• The overwhelming support for an Australian live sheep export ban

    September 4, 2023


    UPDATE: The RSPCA is welcoming the tabling of a government response to the petition for an Australian live sheep export ban.

    Keep reading to learn more about the concerns surrounding Australia’s live export industry and the overwhelming public support of the RSPCA Australia petition calling for a legislated end date.


    Sheep being loaded onto ship as part of Australia's live export industry for Australian live sheep export ban and RSPCA Australia petition calling for an end.
                                                     (Image: Joanne Mcarthur)


    We previously shared the RSPCA-initiated petition that was calling for an official end date to the industry.

    An overwhelming number of Australians put their signature on the online petition, which was presented to parliament last month.

    With close to 44,000 signatures, the RSPCA says the petition is one of the largest parliamentary e-petitions in our nation’s history.

    Public response to petition calling for Australian live sheep export ban

    “The Federal Government is on the right side of history,” RSPCA Australia.

    The federal Minister for Agriculture has tabled his response to the petition that was presented to parliament by Josh Wilson MP, Member for Fremantle.

    The RSPCA says the response shows the Government firmly commits to an orderly phase out of the “cruel and unfixable live sheep export trade.”

    “The Federal Government is on the right side of history,” said RSPCA Australia Chief Science Officer Dr Suzie Fowler.

    “We welcome confirmation today that the Government remains committed to phasing out live sheep export – because the reality is that the trade simply cannot be fixed.

    “The petition – one of the largest parliamentary e-petitions in Australia’s history – shows that the Australian community does not accept this trade continuing.

    “Add to that the fact that the majority of Australians, including 71% in Western Australia and 69% in rural and regional WA, support the phase out, and there can be no doubt that Australia supports the Government’s intention to implement a phase out of live sheep export by sea.”

    Dr Fowler said that the Government must act swiftly to introduce legislation in this Parliamentary term to ensure the end of the trade is embedded in law before the next Federal election.

    “Now that the independent panel has provided their report to Government, there should be no impediment to introducing and passing legislation as soon as possible in this term.

    “Legislating the end date in this term of Parliament is the only way to improve welfare for Australian sheep, meet the community’s expectations, and provide certainty for Australian farmers.”

    Read the Federal Agriculture Minister’s response (on page 41).

    RSPCA Australia petition recommendations into Australia’s live export industry

    The RSPCA, along with many animal welfare organisations, say the export of live sheep is inherently cruel and needs to end.

    In a submission to the independent panel in May, the RSPCA put forth 17 recommendations, including for the phase out to happen quickly.

    RSPCA Australia’s CEO, Richard Mussell, said at the time that the petition is pushing for a legislated end date within the current 47th Parliament.

    “The aim is for the phase-out to be executed in the shortest possible timeframe,” says Mussell.

    “The petition is one of the largest Australian parliamentary e-petitions in history, receiving overwhelming support from the community.

    “It’s yet another demonstration of how much the community supports a phase out of this cruel and unfixable trade.”


    Australian sheep on a farm for Australian live sheep export ban and the RSPCA Australia petition calling for an end to Australia's live export industry
    The RSPCA says Australian sheep are subject to welfare concerns on the ships and when they arrive at their destination country (image: supplied)

    Australian’s want the industry gone

    Recent surveys indicate strong public sentiment against live sheep export.

    Data from a McCrindle 2022 survey showed that 78% of Australians would back a phase-out if there were measures in place to support farmers during the transition.

    Another survey from May this year revealed that 71% of West Australians are in favour of ending the practice.

    Mussell says the organisation is heartened to see the number of Australian’s signing the petition

    He added the petition had received widespread support from other animal welfare organisations.

    “We’re particularly heartened by the fact that so many Australians showed their support in just a four-week period,”

    “And also the significant support this petition received from across the animal welfare sector.”

    “We commend the Australian Government for their continued commitment to the phase out,” says Mussell.

    “The next step is to legislate the end date in this Parliamentary term to improve sheep welfare, provide certainty for the farmers, and deliver on community expectations.

    “We deeply appreciate Josh Wilson’s leadership on this issue and it’s great to see such widespread support from across the House of Representatives today.”

    “This is a clear sign of strong political will to improve animal welfare in Australia, and we trust it will result in decisive action following the independent panel’s report to Government on how and when the phase out should occur.”

       → The independent panel will submit its report and recommendations to the Australian Government by 30 September 2023.

       → With 43,758 signatures, it ranks as the 31st largest petition on the e-petitions website and stands as the 5th largest in the 47th Parliament.

    Australia’s live export industry: the push for a ban and focus on humane animal transportation

    The RSPCA has consistently expressed concerns about the live export industry.

    It says the industry has inherent challenges in ensuring animal welfare during long sea voyages and in importing countries.

    The organisation advocates for a transition away from live exports in favour of a chilled and frozen meat export trade.

    It argues would be both more humane and economically beneficial for Australia.

    Australia’s live export industry involves the transportation of livestock, primarily sheep, cattle, and goats, to overseas markets for slaughter.

    The industry has been operational for several decades and has been a significant source of income for many Australian farmers.

    Key markets for Australia’s live exports include the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and North Africa.


    Live sheep export sheep packed together on ship for Australia's live export industry, why is live export cruel? And the push for humane animal transportation.
                    Cramped sheep on board a live export ship (image: supplied)

    More people than ever are now questioning the morality of exporting live animals for slaughter.

    Why is live export cruel? Animal welfare concerns and the environmental impact of live sheep export

    The live export industry has long been the subject of controversy and overwhelming public scrutiny.

    The practice, which involves transporting live sheep primarily to the Middle East for meat, faces increasing criticism over animal welfare concerns.

    Public opposition focuses on the welfare concerns of the animals during transit and push for more humane animal transport options.

    The journey often involves long, stressful trips in cramped conditions, leading to health issues and, in some cases, high mortality rates.

    The environmental impact of live sheep export is another significant concern.

    The carbon footprint of transporting thousands of animals across oceans is considerable, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

    This aspect of the trade raises questions about the sustainability of such practices in a time where environmental consciousness is growing.

    Economically, the live sheep export industry has been a significant contributor to Australia’s economy, particularly in rural communities.

    However, the increasing public pressure and the potential for international backlash are leading to calls for a shift towards more sustainable and humane alternatives.

    This includes options such as processing meat domestically before export.

    Some of the primary concerns include:

    Transport conditions Overcrowding, inadequate ventilation, and extreme temperatures can lead to heat stress, injury, and death among the animals during the journey.

    Long journeys The extended duration of some voyages, which can last several weeks, results in increased stress and potential for disease outbreaks among the livestock.

    Treatment in importing countries There have been concerns about the treatment of animals upon arrival, particularly in countries where animal welfare standards may differ from those in Australia.

    Economic concerns Some argue that processing animals domestically would create jobs in Australia and add more value to the economy than exporting live animals.

    About the RSPCA

    Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA):

    The RSPCA is a well-known and respected animal welfare organisation, not just in Australia but globally.

    Founded in England in 1824, it’s one of the world’s oldest and largest animal welfare organisations.

    RSPCA Australia is the federation of eight independent state and territory RSPCA bodies.

    The RSPCA aims to prevent cruelty to animals by educational programs, facilitating adoptions, advocacy work, and law enforcement.


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