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Live export — a history of disasters

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1 November 2012

Crisis after crisis: the live export industry bears an ugly and volatile history.

The Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare tabled its report in 1985, 'Export of Live Sheep from Australia', and concluded:

The trade is, in many respects, inimical to good animal welfare, and it is not in the interests of the animal to be transported to the Middle East for Slaughter.
The implementation of reforms will help to reduce but not eliminate stress, suffering and risk during transportation of sheep to the Middle East.'

The Keniry Review inquired into the Cormo Express rejection and recommended changes to the live export 'self-regulatory' system as it referred to the industry as a 'high-risk trade' and stated:

The livestock export industry is uniquely and inherently risky because it deals with sentient animals along an extended production chain, from farm to discharge into the market.

The Review concluded that there must be recognition that the livestock export industry cannot afford more bad outcomes and therefore all higher risk voyages should be eliminated. In those circumstances where there is clear evidence of a risk that demonstrably contributes to adverse outcomes on a predictable basis, exports should not be permitted.

Farmer Independent Review of Australia's Live Export Trade after the revelations of the cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs in May 2011

The industry is high risk and has been subject to a number of shocks, and reviews.

Routine mortality on ships

Tens of thousands of sheep and around 1,000 cattle are reported to die each year on live export ships (though these figures are 'self-reported' by the Master of the vessel and are in reality likely to be higher).

Sheep can sicken and die from failing to eat the on-board pellet diet, and animals can die from salmonellosis, pneumonia, heat stress and other illnesses. Few are euthanased, most die without human intervention (i.e. are not treated). This has occurred despite numerous inquiries and reviews and the introduction of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) in 2003 after the Cormo Express tragedy. ASEL only relates to the preparation of animals for transport, and their handling and conditions on ships and during unloading.

In the ten years from 2001 to 2011, 12,049 cattle were reported dead onboard ships, and at least 454,374 sheep died on the ships in that decade. This is a much higher death rate than similar (young, mostly wether) sheep would incur on farm 1%-2% per annum, compared to just under 1% during a single shipment lasting only on average around 2.5 weeks (i.e. an estimated 10 times the expected on-farm morality rate). There are no current statistics on the numbers of animals that die in feedlots in importing countries before slaughter.

The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) was introduced in 2011 (as an outcome of the Indonesian cruelty exposé and extended to all markets by the Farmer review), and now is intended to cover 99% of all live animal exports (by 1/1/2013 it will be 100%). It requires animals that are exported for slaughter to only be handled in importing countries through facilities (feedlots and abattoirs) that have been audited against a check list based on OIE (minimum) standards. Pre-slaughter stunning is not a requirement of ESCAS. ESCAS does not cover animals exported as breeders or dairy animals.

