It's not every day that a livestock-abuse video is set at sea, but such is the situation in Australia. The New York Times reports the country's 60 Minutes on Sunday broadcast footage shot by a whistleblower in August 2017 on a ship laden with sheep that was sailing from Western Australia to Doha, Qatar. The voyage is common: Roughly 1.4 million sheep are sent around the globe via boat from Western Australia annually. But in this case, more than 2,400 of the 65,000 animals aboard didn't make it, having succumbed to heat stress. The Times' report describes "rotting corpses" being thrown into the sea and "images of sheep dying in their own feces." The Guardian reports Australia's Department of Agriculture investigated at the time and noted the temperatures in the Persian Gulf had hit about 96 degrees with 95% humidity overnight—perilous conditions for animals.
The department found that Emanuel Exports switched to heavier staffing to help with water distribution and opened "excessively boggy pens and those in hotter areas," but the steps taken were "insufficient." It was the publication of the footage months later that spurred outrage. The government has vowed to investigate, and the ship the animals sailed on was on Sunday barred from leaving with another 65,000 sheep due to airflow concerns, reports Australia's ABC. Critics, including one lawmaker who referred to the vessels as "death ships," want real change—a ban on live exports during summer months, perhaps, or a shift to more onshore butchering. One farmer tells the Times that doesn't work for him, citing a lack of slaughterhouse facilities and his own need to export. "I would go broke." (Read more animal abuse stories.)