The Australian Alliance for Animals is today calling for an immediate inquiry following revelations by Nine newspapers that the WA Government intends to drop animal cruelty charges against the state’s largest live sheep exporter just days before a long-awaited trial was due to commence.
Emanuel Exports was charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty by the WA State Solicitor’s Office in 2019 following the public exposure of horrific conditions on several of its voyages to the Middle East, including the infamous Awassi Express, which led to the death of over 2,400 animals from heat stress.
The decision to drop the charges comes just weeks after Emanuel Exports was granted regulatory approval to reopen the live sheep export trade with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Alliance for Animals Policy Director Dr Jed Goodfellow said today’s revelations were shocking and the public deserved answers.
“These are very serious criminal charges regarding a matter of great public interest,
“To inexplicably drop the charges at the eleventh hour on the basis of ‘the public interest and the interests of taxpayers’ raises more questions than it answers,
“Is the government saying it is too expensive to uphold the law when it comes to animal cruelty?
“This sends entirely the wrong message to the WA community – it’s essentially saying that if a defendant has deep pockets, they’ll get a free pass on alleged breaches of the law,
“It simply doesn’t add up and that’s why we’re calling for the matter to be referred to the WA Crime and Corruption Commission for immediate inquiry,
“Australians were shocked to their core by the horrific scenes of sheep gasping for air while being trampled and dying in beds of their own faeces while sailing into the stifling heat of the Middle East,
“The fact that the exporter responsible for such profound suffering will not be held accountable is an affront to justice,
Despite the withdrawal of the charges, it is a matter of public record that Emanuel Exports voyages resulted in over 2,400 sheep perishing from heat stroke.
Exported sheep continue to face extreme conditions traversing the equatorial, Red Sea and Persian Gulf regions with over 70% of voyages since 2018 reporting heat stress.
A multi-million dollar, publicly funded trial to install air-conditioning units on live export vessels in 2019 failed to be effective in reducing heat and humidity.
“There is simply no way to export Australian sheep into the Middle East in a way that meets acceptable standards of animal welfare,” Dr Goodfellow said.
“The Australian Government must put an end to this misery as soon as possible by expediting its phase out of the trade once and for all.”
NOTES FOR MEDIA
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Dr Jed Goodfellow leads the Alliance’s law and policy reform agenda. He has over 20 years’ experience in animal welfare law, policy and advocacy. He completed his PhD in animal welfare regulation in 2015.
About the Australian Alliance for Animals
The Australian Alliance for Animals is a national charity leading a strategic alliance of Australia’s key animal protection organisations with a combined supporter base of over 2 million people. Core members include Animals Australia, Humane Society International Australia, World Animal Protection Australia, Compassion in World Farming, FOUR PAWS Australia, and Voiceless, the animal protection institute. Website: www.allianceforanimals.org.au