The deaths of 2400 sheep on a live export ship didn’t breach the regulator’s animal welfare standards because it was a heat stress event.
Horrific footage emerged last month of sheep dying in their own filth on a Middle East-bound ship in August last year.
On day 15 of the voyage, temperatures soared, killing 900 sheep. A further 1000 died in the two days following.
The Federal Agriculture Department’s assistant secretary in the live animal export branch, Narelle Clegg, said there were no breaches found on the Emanuel Exports-chartered Awassi Express.
‘‘What this episode shows, particularly the video footage, it shows the inadequacy of the information we’re asking the vets to provide,’’ Ms Clegg told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday.
Bur Labor senator Lisa Singh believed it showed more than that.
‘‘I think it shows the inadequacy of the department as an independent regulator,’’ Senator Singh said.
Ms Clegg responded: ‘‘It may well, that’s your view.’’
The department is considering if more than one of its observers need to be on ships to observe animals and their onboard treatment.
Ms Clegg broke down as she thought about conditions on the Awassi.
‘‘There was so much footage of empty troughs — it was dreadful,’’ she said.
LiveCorp chair and West Australian farmer Terry Enright said he had never seen anything comparable to the vision.
‘‘We’re shocked because that footage represented the reverse of everything we work for,’’ Mr Enright said.
Earlier, assistant secretary Malcolm Thompson said the department would fundamentally change the way it regulated the trade, and admitting shortcomings in the way the industry was policed.
‘‘The footage provided to the department was extremely distressing and completely at odds with community expectations and our expectations as the regulator,’’ Mr Thompson said.
The department’s culture and capability is under review following the controversy, as part of Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s push to clean up the under-fire trade.
Mr Littleproud introduced a bill to parliament on Thursday last week to punish dodgy exporters with up to 10 years’ jail and multi-million-dollar fines.
He also announced a separate review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock will be brought forward to the end of the year.