Live sheep export: 5 reasons why we need to set an end date

In the past month, a lot has happened, and the future of Australian sheep looks brighter.

Many of you know that the new Federal Government, which won the election in May, had a policy to end the cruel, unsustainable, and unpopular trade of live sheep exports. In the past few weeks, the Minister has repeatedly reiterated his commitment to ending the trade.

RSPCA welcomes this positive development, just as the Australian community has.

There is one step that must be taken immediately. The Government must fix a date for the end of this trade in this Parliament.

Here are five reasons to set a date.

How to make it happen

A future government may decide to abandon the plan if the date of the phase-out for live sheep exports is not set before the federal election. This would not only be terrible for sheep welfare but also for thousands of Australians concerned about animal welfare who want to end the trade.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the trade must end in the next three years – we have called for a 5-year phase-out in the run-up to the election. But it does mean that legislation is needed to bring about this change in the current Parliamentary term (that is, within the next three years).

Give farmers assurance

There is no economic reason to continue allowing live sheep export. A sheep that is processed in Australia contributes a great deal more to the Australian financial system than a live exported animal. The phase-out of live sheep exports will improve the welfare of sheep and create more jobs in Australia.

We recognize the importance of supporting farmers in their transition to alternative markets, and we are confident that this can be done within a reasonable period. Does not benefit Australia’s farmers by prolonging uncertainty or locking them into an unsustainable business. Australians have known for a while that the live sheep trade is in terminal decline and has no future. We call on the Government to set an end date to provide certainty to Australian farmers and facilitate the transition from a meat-only industry to one with more value.

Protecting our international reputation

The live sheep export has severely damaged Australia’s reputation abroad. This is damaging to the image of Australia abroad as a progressive nation that cares for animal welfare and acts ethically and sustainably.

No wonder other countries have banned the export of live animals for slaughter. The UK announced their ban in 2020, and New Zealand did so as early as 2007.

Reflect community concerns

Recent polling shows that two-thirds of Australians support the end of live exports. This includes two out of three people living in rural areas or country towns and nearly 3 in four Western Australians.

The majority of Australians, from east to west and city to country, are against the trade. The community responded positively when the Government announced that it would end live sheep exports before the elections. We also know that the community is eager to see this commitment implemented – the best way to achieve this would be to set a deadline for the end of this Parliament.

The trade is not fixable.

Live sheep exporters will quickly point out the ways in which they have ‘improved” their trade. They may highlight regulatory changes, changes on ships, or selective data such as mortality rates.

The truth is that this trade cannot be fixed and is inherently cruel. Animal welfare concerns with live sheep export come from long journeys such as this, and the only solution is to stop the trade. The trade cannot meet or protect the basic welfare needs of sheep because they do not have access to water and food, enough space to rest and lie down, a toilet that is separate from the pen where the sheep sleep and stand, or fresh air. New technology and better management cannot address the risks.

We are at a pivotal point in the history of Australian sheep, whichever angle you take. We can improve the welfare of hundreds of thousands of sheep each year, but we must set a deadline in this Parliament.


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