Major breaches of ESCAS and other cruelty complaints

Details of compliance investigations on Department of Agriculture website

  • February 2012 — Animals Australia provided DAFF with evidence of cruel cattle slaughter in two ESCAS-accredited abattoirs in Indonesia using Mark IV boxes approved by DAFF. The exporters had their ESCAS approval varied, and were required to put further safeguards in place. (Outcome published 18/5/2013)
  • August 2012 — Animals Australia provided evidence of over 200 Australian sheep being sold in a livestock market in Kuwait and being slaughtered cruelly in a makeshift slaughter room outside the ESCAS-approved facilities. DAFF concluded that it was 'highly likely that the the Al Rai market in Kuwait City were exported under ESCAS arrangements,' and there was non-compliance with OIE and ESCAS. Three exporters were required to 'strengthen control and traceability in the Kuwait supply chains.' (Outcome published 16/5/2013)
  • September 2012 — Animals Australia provided detailed information on the traditional rope tripping and slaughter of Australian cattle in an ESCAS-approved Indonesian abattoir. (Outcome published 7/2/2013).
  • One further (undated) report of 'major' or 'critical' ESCAS non-compliance was self-reported by one exporter, Wellard, early in 2012, and related to cattle being found at a slaughterhouse without ESCAS accreditation.
  • Wellard Rural Exports 'self-reported' the cruel slaughter/culling of some 21,000 sheep in Pakistan in September and October 2012 - outside the ESCAS-approved system. DAFF concluded that the treatment of the sheep was not compliant with OIE animal welfare recommendations and 'that the non-compliances were serious in nature.' The industry has voluntarily agreed not to send sheep to Pakistan. (Outcome published July 2013)
  • September 2012 — RSPCA Australia lodged a formal complaint with DAFF regarding the neglect of Australian dairy cattle and sheep on a Sheik’s property in Qatar — resulting in the deaths of thousands of animals. (Outcome published (7/3/2013).
  • December 2012 — RSPCA Australia lodged a formal complaint about cruelty at an ESCAS-approved abattoir in Israel - cruel handling of Australian downer cattle and horrific slaughter methods for sheep and cattle were exposed. Outcome: no action was taken as the animals left Australia prior to the introduction of ESCAS at the abattoir (although they were slaughtered after it passed the audit). The abattoir was re-audited and passed despite the ongoing use of a restraint box that tips cattle upside down whilst conscious. (Outcome published 4/4/2013).
  • November 2012 — Animals Australia provided evidence of falsification of documents relating to pregnancy testing, mortality and slaughter methods from a shipment of Australian breeder cattle to Mauritius in September 2012. DAFF found that pregnant cattle were exported, the voyage report failed to record all events and the stockman did not stay for discharge. DAFF accepted the corrective actions of the exporter and clarified pregnancy testing of export cattle. (Outcome published 17/1/2014)
  • February 2013 — Animals Australia provided further evidence of Australian sheep still being sold at the Kuwait livestock market at the centre of its August 2012 complaint - outside of the ESCAS approved supply chain. DAFF found the complaint proved - the sheep did leak from the ESCAS-approved supply chains to the Al Rai market. Exporters to Kuwait have been required to provide further reporting and security for sheep movements (in addition to the previous conditions from the August 2012 breach). (Outcome published 17/1/2014)
  • April 2013 — Animals Australia provided evidence of cruel handling (including tendon slashing and eye stabbing), and inhumane restraint and slaughter methods for cattle at the two Australian-approved abattoirs in Egypt. Investigation underway.
  • May 2013 — Animals Australia provided evidence of breaches of ESCAS in Malaysia. Investigators documented goats and sheep being on-sold to unaccredited facilities, cruel handing (dragging, leg tying and transport in boots) and substandard slaughter of cattle in an ESCAS-approved slaughterhouse. DA found the breaches proved – subsequently further training, extra audits and monitoring of slaughter was undertaken in the cattle abattoir, and two farms/feedlots were removed from the ESCAS supply chain. (Outcome published 24/2/2014).
  • June 2013 — Animals Australia lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Agriculture after gathering evidence of deliberate, widespread and systemic on-selling of Australian sheep in Jordan and in Lebanon occurring in breach of ESCAS. DA found a 'major non-compliance' with ESCAS had occurred with some 1100 sheep outside the approved supply chain facilities in Jordan and in Lebanon, and sheep being handled and slaughtered in breach of minimum ESCAS welfare standards. No sanctions were applied - the 'regulatory outcome' was that 'exporters … have been required to undertake additional activities to strengthen control and traceability elements of their supply chains'. (Outcome published 24/2/2014).
  • June 2013 — Footage revealed Australian sheep being punched, kicked, hit and thrown while being unloaded from two livestock vessels in Israel. Animals Australia immediately lodged formal complaints with the Department of Agriculture, citing numerous ESCAS breaches. DAFF determined that there was evidence of non-compliance with ESCAS during unloading and transport in Israel. Training has been implemented and exporters are to ensure the shipboard veterinarian and/or stockman oversee loading. (Outcome published 17/1/2014)
  • July 2013 — An exporter (Wellard) self-reported the slaughter of almost 7,000 sheep in an abattoir in Jordan prior to its approval under ESCAS. A 'minor non-compliance' under ESCAS was reported. (Outcome published 17/1/2014)
  • August 2013 — An anonymous person reported bad husbandry and slaughter of cattle outside an ESCAS supply chain in Malaysia. DAFF determined that at least 53 cattle did not go through the approved abattoir and were unaccounted for by the importer. The exporter (NACC) undertook to no longer use that importer. (Outcome published 17/1/2014)
  • October 2013 — Animals Australia lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Agriculture after gathering evidence of many thousands of Australian sheep being held and sold in Jordan in breach of ESCAS, and instances of sheep being slaughtered in breach of ESCAS. Investigation underway.
  • October 2013 — Animals Australia lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Agriculture after gathering evidence of onselling of Australian cattle in Mauritius and the cruel slaughter of an Australian bull in breach of ESCAS. Investigation underway.
  • November 2013 — The Department of Agriculture is investigating video footage and other evidence - provided by Animals Australia and others - of the street killing of dozens of Australian cattle in Gaza (in October 2013) and cruel slaughter in an abattoir in breach of ESCAS. Investigation underway.
  • January 2014 — Animals Australia lodged a further formal complaint with evidence from Jordan showing hundreds of Australian sheep being illegally sold and offered for slaughter by some 30 roadside vendors, including from livestock merchants identified in earlier legal complaints. Australian sheep were also documented without ear tags in an approved feedlot in Jordan – in breach of ESCAS. Investigation underway.

