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Australia ‘shocked’ by sheep deaths on ship

Australia ‘shocked’ by sheep deaths on ship
A generic image of merino sheepImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The sheep (not pictured) involved multiple breeds, the government said

The Australian government says it will investigate how thousands of sheep died on a live export ship last year.

About 2,400 animals succumbed to heat stress while travelling from Perth to three nations in the Middle East in August, according to the government.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he was “shocked and deeply disturbed” by footage that had been given to him by an animal rights group.

The live export trade has previously sparked heated debate in Australia.

The deaths comprised 3.76% of the 63,800 sheep on board the ship, almost twice the level that requires formal investigation, the government said.

Mr Littleproud called for the trade to be conducted “properly and sustainably”.

“This is the livelihoods of Australian farmers that are on that ship,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday.

The ship was bound for Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, the government said.

Mr Littleproud did not give details about the footage, which had been provided by Animals Australia.

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Media captionThe BBC investigated the live export trade in the UK and Europe last year

Although acknowledging the trade’s importance to farmers, Mr Littleproud said whistleblowers should be supported to come forward “so we can nail those who do the wrong thing”.

Animal rights groups in Australia have previously called for the suspension of live exports due to welfare concerns.

In 2011, Australia suspended its live trade to Indonesia for six months after a TV documentary showed graphic footage of animals being mistreated.

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