Live Export Welfare Issues
There are significant risks to the welfare of farmed animals caused by transporting them in ships, especially over long distances. This is confirmed in a 2013 scientific report, The welfare of livestock transported by ship:
“Animals are often exposed to high stocking densities, elevated temperature and ammonia concentration, as well as noise and changes in photoperiod and light intensity. Mortality rate is the main measure of welfare.”
Although animals destined for live export will likely have a short time in a feedlot where the aim is to condition them to being away from pasture and towards eating dry food, it is not uncommon for some to starve to death as they are unable to adapt to the change in diet from grass to pellets.
High ammonia levels on board, from urine and faeces, can cause painful irritations and eye infections, while dust from food pellets can cause respiratory problems.
High stocking densities on ships can lead to animals, particularly sheep, being crushed or suffocated, especially during feeding times or for those animals near a vent, as others struggle to reach cooler air.
Extreme climate changes also take their toll on animals and can lead to heat stress or pneumonia, and ultimately increased mortality.
Numerous scientific research papers have highlighted the severe suffering of sheep when subjected to heat stress. It is known that such extreme conditions are unavoidable on live export vessels when animals are shipped from cold conditions in the exporting country to hot at the destination. Yet, shipments continue to be made through these temperature extremes.
In addition, stocking densities in pens can increase the temperature through the metabolic heat generated by the animals themselves and prevent many animals from being able to freely reach water during high heat.
Impact of Rough Seas
Stock people on ships report that the mortality rate increases and animals suffer to a larger extent during rough weather. The movement of ships, especially when large waves slam into the side of the vessel, cause significant stress to animals. Animals may fall, resulting in lesions and broken bones.
Sheep and cows, being ruminants cannot vomit from their mouths. However, it is expected that they can experience motion sickness in the same way as other mammals.
Export for Breeding
Often transported pregnant, these animals are already in a delicate condition, so sea voyages are particularly stressful for them. Dr Lynn Simpson served as the onboard vet for 57 live export voyages in Australasia. She reported seeing countless mother cows and sheep suffer abortions or stillbirths due to stress.