Live Export Trade Disputes and Rejections in 2012:

  • August — Egypt complains to Australia that two shipments of cattle 30,000 slaughter cattle in all are not acceptable because they have HGP implants in their ears. The cattle wait in two feedlots in Egypt for several months (from July) while the dispute continues. In November it is reported in Egyptian media that a Cairo University Veterinary Committee recommends the cattle's ears be cut off prior to slaughter to remove the implant. The Australian Government intervenes and reassures that this will not be the case that the cattle will have their ears cut off after they are slaughtered. Some of these cattle still remain in the feedlot (November 2012).
  • From August, three shipments of 'breeder' cattle from Australia to Sumatra in Indonesia have their pedigree questioned by Indonesian veterinary authorities and the importer is threatened with having to re-export them. The dispute remains unresolved (November 2012).
  • August DAFF approved a risky ship-to-ship transfer at sea of 15,000 sheep during a voyage which included sheep and cattle to Jordan and Egypt respectively. Jordan had decided whilst the ship was on the water that it did not want the ship to first visit Egypt (due to a perceived Foot & Mouth disease risk).
  • In September footage and eye witness accounts emerge of appalling conditions on a Qatari farm which had imported Australian dairy cattle and breeding sheep (ESCAS does not apply to breeder animals). Some 7,000 sheep died of malnutrition and heat stress and more than 60 dairy cows and calves died through malnutrition and thirst. This matter is under investigation.
  • Rejection — In late August the Al Shuwaikh arrived in Bahrain just 36 hours after the Ocean Drover had been rejected - allegedly due to concerns about scabby mouth among the shipment of sheep. The Master of the Al Shuwaikh did not unload the 42,000 sheep destined for Bahrain, and instead moved on to Kuwait. Kuwaiti government authorities then delayed the unloading of the Al Shuwaikh sheep (including some originally bound for Bahrain) by at least one week Kuwait (arrived first on 25/8, and unloaded on 3/9). The delay is in breach of country-to-country MOUs which should ensure animals are unloaded within 36 hours of reaching port.
  • Rejection — In late August the Ocean Drover unloaded sheep in Oman and Qatar, but was not able to unload the remaining 22,000 animals in the original destination, Bahrain, due to allegations of scabby mouth (the ship was in a Bahrain port on 21 August and 29 August). The ship then moved to Karachi and unloaded the sheep in Pakistan on 3 and 4 September 2012 (concluding a one month journey). The rejection is in breach of country-to-country MOUs which should ensure animals are unloaded within 36 hours of reaching port.
  • In mid-September up to 10,000 of these sheep from the Ocean Drover were brutally 'culled' in the importer's feedlot by order of the provincial government authorities in Karachi, Pakistan who upon learning of the rejection by Bahrain held fears about disease. Despite appeals to the Sindh High Court and independent health checks declaring the animals disease-free, the remaining sheep were killed in a similarly brutal manner in mid-October thus all 21,000 sheep were slaughtered outside the ESCAS system.

