A live export company at the centre of a cruelty case has revealed it considered killing more than 20,000 WA sheep at sea and dumping them after authorities in Bahrain refused to take the animals.
Exporter Wellard Group said this week it looked at culling the animals aboard the ship under international slaughter standards, but baulked at the idea amid fears it would spark a media frenzy and further turn public opinion against the trade.
“We needed to dispose of the animals, and we can dispose of the animals ourselves on board the vessel,” Wellard Group executive chairman Mauro Balzarini told The Weekend West.
“Slaughter them humanely according to the international standard. Throw them overboard — animal welfare is protected but what would be the reaction of the media in Australia if you throw 20,000 sheep, although killed humanely, in the sea?”
The MV Ocean Drover was refused permission to unload sheep in Bahrain in late August amid claims some animals were diseased.
After ruling out the idea of killing the animals and dumping them at sea, the sheep were sent to Pakistan, where health authorities again claimed the animals were unfit for human consumption — triggering a brutal cull in which thousands of sheep were stabbed, clubbed and buried alive.
The sheep were refused entry to Bahrain despite a longstanding diplomatic agreement with Australia that live sheep should be taken off a vessel even if disease was suspected.
Mr Balzarini said the ship was ordered to leave Bahrain by its Ministry of Internal Affairs, even though the country’s agricultural ministry had declared the animals healthy and said they could be discharged.
In Pakistan, the importer of the sheep, PK Livestock, won an injunction halting the cull, but dropped further legal action to have the animals declared healthy amid threats from local authorities to bulldoze the company’s abattoir.
The importer was quoted in Pakistani newspapers suggesting local veterinary officials had given an adverse health ruling to the shipment after he refused to give into “demands”.
The sheep slaughter caused anger among animal rights groups and again brought the Federal Government’s new livestock cruelty prevention rules into question — introduced after a ban on cattle exports to Indonesia last year.
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has repeatedly denied the approvals process, known as the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, was rushed through to allow the animals to be unloaded in Pakistan.