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Sheep on 'Cormo Express' are now heading towards Cocos Islands.

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Friday 17 October 2003

Sheep on 'Cormo Express' are now heading towards Cocos Islands


PETER CAVE: The owners of the Cormo Express say they're pleased the sheep ship has finally left Kuwait and they're looking forward to a resolution to what they've described as an unacceptable situation. 


More than 50,000 sheep are now on their way to the Cocos Islands where they're expected to be tested before being brought to Australia. Nearly five-and-a-half thousand sheep have died since the Cormo Express left Fremantle in August. More will die as the ship makes its way back. 


David Weber reports. 


DAVID WEBER: After several delays caused by equipment breakdowns, fire and tides, the Cormo Express has finally left Kuwait, to the relief of all concerned. The ship was there for around two-weeks, way longer than expected. But for the sheep that have been rejected by Saudi Arabia and turned down by another 30 countries, this trip has been most unpredictable. 


The Federal Government's committed to further negotiations in case a taker can be found, but, as the Prime Minister said today, they'll most likely be coming back to Australia.  


JOHN HOWARD: You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, but what would be required to slaughter them at sea would not only be graphically horrendous, it would also raise very serious environmental considerations. It would take a very long time, it could take forty to fifty days.  


DAVID WEBER: Cabinet has firmed on Cocos as the destination. The Cormo Express is expected to lie 10 or 12 miles off the islands while quarantine checks take place. One highly placed source has told PM the Government's currently leaning towards Christmas Island, but a spokesman for the Agriculture Minister has denied this.  


In any case, Christmas and Cocos are virtually neighbours and it makes little difference to Vroon, the company that owns the Cormo Express


Vroon spokesman, Cor Radings.  


COR RADINGS: We are glad we now have a development of the situation, because the sheep have now been on board for eight weeks, when they were bound to be on board for just over two weeks, so there is certainly a need for a resolution of the situation. 


DAVID WEBER: Since the Cormo Express stopped in Kuwait, there have been claims that the sheep that have died are still where they fell.  


But Mr Radings denies this.  


COR RADINGS: There are strict rules and regulations for that, and sheep aren't placed overboard after they have died. 


DAVID WEBER: Has this been a frustrating exercise for Vroon? 


COR RADINGS: Yes, I think that's the right word for it, it has been frustrating, especially for our crew, professional people that are looking after live animals, this is an unacceptable situation. Eight weeks, instead of two weeks, you could call that frustrating, yes. 


DAVID WEBER: The trip to Cocos is expected to take some ten to eleven days. Do you expect more sheep will die during that period? 


COR RADINGS: There will be more mortality on board and this has to do with the length of the stay of the animals on board the Cormo Express and it is inevitable there will be more mortality on board. 


DAVID WEBER: Is it possible to estimate how many more might die? 


COR RADINGS: Because of the fact that sheep have been exposed to the high temperatures in the region, the stress they have accrued during that stay will lead to more sheep dying. It is difficult to give any numbers, but we have a mortality of, say, 15-20 sheep a day over the last week so this will probably continue. 


PETER CAVE: Vroon spokesman Cor Radings.