Live export exposés and issues in 2011

  • In March 2011, Animals Australia investigators visited 10 abattoirs in four Indonesian cities to document the treatment and slaughter of Australian cattle. The investigation revealed further terrible evidence of exported Australian animals being brutalised and, in the worst cases, tortured prior to slaughter. The investigation featured on ABC TV's 4 Corners in May 2011, led to a suspension of the trade with Indonesia, a ban on the Mark I slaughter boxes that trip cattle to the floor, and a new ESCAS-system was introduced with animals only permitted to be processed at audited abattoirs.
  • August 2011 Animals Australia released footage from a July/August investigation showing exported Australian sheep being hoisted alive and slaughtered cruelly in major Turkish abattoirs.
  • August 2011 - New footage from Israel showed Australian cattle after unloading in Eilat port, tightly packed on a truck, caked in faeces and being beaten with spike-tipped poles to unload into an Israeli feedlot.
  • August/September 2011 the MV Al Messilah breaks down off the coast after leaving Adelaide with some 67,000 sheep onboard. The sheep are kept on board for a week before Australian authorities allow the stricken ship to return to port and offload the sheep into feedlots. 300 sheep perished onboard over that week; it is the first time animals have been allowed to re-enter Australia due to strict quarantine rules. Eventually the surviving sheep are loaded onto export ship, the Al Shuwaikh, bound for the Middle East.

NOTE: Twenty-seven investigations since 2003 by Animals Australia investigators have documented cruelty to Australian animals in Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Mauritius, Lebanon and Gaza (Palestine).

Live export animal welfare on-board: high mortalities and rejections — 30 years of evidence

NOTE: These are just the incidents that have been reported.

Reported live export cattle and sheep 'high' mortality Department of Agriculture investigation reports: These reports on high mortality voyages (but only from 2006 onwards) are now publicly available (since Animals Australia challenged the secrecy of the reports under the FOI Act). There are now 46 reports over these 8 years triggered when a sheep shipment exceeds a death rate of 2%, and when a cattle shipment death rate exceeds 1% for long voyages (10 days or more) or 0.5% for shorter voyages.


  • February 2014 — The Ocean Drover left Fremantle, WA in late January (20/1/14), but experienced engine problems near Cocos Island and stopped for 3 days for repairs. The engine then operated at reduced capacity, extending the voyage and causing extra fodder to be procured from Israel and loaded onto the ship off Djibouti in mid February. The ship unloaded some animals in Eilat, Israel on 21 February (a 33 day voyage) before further unloading in Jordan. A DA investigation is underway as the mortality rates among the 42,000 sheep (at least 1630 dead - 3.89 per cent) and 6000 cattle (165 dead - 2.75 per cent) exceed the 'reportable rate'.


