In a landmark animal cruelty trial a Perth (Western Australia) court has upheld charges of cruelty in an export of live sheep by sea from Australia to the Middle East.
Compassion in World Farming welcomes the ruling, which provides further justification for ending the export of live animals from Australia on animal welfare grounds.
Animals Australia lodged a cruelty complaint over four years ago, following a joint Compassion in World Farming/Animals Australia investigation of a shipment of 100,000 sheep from Australia to the Middle East.
More than a thousand sheep died during this 'routine shipment' from Australia to Al Shuwaikh Port. Many of the surviving sheep were documented by investigators to be suffering disease and injury, including serious eye infections and broken limbs.
The case was finally heard over eight days in February 2008, when the live export firm Emanuel Pty. Ltd and two of its directors were charged with having breached sections of the Western Australian (W.A.) Animal Welfare Act.
The Magistrate upheld the charge of transporting animals in a way that is likely to cause them unnecessary harm. Yet despite the findings, the magistrate was forced to acquit the defendants on a 'technicality' due to the fact that they had been issued an export permit under Commonwealth legislation. Under Australian law, animal welfare is the responsibility of States and Territories while the Commonwealth has jurisdiction over live exports.
Magistrate Catherine Crawford stated "Whilst the elements of the offence of cruelty to sheep, in the way of transport were proven, the AWA [Western Australia Animal Welfare Act] is invalid, that is inoperative, to the extent of its inconsistency with commonwealth law."
Compassion in World Farming regional representative in Australia, Carole de Fraga said, "The findings placed the burden of animal cruelty squarely on the shoulders of the export trade. The defendants were acquitted due to a 'technicality'.
"The onus is now on the Australian Government not to grant export permits that allow exporters to breach state animal welfare legislation"
Animal welfare groups believe this court ruling will hasten the trade's demise and end the suffering of millions of farm animals transported over long distances for slaughter.