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Sydney Morning Herald background coverage articles on the Live Export Trade

Monday, November 3, 2003
Saudi offer to re-inspect sheep 'not take seriously'
Australia had not taken seriously a Saudi offer to re-inspect 57,000 sheep rejected for import in August, a Senate committee was told today. more

Government floats Pacific solution for rejected animals

Australia may set up an offshore facility for holding and slaughtering animals rejected by other countries for import, a Senate committee was told today. more

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Animal groups condemn slaughter practices
A stun gun blow to the head is a small mercy administered by Australian abattoirs to deaden the agony of slaughter, but most livestock exported to the Middle East must bleed to death. more

 Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Odyssey of Australian sheep to end in Eritrean pots
Eritrea said today that 50,000 Australian sheep that had been wandering the seas for more than two months were in good health and would eventually be cooked and eaten. more

Monday, October 27, 2003
'Ship of death' sheep set for Eritrean slaughterhouse
The 52,000 Australian sheep, which finally found a new home in east Africa, are soon to meet a bloody end at an Eritrean slaughterhouse, officials said. more

Sunday, October 26, 2003
Sheep to shore ... finally
The Labor Opposition will pursue the Government over the cost of the "ship of death" saga, which ended on Friday when 50,000 Australian sheep at sea for three months began being unloading in Eritrea. more

Saturday, October 25, 2003
RSPCA says sheep must be in a bad way
The RSPCA said today there was no way the MV Cormo Express sheep, being unloaded in Eritrea, could be in healthy condition after their ordeal. more

Cormo Express managers relieved at end to sheep saga
The Dutch managers of the sheep ship MV Cormo Express today expressed their relief at the finding of a destination for the 52,000 animals aboard. more

Friday, October 24, 2003
Ordeal ends as 52,000 sheep leave 'ship of death'
After more than 70 cramped days at sea and rejection by dozens of countries, 52,000 politically embarrassing Australian sheep were today herded off their "ship of death" bound for a new home in the Eritrean highlands. more

Veterinary association delighted with sheep announcement
The announcement that an unwanted shipload of thousands of Australian sheep would be taken by the African nation of Eritrea was met with delight today. more

Eritrea to take stranded sheep
The African nation of Eritrea is to take a shipment of about 52,000 sheep which have been stranded at sea for almost three months, an Australian government spokesman said today. more

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Truss: we want sheep off ship as fast as possible
The federal government was well past any idea it might turn a profit on the sheep rejected by Saudi Arabia, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today, and wants "the sheep off the ship as quickly as we possibly can". more

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Washington protest over 'ship of horrors'
American animal rights protesters, one dressed in a sheep's costume, staged a noisy demonstration outside the Australian embassy in Washington DC to condemn Australia's treatment of sheep on the MV Cormo Express. more

Friday, October 17, 2003
Howard: sheep will undergo strict quarantine
Prime Minister John Howard today said the shipload of 52,000 sheep on their way back from the Middle East would undergo rigorous quarantine inspection before being allowed back into Australia. more

Sheep ship sets sail towards Australia

The sheep ship, which has been carrying more than 50,000 unwanted Australian sheep for more than two months, left Kuwait today headed for home, an official said. more

Thursday, October 16, 2003
Pressure mounts to slaughter sheep at sea
Facing country-wide protests against the return to Australia of the 52,000 sheep on the MV Cormo Express, the Howard Government is under mounting pressure to approve their killing at sea in defiance of international convention. more

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Sheep ship unwanted, even back in the bush
Ten weeks after leaving Fremantle, the 52,000 surviving sheep aboard the MV Cormo Express are scheduled to begin their return voyage today - as unwanted in Australia as they were in the Middle East. more

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Stranded sheep 'not bound for our dinner tables'
The Sheep Meat Council of Australia today dismissed speculation that the 52,000 sheep stranded aboard the MV Cormo Express could end up on local dinner tables. more

Monday, October 13, 2003
Sheep further delayed from leaving Kuwait
A boatload of more than 50,000 Australian sheep has been further delayed from departing Kuwait. more

