A Federal Government-ordered review into live sheep exports has recommended a major reduction in animals on ships bound for the Middle East during the unsafe hot months in the middle of the year.
Australia will also introduce new legislation to penalise any exporter that contravenes new welfare standards. Under the proposal, a director of a company could face 10 years prison or A$2.1 million fine if the welfare standards are not met.
The Federal Government is not expected to announce any ban on live sheep exports when Agriculture Minister David Littleproud releases the results of the review today.
Video images taken past year showed heat-stricken sheep crammed together in small, stifling pens and covered in excrement, shocking the Australian public when it was released by animal activists in April.
Littleproud called the footage of dying sheep disgraceful, but added "what you don't need to do is predicate your decisions on emotions" as this was "one exporter, one incident".
"If you leave a dog in a hot vehicle (in Australia) you are prosecuted and you potentially go to jail", said Lyn White from Animals Australia, the advocacy group that released the shocking video. "What the minister has done is he's responded to the economic interests of the industry once again", the group's strategy officer, Bidda Jones, said in a statement.
A report into the viability of the live sheep trade is recommending exporters reduce the number of animals on board by almost a third. "We saw the devastating effects of the ban on the livestock industry in 2011 and those effects were widespread", Fiona Simson, president of the National Farmers Federation, told reporters in Canberra.
Australia's live animal export trade, worth more than Aus$800 million annually, has been under scrutiny in recent years after footage shot at offshore abattoirs showed cattle being mistreated.
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