  • October 2013 – 49 Angus and Hereford young cattle died during air cargo transport from Sydney to Kazakhstan. It is believed the aircraft’s ventilation failed and the cattle suffocated. The cattle were part of a consignment of 321 cattle exported for breeding – a regular trade by exporter Livestock Shipping Services (based in WA). The cattle that died were on the top deck of double deck crates in the 747 aircraft. A Department of Agriculture investigation is underway.
  • September 2013 — 28 Wagyu cattle died on a 747 cargo plane (operated by Singapore Airlines) from Melbourne to China. Ventilation deficiency is the likely cause, and the cattle deaths occurred on the upper tier of double deck crates. A Department of Agriculture investigation is underway.
  • August-September 2013 – 4,179 (5.53%) sheep died due to heat stress on the MV Bader III on a voyage from Adelaide and Fremantle to Qatar and the UAE (exporter LSS). Severe temperature and humidity affected the animals on day 21 of the voyage. The voyage was delayed a further week whilst 4,000+ carcasses were dumped in open sea, then the remaining sheep were offloaded in the UAE on day 32. Most deaths occurred on the fully enclosed decks. Temperatures in the assembly feedlots in SA and WA ranged from 0 to 19 degrees, and the temperatures on the ship ranged up to a wetbulb (wb) reading of 38 wb degrees (a combination measure of heat and humidity – adult merino sheep experience heat stress over 30 wb degrees and die at 35.5 wb degrees).(Report released 17/01/2014)
  • May 2013 - 18 Angus cattle (1.43%) on a shipment from Brisbane to Japan. The DA report indicates the cause was heat stress, pneumonia and rough seas contributing to the deaths. Vaccination for Bovine Respiratory Disease was imposed on the next shipment. (Report released 24/2/2014)
  • January 2013 – 7 dead (Angus) breeder cattle ‘feeder’ cattle (1.79%) on a shipment from Brisbane to Japan. The report indicates heat stress as the main cause - high humidity and rough seas. Inadequate airflow (dead spots) on some decks reported, but judged in compliance with Australian shipping regulations. However the ship owners subsequently upgraded ventilation. (Report released 17/01/2014)


  • March 2012 – 7 dead (Angus) ‘feeder’ cattle (1.17%) on a shipment from Brisbane to Japan. Report indicates high temperatures and humidity and thus likely heat stress and rough sea conditions which may have caused unseen injuries contributing to the deaths. A further 12 cattle died in another consignment on the same shipment (0.78%). (Report released 17/02/2014)


  • 72 cattle died on the MV Ghena voyage from Portland to Turkey (1.43%) in June 2011 primarily due to pneumonia, but also including from septicaemia and inappetence. The AQIS report says many cattle had winter coats which were 'liberally coated with faecal material' (prior to loading). The animals endured 'heat stress' for some 17 days of the 37 day voyage, a longer voyage due to avoidance of pirates, shipping delays in the Suez canal, a direction to join a search and rescue operation, and then inadequate numbers of trucks during unloading.
  • June 2011 703 dead sheep (2.46%) due to enteritis (salmonellosis), inanition and heat stress on a voyage from Portland to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.


  • 295 (1.79%) Australian cattle died of pneumonia and heat stress on the MV Ocean Shearer in February 2010 - on the first voyage of cattle to Egypt since the suspension in February 2006 (due to revelations by Animals Australia of the cutting of tendons at Bassateen abattoir in Cairo).
  • June 2010 913 dead sheep (2.5%) due to heat stress and enteritis/salmonellosis on the voyage from Portland/Fremantle to the ME. Note over 200 sheep died before the sheep even left Australian waters (and Animals Australia lodged a formal complaint with WA authorities but it was not proceeded).
  • July 2010 1,914 sheep dead (3.67%) due to heat stress and enteritis/salmonellosis on the voyage from Portland to the ME, and a further 527 sheep dead (2.08%) from the consignment form Adelaide to the ME (on the same shipment). A total of 2,572 sheep (note - a further 131 sheep were found dead, but it was not known which port they loaded) died on this ship.
  • August 2010 1,407 sheep dead (2.04%) due to heat stress during the last week of the voyage to the Persian Gulf from Fremantle.

Note: AQIS has advised again and again that the danger of heat stress during the MR summer means that the space per animal needs to be increased at this time, i.e. the current stocking density tables are inadequate. This has not yet occurred.


