By Boyd Champness

SYDNEY – The Australian Federal Government has put restrictions on the exporter responsible for the death of over 400 cattle aboard the Israel-bound MV Charolais Express last year.

Federal Agriculture Minister Mark Vaile has ordered Wellards Rural Exporters not to ship live cattle from southern ports, where temperatures are cooler, to the Middle East and North Africa during the northern hemisphere summer (1 May-31 October).

The restrictions were imposed following an inquiry that found the cattle had probably died of heat-stroke.

Mr Vaile said the decision would enable the live cattle trade to continue to earn valuable export dollars while addressing the animal welfare lobbys concerns. The live sheep and cattle trade is worth A$400 million (US$253m or £158m) to Australia each year.

Last years tragedy was followed by a similar incident earlier this month, when 800 cattle owned by the Sultan of Brunei aboard a ship bound for Indonesia suffocated.

A government inquiry has also been launched into this latest fateful voyage. Although it is too early to speculate, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority believes the ventilation system aboard the Temberong, which left Darwin with 1011 cattle, failed.

The RSPCA, the Australian Veterinary Association and the Australian Democrats (Australias third major political party, similar to the Liberal Democrats in the UK) have called for an immediate ban on all live exports, but the government has said the practice will continue.