Israel's first lady condemns sheep cruelty

April 12, 2018

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara has asked him to end cruelty in live Aust sheep exports.

Footage of Australian sheep dying in their own filth and suffering in extreme heat on a voyage to the Middle East has caught the attention of Israel's first lady, who says "awful conditions" on the ship broke her heart.

In a video posted on the Israeli Prime Minister's Facebook page, Sara Netanyahu said she was appalled to see the August 2017 footage of the Awassi Express and had raised the issue with her husband.

"I turned to the PM ... who will do all he can to stop the tremendous cruelty," she said.

Ms Netanyahu says she will also approach her counterpart Lucy Turnbull.

"I am sure the topics will speak to their hearts," she said.

More than 100,000 sheep were exported from Western Australia to Israel in the year to June 2017.

The footage prompted federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to launch an inquiry into the summer live export trade to the Middle East.

He is also investigating his own department, which reviewed the death of 2400 sheep on the vessel, but found no breaches of export regulations.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, however, says her department believes it has evidence of state animal welfare law breaches, with penalties including company fines of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison for individuals.

Nationally, there's legislation before parliament to double penalties for companies, but Mr Littleproud wants directors to face jail time.

He disappointed Ms MacTiernan this week by firmly ruling out a ban of live exports to the Middle East during their summer.

She said he should enter the inquiry with an open mind and doesn't see how the trade can continue during those months without air conditioning on the vessels.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is still awaiting confirmation that ventilation systems on the Awassi Express have passed third party testing before the vessel will be allowed to set sail from Fremantle with another shipment of sheep.

Other conditions include a 17.5 per cent reduction in sheep numbers and the presence of a federal government observer who will send back daily videos.

After an estimated 3000 sheep died from heat stress on an Emanuel Exports journey to the Middle East in 2016, managing director Graham Daws reportedly said the episode was a "one off" due to extreme weather.

In a statement this week, he described the latest incident as "extraordinary circumstances" that resulted in "absolutely unacceptable" outcomes.

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