Friday, October 10, 2003
Sheep crisis sparks national inquiry
A former president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is to head a review of the live animal export trade, looking closely at the problems surrounding the 52,000 sheep on the MV Cormo Express. more

Thursday, October 9, 2003
Sheep likely to leave Kuwait tonight
The MV Cormo Express, stranded in the Middle East for the past two months with its shipment of 52,000 Australian sheep, was expected to sail out of Kuwait tonight to an unknown destination. more

Wednesday, October 8, 2003
Christmas is coming?
The government maintained today that the Christmas and Cocos Islands are a possible destination for the cargo of 52,000 sheep stranded at sea for more that two months. more

Sheep may be slaughtered on island

A boatload of 52,000 sheep could be dumped on the Cocos Islands or Christmas Island, or even sent to Afghanistan, as the Federal Government struggles to find a destination for the animals. more

Tuesday, October 7, 2003
Stranded sheep offered to 25 countries
Australia had gone back to 25 countries to try to sell them 52,000 sheep stranded aboard a ship for the past two months, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today. But he admitted an analysis on the quarantine risk was not yet complete. more

Sunday, October 5, 2003
Sailing sheep not on a 'holiday camp'
About 50,000 Australian sheep, stranded on board a ship for eight weeks, are free of infectious diseases, Australia's chief veterinarian said yesterday. more

Saturday, October 4, 2003
Independent vet report last hope for sheep
Australia said today it hoped an independent vet's report would convince Middle Eastern countries to reconsider their rejection of 50,000 Australian sheep stranded at sea for eight weeks. more

Australian sheep in Kuwait after ill-fated voyage
A ship carrying more than 50,000 Australian sheep has docked in Kuwait but the animals' fate was unclear after a plan for the British army to distribute them in neighbouring Iraq apparently foundered. more

Friday, October 3, 2003
Slaughtering sheep at sea not an option: Howard
Prime Minister John Howard today ruled out slaughtering more than 50,000 sheep aboard the MV Cormo Express while it is at sea. more

Thursday, October 2, 2003
Slaughter sheep at sea, urges animal liberation group
More than 50,000 sheep stranded at sea for eight weeks should be stunned and thrown into the ocean one by one to drown, an animal liberation group said today. more

Wednesday, October 1, 2003
PM says sheep are set to come home
Reprovisioning of a ship carrying 52,000 Australian sheep will begin tomorrow, as Prime Minister John Howard said it was likely the sheep would be brought home. more

Sunday, September 28, 2003
Team flies out to find sheep a country
Government officials are flying to the Middle East this weekend in a desperate attempt to solve the problem of the 53,000 Australian sheep adrift in the Persian Gulf. more

Saturday, September 27, 2003
Sheep could be bound for Ramadan feast
Australia is negotiating with 10 countries including Iraq to take the more than 50,000 live sheep stranded in the Persian Gulf aboard the Cormo Express. more 

Friday, September 26, 2003

Secret deal gives sheep to Baghdad
Australian livestock exporters will buy back the 53,000 sheep adrift in the Persian Gulf and give them to Iraq for slaughter at Ramadan, under a secret deal the Australian Government is brokering. more

A recipe for cruelty
The RSPCA has launched a caustic advertising campaign against the live export of 57,000 sheep, now stranded on a ship in stifling conditions in the Persian Gulf. more

Sheep or pawns? Activists want them killed at sea
Australia's live sheep exporter has accused "irresponsible animal welfare groups" of hampering the sale of 54,000 sheep stranded at sea in the Middle East for five weeks. more

Thursday, September 25, 2003
Sheep loaded on ship as protest ends
Loading of sheep onto a livestock export ship in Victoria's south-west was underway after the removal of protesters who had earlier blocked the operation, port authorities said today. more

Bartlett wants RSPCA to examine stranded sheep
The RSPCA should be allowed to examine the sheep on board the Cormo Express, the Australian Democrats said today. more

Sheep overboard
Australia's live sheep export trade to the Middle East is in jeopardy. Andrew Darby reports on the industry that is regularly all at sea. more

