Vessel blocked for animal mistreatment has shipped NZ livestock

Awassi Express moored at a port. Photo: Vessel Finder

A ship blocked by Australian authorities for poor treatment of animals was used to ship New Zealand live stock.

The Awassi Express – the same vessel linked to 2400 sheep deaths during a voyage to the Middle East last August – was set to take in Freemantle, Western Australia, late last week. Concerns were around airflow in pens where sheep travel.

The same ship was used for the export more than 5000 dairy cows from Napier early last year. However, there were no complaints about conditions for stock then.

New Zealand‘s Ministry of Primary Industries director of animal and animal products Paul Dansted said any vessel with a high mortality rate for livestock should be investigated further.

“Ensuring the safety and welfare of animals is MPI‘s priority and underpins New Zealand‘s regulatory system for live animal exports.”

Ships were expected to meet stringent animal welfare standards prior to, and during, a voyage, Dr Dansted said.

However, New Zealand had not exported livestock for slaughter since 2007 and in recent times had not exported livestock to the Middle East by sea.

Photo: RNZ Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Federated Farmers‘ meat and fibre chair Miles Anderson said he had no problem using a ship like the Awassi Express if it had been cleared by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The Awassi Express is a Saudi-owned, Panama-flagged ship. Scandal around the ship erupted after footage of the sheep surfaced showing livestock being mistreated. The images, broadcast on Australia‘s Channel Nine on Sunday night, showed hundreds of sheep in a small space, workers throwing dead sheep overboard, and faeces-covered pens where animals stood panting or collapsed on the ground.

Emanuel Exports, the company in charge of the ship, was also responsible for a July 2016 consignment in which about 3000 sheep died from heat stress during a voyage to the Middle East.

The company‘s director Nicholas Daws apologised after the footage was broadcast.

“Animal welfare failures resulting in high mortalities, like the footage we‘ve seen from the August 2017 Awassi Express shipment, in which 2400 sheep died, are heartbreaking for our company and the producers whose livestock we export,” he said in a statement.