14 June 2024

RSPCA WA Chair Lynne Bradshaw and CEO Ben Cave today appeared before the inquiry into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 in Northam. 

Both reiterated that the animal welfare organisation’s position is based solely on animal welfare science which clearly shows that no amount of regulation can make the live export of sheep by sea acceptable because it exposes sheep to conditions that exceed their physiological limits. 

“We keep hearing about the drop in the number of sheep that die during live export but is that the only measure of animal welfare – not dying?” Mrs Bradshaw said. 

“The stark reality is the live sheep trade puts hundreds of thousands of sheep at unnecessary risk of extreme suffering every year. 

“No amount of regulation can prevent thousands of sheep from the impacts of transport stress, searing heat and stifling humidity, overcrowding, hunger and starvation, ammonia exposure, and more.  

“Yes, there have been improvements but just because we do cruelty better, doesn’t mean we should keep doing it.” 

The panel was also told that sheep are the most vulnerable in the live trade for many reasons.  

They cannot be hosed down to mitigate heat stress or improve hygiene onboard, meaning they stand in their own waste for the long sea journey. Merino sheep are vulnerable to humidity which is why they are only farmed in the southern parts of Australia. 

“RSPCA WA remains supportive of farmers and the agricultural industry. We have worked side-by-side with them for decades and know how well farmed animals are cared for,” Mrs Bradshaw said. 

“But this Bill isn’t about what happens in Australia. It’s about the suffering millions of sheep endure on long sea voyages. 

“RSPCA WA recognises that many progressive West Australian farmers have already moved away from live sheep export, and we believe that legislating an end date will now provide the necessary certainty to those producers who remain in the trade.” 

“This has been an ongoing and long-standing issue of poor animal welfare, impacting hundreds of millions of sheep. RSPCA WA welcomes, at last, a planned path out of this trade. 

“I would encourage industry to pull together and work towards a sound transition that will benefit farmers, animals and the consumer.”