October 29, 2003

 

 

Australia Sustain Live Sheep & Cattle Exports Worth $A1.0 Billion Despite Rejection By Saudi Arabia

 

Australia will maintain its live sheep and cattle export business worth $A1.0 billion ($NZ116 billion) a year despite controversy over a shipload of sheep that wandered the seas for three months with no landing in sight, the government said Monday.

 

"The trade is continuing. There's no question it won't continue. . .the government is completely supportive of the continuation of the trade," a spokesman for Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said.

 

He was commenting after the African nation of Eritrea on Friday accepted a shipment of 52,000 live Australian sheep, after the original buyer Saudi Arabia on disputed disease grounds rejected them. The sheep left Australia in early August.

 

Subsequent rejection by several countries of the free sheep left them crammed aboard the transport ship the Cormo Express for 80 days.

 

Animal rights groups, which demanded slaughter of the sheep at sea, have been campaigning for an end to the Australian livestock export trade, the largest of its type in the world.

 

The government will now sponsor a review of the trade, looking into animal welfare codes, regulatory arrangements, and types of livestock suitable for export and supervision of export shipments.

 

A ban on the export of ewes was under consideration, the agriculture spokesman said.

 

A new plan covering alternative destinations for animals rejected by an original buyer will also need to be put in place.

 

Saudi Arabia, previously the largest market for Australian live sheep, remains suspended by the Australian government.

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