Through their eyes: the physical and mental toll of live sheep export
The evidence is overwhelming.
The export of live Sheep is a scourge that cannot be fixed.
For each of the thousands of livestock shipped to other countries, there are too many possible health risks. Even if exporters manage to solve one or more of these, the entire trade isn’t a sure thing.
The live exporters of sheep have been unsuccessful in trying to convince us to believe otherwise by presenting promises of improvement and overt efforts to defy science and facts.
But, what can’t be addressed is the unhygienic conditions and negative welfare effects felt by sheep not only onboard (which are enough to cause concern) but throughout the Live export process.
As with all animals that are a part of the animal kingdom, the well-being of Sheep is multi-faceted and encompasses mental and physical aspects as well as the capacity to deal with their surroundings. The cumulative effects of the many stressors that sheep that are intended for the live export trade are likely to endure will affect their health at a rapid rate. Although not all sheep will face every stressor or risk to their welfare man,y will, enough to warrant a continuation of this trade is not just indecent, but even unjustifiable.
To really demonstrate what this means, it is our pleasure to invite you to go on the entire journey from beginning to end. Please scroll below to explore the numerous hazards and stressors that sheep are exposed to as well as face until the date for their future is determined.
In the event that our Live Sheep Export Infographic doesn’t show up above, it could be restricted by your browser’s settings. You can click Here for the information graphic to download in an Adobe PDF (9.0MB).
The journey starts.
Life on a farm is typically a pleasant and predictable experience for sheep. If a sheep is naturally anxious and easily scared, this is crucial to their wellbeing.
However, the live export travel begins with the sheep being taken by uninitiated people, then being put into a truck with guidelines for the sheep to stay for up to 48 hours of travel. At the same time, they’re taken to the feedlot.
There’s no obligation to supply sheep with water or food during the journey, and they’ll likely spend the entire trip thirsty hun, hungry, and uncomfortable in their flock in these strange and challenging surroundings.
The first stop is in the food court.
Sheep have been spending at least five days in their feedlot as well as being mixed with Sheep from other breeds in a tiny space that is penned. They usually have little room to move around or engage in the behaviors that are natural to them, like grazing or resting with their flock.
In the feedlot, animals are provided with a consistent diet of pellets that is in contrast to their usual feed, which could result in digestive discomfort or an inability to adjust to it. The resulting stress from an unfamiliar environment, with all the changes and pains, continues to increase.
Another journey and the agony of loading.
At the end of the farm, the sheep are loaded onto a second truck for transport to the port. The next trip can be long, and a long stretch of the road that is without water or food.
The loading onto the ship is expected to take a few hours. Handlers can make use of dogs or electric prods to induce the animals to get moving. They’re exposed to elements and are stressed by noise and the changing environment that they are transferred to.
It’s been a little over one week since the sheep have left the safety on the farms and encountered a world full of unpredictability. They’re frequently hungry, thirsty, scared, and hungry.
Life at the sea.
Onboard the ship; there can be as many as sixty thousand sheep restricted in pens, which often aren’t cleaned until after the boat has docked.
They’ll be confined to this throughout the journey of between two and four weeks or longer if extreme weather conditions or other disasters take place. As the ship moves toward the Equator, the temperature and humidity can reach unbearable levels, slowing down the cooking process of waste sheep. The animals are then required to take over throughout the journey.
A slip or a fall could trap them inside the pen in a secluded area, unable to access water or food and at risk of being crushed by their pen pals.
The longer they stay onboard, the more they’re at risk of suffering from heat stress, stomach illness, and infections. Even if the sheep are able to avoid these conditions, their physical and mental health could continue to decline because of the constant lack of movement and the pressure of working all day long exposed to a continuous light source and loud sounds.
Arriving at port is an opportunity to get a break if the situation on the other side is incredibly difficult. Australian law on animal welfare won’t protect sheep when they have left the vessel, and they run a great risk of handling with roughness when they arrive at their destination.
Exhausted, stressed, and terrified Sheep can be loaded onto a second truck to be taken to a final feedlot where they will be exposed to harsh weather conditions while being fed to prepare to be slaughtered or go straight to slay, where they will usually be killed without shock and causing even more fear as well as pain and an extended death.
This is the reason live sheep export must be stopped immediately. We’ve highlighted here a handful of things that regularly occur on live export vessels. Even if some of them can be addressed in part, even for the most fortunate animals on board, there are too many risks to the welfare of all animals.
If exporting live sheep were a good idea, then it wouldn’t be so strongly opposed by all legitimate animal welfare organizations in Australia and around the world.
When you think about exporting live Sheep, consider all the Sheep that endure this dangerous and unnecessary journey. Australia can do more for them, and we can.