The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has issued a statement responding to a story aired on the ABC’s 7:30 program on 22 June about a veterinarian removed from her position after she presented evidence of cruelty and appalling conditions on board Australian live-export ships.
Dr Lynn Simpson was hired by the Department of Agriculture (DoA) in 2012 and was asked to submit a confidential report to a government committee charged with reviewing Australia’s standards for live export.
Dr Simpson’s report contained photographic evidence of animal cruelty she had witnessed working onboard Australia’s live export ships. It showed pictures of animals suffocating in overcrowded pens and drowning in faeces. Dr Simpson detailed how cattle were forced to stand on hard floors for weeks on end, resulting in horrific leg injuries which often led to the animal being euthanased.
“The images that I showed were stuff that I would expect to see every voyage,” she said.
The ABC obtained documents that show Dr Simpson’s report was meant to be an internal, confidential document not for public release. But after the department accidentally published the report on its website, Dr Simpson was removed from her position.
“I was a clean player in a dirty game, and I think it’s disgusting they’ve shut me down,” said Dr Simpson.
The AVA has responded in support of Dr Simpson.
“From the facts covered in the [ABC’s] broadcast, this should never have happened,” said AVA President, Dr Robert Johnson.
“Veterinarians and others in the Department are responsible for enforcing compliance with welfare regulations, and they must be able to do their jobs.
“The story shown on last night’s episode of ABC’s 7.30 is just another indication that the Australian live export system needs further review,” Dr Johnson said.
“This is something we have called for in our 2016 federal election policy platform. We think it’s absolutely critical that veterinarians on live export ships are truly independent, employed by a third party.
“While this incident is certainly very regrettable, it’s a positive sign that Australian Livestock Exporters Council is keen to engage with the veterinary profession to seek improvements to the current system. We will welcome this opportunity to work together constructively,” Dr Johnson said.