AUSTRALIA'S biggest live sheep exporter is set to have its licence reinstated this week, more than three years after it was banned for alleged acts of animal cruelty.
The decision was handed down to Western Australian-based Emanuel Exports by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) last Friday, with the tribunal stating Emanuel's had "sufficiently rehabilitated itself, so as to resume its status as a body corporate of integrity".
Emanuel's export licence was temporarily suspended and then cancelled by the Federal Agricultural Department in 2018.
It followed an investigation into the death of 2400 out of 63,804 sheep while onboard the Awassi Express from Fremantle to the Middle East in 2017.
The company's wholly-owned subsidiary EMS Rural Exports was also stripped of its licence, following a show-cause notice.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWR) released a statement on Monday, which confirmed the company would be allowed to resume exports from tomorrow, Friday, December 3.
DAWR said it was committed to being an effective and visible regulator in the live animal trade.
It said the Awassi Express incident made it clear there was a need for greater scrutiny of the industry.
Since then, regulation has been strengthened by:
- Implementing a prohibition on exporting sheep to the Middle East during the hottest part of the northern hemisphere summer.
- Requiring heat stress management plans for northern hemisphere summer voyages.
- Lowering stocking densities for sheep on livestock export vessels.
- Requiring automatic measurement and collection of on-deck temperature readings for northern hemisphere summer voyages.
Historically, Emanuel exported more than one million sheep per year to the Middle East and in 2017 contributed 82pc of all live exports from WA.
In August 2018, Farm Weekly reported DAWR as saying it "had taken action against this company in the best interests of the industry and for the protection of Australia's high standards of animal welfare and health".
At the time it said cancellation of licence was a "serious step" and "not one taken lightly".
The decision was handed down 60 days after the initial suspension of the licence in June of that year, which saw the industry encapsulated in a fog of uncertainty and concern.
A month later, Emanuel attempted to gain a permit, however was knocked back.
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Emanuel Exports managing director Nicholas Daws welcomed the AAT's decision to reinstate the company's export licence.
"Good animal welfare outcomes are the core of our business operations," Mr Daws said.
"The significant improvements implemented by the entire live export industry across the full supply chain over the past three years have demonstrated the livestock export industry is viable, sustainable and responsive to community expectations around animal welfare outcomes."
The AAT heard the ban prompted Emanuel to review its regulatory compliance system and implement necessary changes to ensure legislative compliance.
In October 2019, an audit report was delivered with recommendations for improving Emanuel's compliance systems.
Since then, the export company had taken steps to implement those recommendations, including an animal welfare policy and an independent Advisory Council Charter.
The advisory council was adopted on March 10, 2020 and provided the appointment of a minimum of three independent members including one member with regulatory and corporate governance exp
"We find that the establishment of the Advisory Council demonstrates that Emanuel takes seriously its animal welfare and corporate governance obligations," AAT said.
"In conclusion, we find that that the applicants have taken appropriate steps to address the issues of competence and integrity."
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the AAT decision clearly documented conduct that contributed to the catastrophic failures on the Awassi Express voyage.
"We note the AAT's view that a period of suspension of Emanuel's export license was appropriate, and that the restructure and rehabilitation of the company was sufficient to allow it to resume exports," Ms MacTiernan said.
"The State's prosecution of Emanuel and two of its former directors for alleged acts of animal cruelty is ongoing.
"There remain important issues of applicability of State laws to resolve through this case."