Protesters block second sheep ship bound for the Middle East
Animal rights protesters stopped a Middle Eastern sheep carrier from docking in Victoria yesterday, as a cargo of Australian sheep continued to drift in the Arabian Sea. more

Little bleating in the Gulf
The sorry tale of 50,000 Australian sheep stranded on the "ship-of-death" off the Arabian peninsula may have animal rights activists in a fit down under, but in the Gulf it has passed barely noticed. more

Sheep onboard a national shame

By Michelle Grattan
September 24, 2003

The MV Cormo Express has become the Tampa of the live sheep export trade. Unable to land at their destination of Saudi Arabia, more than 50,000 Australian sheep, loaded in early August, yesterday remained in search of a third country to take them for money, or free.

Their sorry tale - seven weeks on the sea so far, rather than a fortnight's trip - has raised fresh questions about Australia's billion-dollar live animal export industry, which regularly causes thousands of deaths and inflicts suffering that would not be tolerated onshore.

In the face of this, what does Agriculture Minister Warren Truss say?

He quotes the on-board vet, saying the sheep - apart from about 3800 that
have died - have put on weight. As the RSPCA's Hugh Wirth says,

it makes it sound like they're "enjoying some Mediterranean cruise". They might be getting heavier, but it is not because they're living comfortably or normally.

The Government refused to say where the ship was - until the media found it near Dubai - claiming publicity doesn't help the hunt for a country to take them.

Nor did it want to give mortality figures, fearing it would get locked into running a daily death watch. Releasing figures was left to the ship's owners.

Truss has also condemned "unsympathetic reporting of the issues. For commentators, reporters or animal liberation activists to paint the situation in any way that is likely to undermine the confidence of potential buyers is not helpful to the welfare of the sheep."

Is he serious?  Is he really saying yet another cruel disaster in the livestock export industry should be hushed up?

It is not as though this is an isolated incident, as shown by a glance through the October 2002 report from Truss's Independent Reference Group on the trade.

Truss asked for more advice from this group - which had recommended a much tighter regime more than two years before - after a spate of bad incidents.

The mortality rates during seven voyages last year - all but one to the Middle East - were: February, MV Norvantes (bound for Jakarta) 99 cattle (8.5 per cent); June, MV Becrux 880 cattle (44 per cent) and 1418 sheep (2 per cent); July, MV Corriedale Express 6119 sheep (11 per cent); July, MV Al Messilah 2173 sheep (3 per cent); July, MV Al Shuwaikh 5800 sheep (7 per cent); July, Cormo Express 1064 (2 per cent); and September, Al Shuwaikh 2304 sheep (4 per cent).

The group saw these as "evidence of systematic failures within the whole live animal export program". It pointed particularly to shipments originating from Portland, where the animals were poorly prepared for voyages.

It also said that while some reforms had been made since its February 2000 recommendations, neither industry nor the regulators had been ready for the "cultural change" required. In other words, a lot of feet had been dragged. When the sheep arrived, Saudi officials claimed scabby mouth (against which sheep are now twice vaccinated) was above the accepted limit - a conclusion rejected by the Australian vet.

Tempting as it might be to look for a political motive, there is no evidence of this. The Saudis have a record of turning away shiploads. The live sheep trade to Saudi Arabia resumed only in 2000 after more than a decade's suspension by Australia; this had followed shipments being refused on health grounds.

The great concern, on the Government's part, is that if there is too much hoo-ha over these sheep, the whole trade will be put in jeopardy. It is worth $200 million to Australia in exports to Saudi Arabia. It's the risk of a dangerous backlash that's prompted the Government to intervene in a private transaction, frantically searching for a destination, even though the sheep, with a Saudi owner, are no longer Australian sheep but Saudi refugees.

Already exports to Saudi Arabia have been suspended until this is sorted out. The Government couldn't afford the spectacle of further ships drifting about.

There are now two issues: what should be done with these animals? And, is this trade too inhumane to be pursued?

