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What are the standards of animal welfare onboard live export ships?
Animals often experience a range of welfare problems caused by the conditions in which they are transported onboard live export ships. High stocking densities and ammonia levels, extreme changes in climatic conditions and changes in the type of feed provided to the animals, often result in sheep and cattle suffering the following conditions during voyages:
These conditions are often experienced in combination and regularly result in poor welfare outcomes and sometimes high mortality rates. On long voyages, only mortality rates of 2% for sheep and 1% of cattle will trigger an investigation. So on a voyage involving 70 000 sheep, 1400 must die before the cause of death is properly investigated. In practice, these mortality rates are routinely exceeded. Apart from the general suffering resulting from long-distance transport, there is a continuing history of disasters at sea in which thousands of animals have died.
The Australian Government publishes 6-monthly statistics on mortality rates during live export journeys, but using mortality to measure animal welfare is unsophisticated: it provides no measure of the impact of live export on those animals that survive the journey and is not scientifically accepted as an appropriate indicator of welfare standards. Recent scientific analyses have concluded that live export continues to pose significant risks to the welfare of livestock.
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