  • March 2009 9 dairy cattle died during a voyage to Kuwait due to calving complications and poor quality food on board. Cows are not legally permitted to be exported in their third trimester of pregnancy. 19 full-term calves were born during the voyage (3 stillborn, 7 euthanased, and 9 disembarked at journey's end). A further premature calf was born and 3 cows aborted during the voyage.
  • August 2009 756 sheep dead (2.19% due to heat stress and enteritis/salmonellosis on the voyage to the ME.
  • November 2009 138 sheep died (7.36%) during a live export flight by air to Malaysia. The ventilation on the plane was inadequate and the sheep died due to high temperature, humidity and ammonia levels in the hold of the plane.


  • February 2008 - 15 cattle (0.85%) had to be euthanased due to injuries sustained when the ship ventured into the path of Cyclone Nicholas note that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority 'considers' the master of the vessel may have chosen better options to avoid the cyclone.
  • December 2008 21 cattle (1.14%) died on board on the way to Indonesia likely due to rough seas.

NOTE: Attempts by DAFF to reduce sheep stocking densities on ships (to reduce the high death rates during the northern hemisphere summer, see below) were met with legal action brought by live export companies, and as such no increased space allowances are in place.


  • 3,500 Australian cattle were caught up in an Israeli agriculture and veterinary workers strike in January. The cattle were delayed, then unloaded into quarantine feedlots, but without standard veterinary health checks. Half were destined for Israeli slaughterhouses, and the rest were to be transported to the Palestinian Territories.
  • In March 2007 a ship with 1,695 cattle on board travelling from Fremantle (WA) to Jakarta (operated by Halleen Australasian Livestock Traders Pty Ltd) was battered by a cyclone. 68 cattle died (4.01%) during the 8-day voyage.
  • In May 2007 a small ship made three voyages from Australia to Indonesia and on each voyage cattle died at a rate above the 0.5% reportable level (0.55%, 0.57% and 1.25%) most due to injury (some 'did the splits' or were unable to rise due to slippery floors; some for a week!) many had to be euthanased when they could not rise to be discharged from the vessel. Only after the 3rd voyage of that ship were changes made to use bedding to reduce the flooring problems on the vessel.

Heat Stress 2007 - During the northern hemisphere summer of 2007 a number of sheep shipments exceeded the 'reportable' mortality level (2% for sheep). They were each attributed to a combination of heat stress and/or inanition/salmonellosis complex;

  • May 2007, 622 dead sheep (4.16%) in one consignment and 349 dead (2.34%) in a 2nd consignment on the same shipment to Oman
  • June 2007, 593 dead sheep (2.15%) on the way to the ME
  • July 2007, 653 dead sheep (2.52%) on the way to the ME
  • August 2007, 1.923 dead sheep (2.53%) on the way to the ME
  • August 2007, 1,251 dead sheep (2.09%) on the way to the ME
  • October 2007, 1,142 dead sheep (2.06%) on the way to Saudi Arabia

Note: Despite recommendations from AQIS that space allowances be increased for all future shipments during the ME summer, this did not and has not occurred (see above for 2008 note).


