , the fate of the 52,000 surviving sheep aboard the Cormo Express (see item #3: http://tinyurl.com/q116 ) remains unknown. The Australian government has bought the sheep and said they will be returned to the Australia if no other place for them could be found by early this week . Leaving the sheep on two remote Australian islands is a newly proposed idea but one which presents "logistical problems" .
A World Health Organization veterinarian inspected the sheep and said they are not diseased and not infected with scabby mouth as claimed by Saudi authorities who rejected them . (A Saudi newspaper reported the animals were suffering from stomatitis, which can infect humans. Others point to political or economic reasons for the rejection .) According to the RSPCA, more than 6,000 of the sheep have died . An Animal Liberation activist pointed out that with each sheep producing 0.5 kgs (1.1 lbs.) of manure a day, by early October the shipload of sheep would have produced 1.5 million kgs. (3,306,900 million lbs.) of manure . Mark Pearson of Animal Liberation is demanding an immediate inspection of the ship if it is returned to the continent, and has invited journalists and the police to accompany him .
Former top veterinary officials have urged the government to slaughter and dispose of the sheep at sea rather than risk permitting them to return and transmit exotic diseases they may have picked up . Some animal protection advocates have been calling for the sheep to be euthanized at sea rather than be put through the 2-week journey back to Australia only to be slaughtered there [9, 10]. Prime Minister John Howard has ruled this out as being impractical . The Australian Veterinary Association cautioned that disposing of the sheep at sea would be an environmental disaster, and burying them would require a pit about a mile long and 13 ft. wide and deep [11 (article includes a photo)]. Glenys Oogjes, of Animals Australia, charges the government is reluctant to kill the sheep out of fear that the resulting negative publicity would end the lucrative trade . Warning of potential fallout from the incident, a Queensland Minister cautioned "We risk animal welfare becoming a non-tariff trade barrier [in] some existing markets" .
Animal protection activists have stepped up campaigning for an end to the trade. The RSPCA has launched a $100,000 ad campaign urging people to contact the Prime Minister and express their outrage [13, 14]. Protests and vigils have been held at Australian embassies across Europe and in South Korea . In London, a 26,000-signature petition calling for a ban on the export of live animals was presented to the Australian High Commission . In Portland (Aust.), activists in canoes and dinghies prevented another ship, the MV Al Kuwait, from docking for 28 hours . Others chained themselves to gates and vehicles at a feedlot where sheep awaited export. Heated confrontations with local farmers left one activist injured [17, additional photos at: http://tinyurl.com/q0sq and http://tinyurl.com/q0sv ]. Some 30,000 sheep were later loaded onto the ship.
Australia suspended the live animal trade with Saudi Arabia on August 28th but both countries are said to be intent on ensuring their trading relationship is not impaired . (New Zealand has also halted shipments of sheep to Saudi Arabia until the situation is resolved .) Australian authorities note that shipments elsewhere in the Middle East have since been accepted . Senator Julian McGauran (Victoria) urged the government to reject the suggestion by the Cattle Council of Australia that an independent body be given supervisory powers over the trade. "The so-called cruelty involved in the live sheep trade is no more than what occurs daily down on the farm," he declared  . Veterinarian David Marshall, who has supervised shipments of sheep and cattle, says they are like "a feedlot on the ocean." (The article notes: "At sea or on land, it is the same story: bored animals in metal pens stand around or lie down in sawdust, often in their own muck" ) He rejects their comparison to slave ships noting, "Ventilation was a lot poorer and the food a lot worse on the slave ships" .
Prime Minister Howard stated: "I do share the distress of many people about this and it worries me, but we have to have a sense of proportion ....It's a valuable trade for this country and whilst we should always endeavor to have the most humane conditions, we after all do breed animals for consumption. Now short of stopping the trade altogether, which I don't think is justified and I don't support, there will always be a certain level of that distress and discomfort" . In response, popular commentator Terry Lane points out that, as a secular nation, Australia should not make concessions for animal cruelty on account of religious customs or economics. He contends that the treatment of sheep may be the country's "cultural blind spot." Taking a historical perspective, Lane writes: "Even at times when the darkest deeds were being committed there was always someone who knew better. If it were not so the whole wobbly process of civilisation would grind to a halt. We depend utterly on the few who knew better to keep us moving forward. This week the few who know better are the Portland animal rights activists and the RSPCA. They are the John Browns of our times" .
1. "Don't Dump Rejected Sheep Here: Barnett," The Western Australian, Cian Manton & Ben Ruse, Oct. 6, 2003.
2. "Australia Buys Stranded Gulf Sheep," Reuters, Michelle Nichols, Sept. 30, 2003.
http://tinyurl.com/p6fy or http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=857&u=/nm/20030930/od_uk_nm/oukoe_trade_australia_sheep&printer=1
3. "Australia May Slaughter or Dump 50,000 Unwanted Sheep," Irish Examiner, October 7, 2003.
4. "Government All at Sea Over Live Sheep Trade," The Sunday Times, Peter Law, Sept. 28, 2003.
5. "Sheep Set for Iraq - at $10M," The Age, September 26, 2003.
6. "Stranded Sheep Not Affecting Livestock Exports: Task Force," ABC Radio Australia News, Oct. 6, 2003.
7. "‘Ship of Death' Faces Protesters," The Daily Telegraph, October 1, 2003.
8. "Vets Urge Slaughter of Ship Sheep to Avoid Disease," The Age, Stathi Paxinos, Oct. 2, 2003.
9. "WA Dump Plan for Reject Sheep," The West Australian, Yonnene Pearce, Steve Butler & Cian Manton, Oct. 3, 2003.
10. "Calls for ‘Ship of Death' Sheep to be Slaughtered at Sea," Cape Times, Safa-AFP, Oct. 3, 2003.
11. "Sheep Overboard," The Sydney Morning Herald," September 25, 2003.
12. "Aussie Vets Offer Assessment of Ship's Sheep," Meating Place News, Daniel Yovich, Sept. 24, 2003.
13. "Livestock Trade Under Threat," Sunday Mail, Patricia Karvelas, Richard Yallop & Barclay Crawford, September 25, 2003.
14. "A Recipe for Cruelty," The Sydney Morning Herald, AAP, September 26, 2003.
15. "Sheep Protests Spread Globally," Townsville Bulletin, Paul Mulvey, October 3, 2003.
16. "Activists Halt Sheep Shipment," BBC News, September 24, 2003.
17. "Police Remove Protesters," Warrnambool Standard, September 26, 2003.
18. "Sheep Ship May Head for Libya," The Advertiser, September 29, 2003.
19. "Stand-Off at Waterfront," Warrnambool Standard, Eve Lamb, September 25, 2003.
20. "Australia Denies Iraq Sheep Deal," IC Wales, September 27, 2003. http://tinyurl.com/q0xw or http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0700world/page.cfm?objectid=13455159&method=full&siteid=50082
21. "Secret Deal Gives Sheep to Baghdad," The Age, Annabel Crabb, Andrew Webster & Liz Minchin, September 26, 2003.
22. "This Live Trade Must Stop," The Age, Opinion, Terry Lane, September 28, 2003.