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Halal doubts cast on new sheep-shipping methods


Halal doubts cast on new sheep-shipping methods

Halal doubts cast on new sheep-shipping methods

A US expert in Islamic law says agricultural ministers and clerics in Kuwait and Qatar would be unlikely to view summer transport of sheep as halal-approved if they were shown the crowded conditions and animals forced to stand for weeks in their own excrement.

 

 

 

A US expert in Islamic law says agricultural ministers and clerics in Kuwait and Qatar would be unlikely to view summer transport of sheep as halal-approved if they were shown the crowded conditions and animals forced to stand for weeks in their own excrement.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud flew to the Middle East yesterday to reassure ministers and importers in both countries that Australia’s live sheep trade would continue during the northern hemisphere summer, but under new conditions recommended by the veterinarian-led McCarthy review he initiated.

As many as six Coalition MPs could cross the floor to vote in favor of Liberal backbencher Sussan Ley’s private members’ bill to phase out long-haul live sheep exports over five years, to be introduced in the House of Representatives today.

Ms. Ley’s bill, which will be seconded by fellow rural Liberal backbencher Sarah Henderson, will ban live sheep exports altogether during the July to September height of the Middle Eastern summer from next year.

However, the bill is unlikely to be voted on for weeks, as the government benefits from a likely temporary six-seat majority due to the five by-elections under way.

But Harvard University professor Kristen Stilt, an expert and author of Animal Welfare in ­Islamic law, who has studied the Australian livestock trade, warns that the end of live exports could be hastened by a failure to meet Islamic food requirements and animal welfare laws signed by the Gulf Co-operation Council.

She says even adopting a 28 per cent increase in pen space recommended by the McCarthy review is unlikely to satisfy strict Islamic law about “everything surrounding the consumption of meat by Muslims”. “It is clear to me that the footage we saw from the ships — the overcrowding, the inability of animals to lie down and rest, and the heat stress — does not comply with the requirements of Islamic law,” she said. Sheep standing or lying in their own excrement for weeks are at risk of contracting diseases and producing meat that is not halal, she says. “The same is true for animals confined in pens where other animals are becoming sick and dying.

“This is not something that is considered discretionary, but rather a crucial part of living by the requirements of Islam.”

Ms. Henderson said she and Ms. Ley were proposing the more conservative July to September ban option to allow the industry time to transition to what she ­believed could be a highly profitable chilled meat enterprise.

“In six years, the number of live sheep being exported to the Middle East has declined from 6 million to 1.8 million,” Ms. Henderson said. “Even if livestock mortalities and animal welfare standards were to improve, a gradual phase out of this trade will deliver more export opportunities for Australian farmers.”

Liberal backbenchers Jason Wood (Victoria) and Ian Goodenough (WA) have expressed in-principle support for Ms. Ley’s bill.

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