Australia's Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) set out health and welfare requirements for transport both by land and sea starting with the on-farm process of selecting animals that are fit to travel. The standards include measures such as prohibiting electric prods from being applied to the face or ano-genital area of animals and the setting of maximum water deprivation times. For example, the maximum on-land water deprivation time of 36 hours for mature cattle can legally be extended to 48 hours if the animals are traveling well. For lambs less than six months old, the corresponding water deprivation times can be 20 and 28 hours.
Onboard Space Allowances
ASEL also sets space allowances for the animals. These are the same or slightly more relaxed for ships than for trucks. For sheep without horns, the onboard space allowance ranges from 0.261 of a square meter to 0.658 of a square meter. In other words, pens of smaller animals can have densities greater than three sheep per square meter. For cattle, space allowances range upwards from 0.77 of a square meter.
In addition to ASEL, livestock vessels must meet the provisions of Marine Order 43 and are inspected and determined to be fit-for-purpose by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Stocking densities were removed from Marine Order 43 in 2001 and now fall under the responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. As regulator, the Department can request and review loading plans at any point during loading, during the voyage should a concern arise or during the review of mortality incidents.
Space allocations can influence mortality incidents through the likelihood of physical injury or the transmission of disease and can influence animal stress, something that can make animals more vulnerable to disease risks.
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