  • At least 247 cattle died aboard the MV Maysora on a journey from Portland (Victoria) and Fremantle (WA) to Israel in October/November. A further 495 Australian cattle died in quarantine feedlots in Israel after arrival (Israeli Veterinary Service report), and were buried in pits (photos available). Formal AQIS and AMSA investigations were triggered as the on-board cattle death rate was over 3%. The cattle died due to septicaemia (from infected injuries), heat stress and pneumonia (respiratory disease). Only 30-40 of the cattle were euthanized the others were found dead.
  • In February 2006 the MV Al Messilah loaded 786 cattle in Portland (Vic.), and then loaded 71,309 sheep in Devonport (Tas.) for the trip to several Middle East countries including Kuwait. Thousands of sheep were rejected at the feedlot prior to loading due to 'pink eye' infections and other problems. Fully laden the staff resources were not sufficient to treat all the cattle (6 died) and sheep that became ill - 1683 (2.36%) of the sheep died due to heat stress and failure to eat, exacerbated by pink eye and other problems.
  • July 2006 449 sheep (2.17% of the consignment) died of heat stress on a voyage to the Middle East Gulf countries.
  • The MV Maysora arrived in Eilat, Israel, in early November and a consignment of sheep was rejected - said to be due to a suspected scabby mouth outbreak in sheep from an earlier voyage on the MV Bader III. Some of the sheep were offloaded in nearby Jordan and others (approximately 40,000) were unexpectedly taken to Egypt and killed during the Eid Al Adha festival. 862 sheep died on the month-long voyage (under the reportable death rate).

Note in early 2006 Animals Australia documented the cruel cutting of the tendons of cattle at Bassetin abattoir in Cairo (where up to a million Australian cattle had been killed in previous years) and the trade to Egypt was suspended. The live cattle export to Egypt commenced again in 2010 to limited abattoirs. In late 2006 Animals Australia documented, then subsequently exposed, the cruel killing of Australian sheep during the 'Festival of Sacrifice' in Cairo. Sheep export to Egypt was outlawed in 2008 and remains so.


  • Australian cattle offloaded in Israel from the Bader III were held up for some 24 hours in heat at the border crossing with the Palestinian Authority. Local animal advocates documented the distressed animals who had received no food and water during their truck journey or delay at the crossing.
  • The MV Maysora was delayed fully laden with 80,000 sheep in Fremantle harbour when engine problems occurred. No animal welfare authorities were alerted.


  • The MV Maysora delayed in Aqaba port in Jordan with 3,300 cattle languishing on board for almost a week whilst importers argued about feedlot space.


  • Saudi Arabia rejects the MV Cormo Express (allegedly on disease grounds) in August, with 57,000 sheep on board. No other country would take the sheep; up to 12 countries approached declined. The Australian Government bought the sheep from the original Saudi importer and it was late October before Eritrea agreed to offload them (and were provided with a $1 M fee for doing so. Ten percent, around 6,000 sheep, died during the three month-long voyage. Australia suspended all live export to Saudi Arabia (the trade resumed in mid-2005).


  • 99 cattle died on the NV Norvantes en route to Jakarta in February when the ship hit bad weather. The vessel left Darwin carrying 1,169 cattle. (report at
  • The Israeli Government reported that in July, cattle and sheep on the M.V. Maysora arrived from Australia and experienced heat, unloading and transport delays, and were delayed at border crossings. Some 200 cattle died, most after arrival. Israel temporarily halted all imports of Australian cattle for several weeks until the delays and transport problems were said to be 'resolved'.
  • The MV Becrux, on its maiden voyage and boasting the ability to provide the highest standard of animal welfare and comfort, carried 1,995 cattle and 60,000 sheep from Portland Victoria to Saudi Arabia in July. 880 cattle and 1,400 sheep died after the vessel met extreme temperatures (45 degrees) and humidity in the Arabian Gulf. The remaining animals were rejected by Saudi officials and had to remain on board until another buyer was found to accept them (in the U.A.E).
  • In July and August four shipments of sheep recorded high death rates during export to the Middle East, and a total of 15,156 sheep died during the voyage and discharge phase.
    • Cormo Express: 1064 sheep died
    • Corriedale Express: 6119 sheep died
    • Al Shuwaikh: 5,800 sheep died
    • Al Messilah: 2173 sheep died.
    • AMSA/AFFA and AQIS conducting 4 separate inquiries.

At least one ship, the Al Shuwaikh, was allowed to load more sheep in
September and leave for the ME before any reports were completed, albeit with an AQIS vet on board. A further 2,304 (3%) sheep died.


