• RSPCA calls for swift phase out of live sheep export

    July 28, 2023


    The RSPCA is calling for a swift and orderly phase out of the nation’s controversial live sheep export trade.

    Live sheep export sheep packed together

    Phase out of live export trade

    The RSPCA has released its submission to the independent panel advising the Federal Government on how to implement a phase out of the nation’s live sheep export trade.

    The animal welfare organisation is calling for a phase out timeframe of no longer than three years.

    The submission was lodged with the panel in May and contains 17 recommendations, including passing legislation to set an end date this Parliamentary term (before the 2025 election).

    The organisation also calls for a short-term phase out period of no more than three years, and measures put in place to safeguard animal welfare in the meantime.

    “The recommendations are based on the extensive and compelling animal welfare science, which tells us plainly and clearly that live sheep export is unfixable.”

    “The Federal Government is to be commended for their strong and continued commitment to phase out this cruel and unfixable trade,” said RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell.

    “The independent panel, which is due to report to the Agriculture Minister by the end of September, has been given a clear brief — to come up with recommendations about how and when to phase out live sheep export, not if.

    “The recommendations are based on the extensive and compelling animal welfare science, which tells us plainly and clearly that live sheep export is unfixable.”

    Overview of RSPCA’s key recommendations to end live sheep export

    Implement the phase out of live sheep export through legislation.

    Ensure that animal welfare remains a priority of Australia’s live sheep phase out policy, and is not subordinated to economics.

    Support the expansion of Australia’s chilled and boxed meat trade as a more humane and sustainable alternative to live export.

    Expand the Northern Hemisphere Summer prohibition.

    Implement a declining annual cap on the number of sheep allowed to be exported in the interim.

    Reinforce regulatory compliance and enforcement measures to protect sheep welfare in the interim.

    Pass legislation in this Parliamentary term and before the 2025 election, to end Australia’s live sheep export trade.

    Ensure a short-term phase out period of no longer than three years, from the passing of legislation.

    Mitigate any increased risk to sheep welfare in WA by allocating funding for an animal welfare response package.

    Address the current processing limitations in WA as highest priority to ensure sheep can be processed as close to the farm gate as possible.

    Invest in road and transport infrastructure for the main arterials from WA to the eastern states to mitigate any animal welfare risks.

    Prioritise the review and update of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock

    In particular, adds Mussell, the RSPCA is calling for a legislated phase out date to be passed this term of Parliament.

    “This is crucial to give producers and everyone across the supply chain certainty,” he said.

    “To make sure that this transition actually occurs; to demonstrate Australia’s commitment to animal welfare; and to reflect strong and consistent community expectations.

    “We would like to see an early as possible phase out date, but no more than three years, from the time legislation is passed.”

    The submission also includes recommendations for safeguarding the animal welfare in the live sheep export trade in the interim.

    “While the only acceptable option is to phase out the live sheep export trade as soon as possible, measures like expanding the Northern Hemisphere Summer prohibition, capping the number of sheep that can be exported during the phase out, and increased monitoring on the voyages that do occur, will assist to protect animal welfare while the trade is wound down.”

    “We look forward to continuing to assist the independent panel in their work — and trust the Government will legislate an end date for this cruel and unfixable trade as soon as possible.”

    Australian sheep
    Australian sheep are subjected to extended journey on a ship; many are then slaughtered while fully conscious once they reach their destination (image: UnSplash)

    Live sheep export

    The RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations have long called for an end to the live sheep export trade.

    The live export industry is controversial due to concerns about the welfare of the animals during transport and slaughter.

    Those opposing it say animals are subjected to heat stress, disease, and inhumane slaughter methods in some destination countries.

    Key facts about live sheep export and the alternatives available

    Australia is the world’s largest overall exporter of livestock.

    The industry employs approximately 13,000 people throughout Australia.

    Australia has one of the largest live export industries in the world, contributing more than $800 million to the Australian economy annually.

    In 2022, Australia exported more than one million livestock by sea and air.

    The RSPCA opposes the export of live food animals for slaughter and calls for a chilled or frozen meat-only trade.

    The welfare of animals used for food can be better protected by processing them as close to the farmgate as possible.

    The live export supply chain has cumulative animal welfare issues, with long journeys compromising sheep welfare at every stage, from leaving the farmgate to fully conscious slaughter at overseas destinations.

    Read the submission here and let us know what you think of the RSPCA’s recommendations to phase out live sheep export.



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