Wirth argues that the Government won't be able to find a port for the sheep and it's impractical to bring them home, so they should be progressively put down.

But the Australian Veterinary Association, in a rather harrowing news release yesterday, said mass slaughter could be "an animal welfare and environmental disaster". "There will be thousands of litres of blood", it said; animal rights groups "have not considered that the sheep may have to watch the slaughter, nor have they considered the welfare of the people who would have to carry this out".

Both the Government and the industry argue against putting down the sheep, still hopeful a destination can be found. The Governmentdoesn't want the sheep repatriated, because it's a long voyage and there are quarantine difficulties; the ship's owners have canvassed thepossibility of returning them to Fremantle, although they'd much prefer to offload them regionally.

Greens senator Bob Brown yesterday called for the ship to be ordered back at once, saying any quarantine problems are Truss's. MeanwhileAustralian authorities are trying to continue negotiations with the Pakistanis, despite their saying they won't take the sheep.

Animal rights advocate Peter Singer, who calls for euthanasia in this case, insists the entire live trade is a "disgrace" that should be stopped.

"It's a terrible ordeal for the animals at the best of times. They have a nightmare voyage, and then they get treated brutally after they land, asif they were just sacks of wheat rather than living, feeling animals. Every year or two, there is another major scandal . . . The federal ministersays that he will implement reforms, but then . . . the same thing, or something worse, happens again."

The RSPCA opposes the live export industry, but Wirth recognises that neither side of politics will end it. But he wants much more control over it.

So does the Australian public. Even if Truss can solve the Cormo Express problem quickly, what has happened in this and many other instances should weigh on our conscience.

This story was found at:

Monday, September 22, 2003
PM urged to act over ship of sheep no-one wants
Federal Opposition Leader Simon Crean today called on Prime Minister John Howard to intervene in the fate of a cargo of 57,000 sheep stranded aboard a ship in the Middle East for almost two months after Saudis claimed the animals were diseased. more

Animal cruelty denied as sheep stranded at sea
The Federal Government is trying to fend off claims of animal cruelty as it looks for a home for more than 50,000 Australian sheep stranded at sea. more

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Animal rights group to picket Australia House over sheep
Animal rights activists are planning to picket Australia House in London to urge the federal government to rescue a shipment of sheep stranded in the Middle East. more

Sunday, September 14, 2003
57,000 rejected Aussie sheep to be given away
A shipment of more than 50,000 sheep rejected by Saudi Arabia, because it claimed they had scabby mouth, will be given away to a Middle Eastern country, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said today. more

Saturday, September 13, 2003
Rejected Australian sheep head towards third port
More than 50,000 rejected Australian sheep are enduring their 22nd day in Middle Eastern waters as they travel to a third port, as yet unnamed. more

Friday, September 12, 2003
Demand for action over unwanted 50,000 sheep
The federal government should immediately seek an agreement with Saudi Arabia to put down thousands of Australian sheep stranded in the Middle East, the Greens said today. more

Friday, January 3, 2003
Ban on live exporter after 15,000 sheep die
A live-sheep exporter has been banned from exporting livestock after "clearly unacceptable" mortality rates on four sheep shipments last year. more

January 1997 Guernsey Express sinks in South China Sea. 1300 cattle dead.
July 1998 Charolais Express. 570 head from Fremantle die before reaching Middle East.
January 1999 Temberlong. 839 cattle - 80% of the load - suffocate between Darwin and Indonesia.
February 2002 Novantes. 99 out of 1169 cattle die on a voyage from Darwin to Jakarta.
July 2002 Becrux. 880 cattle loaded in Portland in winter die in Gulf heat.
July 2002 Al Shuwaikah, Cormo Express, Corriedale Express, Al Messilah all found to have "high" sheep mortalities after loads from cold areas meet Middle East heat.
August 2003 Cormo Express. Refused entry to Saudi Arabia. RSPCA says up to 6000 sheep dead; 53,000 live sheep yet to be unloaded.

The Cormo Express leaves Kuwait City's Shuwaikh port (16 October, 2003) en route back to Australia. Photo: AFP

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