  • Two shipments of cattle to Korea were rejected at their destination when local farmers believed the trade would threaten their local 'Hanwoo' cattle industry. Six cattle were beaten to death while the remainder had to be held in quarantine and on board ship until the Korean Government were able to move them to slaughter.


  • The 'Temburong' - 829 cattle suffocate when power loss causes ventilation failure on the ship during the voyage from Darwin to Irian Jaya in January. The formal report recommended improved management of back-up power sources (
  • Some 800 cattle were loaded onto the 'Kalymnian Express' in December 1999 in Western Australia bound for Indonesia. Over 300 cattle died of injuries, or were destroyed later due to their injuries, when the ship met a cyclone off the north west coast of Western Australia. (report at


  • The 'Anomis' arrived in Malaysia from Geraldtown (WA) in January with over 2,400 goats and cattle but could not unload due to a financial dispute between the exporter, shipper and importer. The ship was held up for over two weeks and some 283 goats and 154 cattle are reported to have died. No report available.
  • The MV 'Charolais Express' hit heavy weather on route from Bunbury (WA) to Jordan in July. 346 cattle, of the 1,200 loaded, are reported to have died due to inadequate ventilation. Fifty cattle then died in a Jordanian port, and a further 174 were injured or ill and were subsequently rejected by Jordan, then by Yemen, and were ultimately disposed of at sea.


  • 1,592 cattle drowned when the Guernsey Express sank after taking water on its way to Osaka, Japan. No report has yet been provided!


  • 67,488 sheep died when fire broke out on board the Uniceb; 8 days elapsed before any rescue attempt was made.


  • Published figures show increased on-board death rates, rising to almost 3 per cent, with the rise being attributed mainly to a large number of ships unloading at more than one Middle East port.
  • Published studies show death rates in Middle East feedlots to be, on average, 3 per cent over the 3-week holding period (Aust. Vet. J, Vol 69, No 2, February 1992.)


  • At the end of the Iran/Iraq war, Australian sheep arrived in war-devastated Kuwait and some 30,000 sheep died from heat stroke and dehydration due to poor infrastructure and feedlot facilities. Animals Australia had previously appealed to the Government to stop shipments to the Gulf region during the war.

1989-90 Multiple rejections leading to a ban on export to Saudi Arabia for 10 years.

  • Eleven Australian shipments were rejected due to claims of scabby mouth and other diseases, by Saudi Arabia. Over 600,000 sheep on those ships endured elongated journeys as they waited on ships outside ports during negotiations or travelled to alternate ports. On ship, the Mawashi Al Gasseem was forced to stay on the water for 16 weeks in 1990 before another country would accept its remaining sheep.
  • Official statistics were available for only 9 of the 11 ships rejected (June 1989 December 1990): 602,035 sheep loaded, 37,179 sheep died - 6.17% - three times the 'normal' mortality rates for the trade at that time.
  • On 17 January 1991 then Minister for Primary Industries, John Kerin, finally halted the trade with Saudi Arabia (it resumed in 2000 under a new veterinary protocol which then broke down in 2003, leading to the Cormo Express rejection).


  • The "state of the art" Cormo Express left New Zealand in May 1990 and close to 10,000 sheep died en route to the Middle East due to inadequate ventilation causing heat stroke, pneumonia, other diseases and failure to eat.


  • 15,000 sheep die of heat exhaustion on board the Fernanda F.


  • Ventilation breakdown in the Mukairish Althaleth causes the death of 70 sheep each day.


  • 15,000 sheep die from 'exposure' in Portland feedlots while waiting loading.


  • 635 sheep die in the transfer from the Kahleej Express to the Al Shuwaikh.
  • 8,764 sheep perished onboard The Persia from ventilation breakdown.


  • The total cargo (40,605 sheep) perish in a fire aboard the Farid Fares.
  • Disease outbreak causes the death of 2,713 sheep on the Kahleej Express.

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