WA backs live exporter licence suspension

By AAP Newswire

The West Australian government has backed the federal government's decision to suspend an embattled livestock shipping company's licence after a disastrous sheep shipment to the Middle East.

Thousands of sheep died from heat stress during the Emanuel Exports shipment, sparking a national debate about the industry and the need for reform.

WA's Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said in a statement on Saturday that elements undermining the industry's credibility had to be accounted for.

"It was always going to be unsustainable to allow ships to go to the Middle East in the northern high summer months. The federal government's decision reflects that reality," Ms MacTiernan said.

She said they had been trying to find alternative markets to supply meat to the Middle East, including working with meat processors and the merit of chilled and boxed meat exports.

PETA Australia's campaigns director Mimi Bekhechi applauded the federal government's decision and hoped it was the first of many to "end this barbaric and shameful industry".

"More than 200 million animals have been crammed onto filthy cargo ships over the last 30 years, and more than 2.5 million of them have died painfully. Every single one was an individual who felt fear and pain and who suffered mightily," Ms Bekhechi said in a statement on Saturday.

"The industry has proved repeatedly that transporting millions of animals thousands of kilometres across the sea through all weather extremes is ethically untenable."

It also emerged last week Perth-based Livestock Shipping Services is reviewing its sheep export business from Australia to the northern hemisphere in light of new federal government rules, which were in response to the Awassi Express scandal, and has slashed stocking densities by 28 per cent.

It's estimated LSS and Emanuel account for about two-thirds of Australia's live trade to the Middle East.

WA Premier Mark McGowan told reporters in Perth on Saturday he supported "the highest standards of animal welfare".

"The images we've seen on a few occasions have been unacceptable to me and the vast majority of Australians, and if agencies are enforcing high standards, well that's a good thing," he said.

The Department of Agriculture said on Friday the export licence of "one company" had been suspended "pending a full review of the company's response to a show cause notice".

It had ordered Emanuel Exports on June 1 to "show cause" why it should hold an export licence, kicking off a criminal investigation into the August shipment aboard the Awassi Express.

The company has agreed to co-operate with authorities after its licence was suspended.

The WA government is also investigating the possibility of laying criminal charges against the company under the state's Animal Welfare Act.