In 2017, the death toll was even higher. A shipment of 69,000 sheep traveling aboard a ship headed to the Middle East in July, lost at least 3,000 animals before the 23-day trip was through.
According to ABC News, the exact number was unknown as the export company listed 1,286 of the sheep unaccounted for, rather than dead, though that answer raised suspicions.
“Normally the mortalities are counted as the number loaded minus the numbers unloaded because the only reason for sheep not being there is they died,” said Vets Against Live Export spokeswoman Dr. Sue Foster.
It’s more than just sheep that are being lost to heat stress in shipment, horses, pigs, and other livestock are shipped and trucked all over the world. Some perish in sweltering conditions, while others freeze to death in the frigid north.
“They can’t move,” Francesca Porta, of Eurogroup for Animals, told the Guardian. “If they fall down, they cannot get up. They are exhausted because the length of journey is very long. They don’t have water, feed, or resting time. For unweaned animals in particular, the mortality rate is high.”
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Progress has been made in restricting the live export of animals around the world, though sometimes with unintended consequences. Where transport providers begin to bow out of the live animal trade, distributors are turning to older, less reliable methods of shipping.
“Eurotunnel moves tanks, alcohol and cigarettes, but they won’t touch animals for food consumption or research purposes because they fear the reputational consequences,” Kirk Leech, executive director of the London-based advocacy group the European Animal Research Association told the Guardian.
Those incidents aside, animal welfare advocates are not backing down. The press against potentially dangerous live exports has only increased.
“At this point, what we’re saying is there obviously has to be a very significant change,” Alannah MacTiernan told Guardian Australia. “And so it is very important that we put in place strategies and market development to ensure that there are viable other alternatives.
“Either way something is going to have to change particularly in relation to that trade that is going on, the high volume of the trade that is going on over those summer months.”
See the shocking plight of the penned up sheep aboard the Awassi Express in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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