The first live shipment of sheep to leave Fremantle since the suspension of the license stopped trading three months ago is expected to leave Western Australia within a week.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources has refused to confirm approval for any shipments, but it is expected that Livestock Shipping Services will load 21,000 sheep for Jordan and about 10,000 head of cattle for Israel on the MV Maysora in the coming days.
The LSS website says that the Maysora has a carrying capacity of about 110,000 sheep (or 70,000 sheep and 12,000 cattle), suggesting that the ship will be loaded well below the capacity for the expected 18-day trip.
The ship will be the first to load sheep for export to the Middle East from Western Australia, as Emanuel Exports and its subsidiary EMS Rural Exports have suspended their export licenses in June-July this year. Both licenses were then canceled by the department.
The department said it would not comment on individual exports, but from 1 May to 31 October 2018, exporters must comply with significantly reduced sheep files for travel in the Middle East, leaving 11-39 percent more space than prescribed by the Australian standards for the export of livestock.
Exporters carrying out Middle East shipments during this period should also carry out independent audits of the outcome of the air-to-air turnover to confirm that the data entered in the heat stress risk assessment model for the industry are accurate; use only vessels with automatic watering systems installed for each scale deck and reduce the notifiable mortality rate for sheep that are exported by sea from 2 to 1pc. The department said that they are also actively considering the conditions that apply to travel after 31 October.
However, the RSPCA has condemned the decision of the Australian government to allow Maysora to continue. The RSPCA said the decision comes because it is awaiting the results of a Freedom of Information request to access images and images recorded on board live sheep export vessels, as the government began to place observers on board in April.
"Despite the government's and exporter's guarantees that conditions have improved, we have not seen any information, photographs or images of those observers and that is very worrying," said senior policy officer at RSPCA Australia, Dr. Jed Goodfellow.
"The decision to abandon the Maysora raises caution because the government is still waiting for the results of three critical assessments of the adequacy of Australian livestock standards, the heat stress risk assessment model and the Department of Property of agriculture to regulate trade.
"The approval of further shipments to the summer in the Middle East before this critical advice is received is simply reckless and shows that the government is again prepared to bring the profits of the exporters above animal welfare," said Dr. Goodfellow.
The department said it needed a qualified independent observer on all eight voyages with sheep that have left Australia since April to monitor the performance of the approved veterinarian and exporter in managing the welfare of the animals and providing daily reports .
"This is an interim measure while an ongoing program is being developed and the department plans to begin publishing reports from observers in October once the current program has been implemented," said a spokesman for the department.
Shadow minister for agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon said it was 13 weeks since Minister of Agriculture David Littleproud "brought the export of live sheep to a temporary stop."
"The Turnbull Morrison government did not offer help to sheepmeat producers at the time, but the minister has given the trade a green light, despite the fact that nothing has changed."