The RSPCA has welcomed the news of concrete next steps towards a phase out of live sheep export.

In March 2023, the Federal Government announced the members of the independent panel that will determine how and when to phase out live sheep export. The panel will provide its report to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry by September 30, 2023.

What are the issues with live sheep export?

Australia’s live sheep trade has resulted in multiple animal welfare catastrophes and publicly documented cruelty over the past forty years. Despite significant regulatory changes over the past five years, ongoing animal welfare issues continue. Scientific evidence shows that no amount of regulation can fix the trade because it exposes sheep to conditions that exceed the species’ physiological limits.
The main welfare concerns relate to, but are not limited to:

  • transport, handling and holding prior to embarkation,
  • stocking densities that prevent animals from comfortably lying down to rest or prevent animals from freely accessing food and water as needed,
  • the conditions animals experience onboard ships, which often result in inanition (failure to eat), lameness, infectious diseases, heat stress, respiratory diseases, and death,
  • extreme changes in climatic conditions from the farm of origin to the importing country,
  • inadequate contingency planning for when animals are rejected at the ports of importing countries due to not being fit for travel, and
  • poor handling and inhumane slaughter practices in the importing countries.

The government announcement that live sheep exports will be phased out—it's now just a matter of how and when—provides Australia with opportunities for more sustainable trade, better animal welfare, and an improved international reputation.

What’s the alternative?

A more humane alternative to live sheep exports is to process sheep in Australia and foster chilled and frozen meat-exports only. Evidence supports that this market alternative will result in better welfare for sheep, more sustainable opportunities for farmers and more jobs for Australians.

You can read more about the panel announcement and the next step in the live sheep export phase out process here. You can also learn more about RSPCA’s stance against live export here