Australia to ban controversial live sheep exports by sea from May 2028

Australia’s government said on Saturday it would ban live sheep exports from the country by sea from May 2028, fulfilling a pledge to end a practice long opposed by animal welfare advocates.

“We are giving certainty to sheep producers and the supply chain by legislating the date,” Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said in a statement on Saturday.

The announcement makes good a commitment from the Labor government to phase out the controversial practice, despite pushback from farm groups that say the move will put people out of work and destroy farming communities.

Watt said A$107 million over five years would be offered as a transition package to support people, including sheep farmers, affected by the industry wind-down.

“We are putting support on the table now so that people can start planning and acting now,” the agriculture minister added.

Legislation to enact the ban would be introduced in federal parliament’s current term, Watt said.

The phase out does not apply to other livestock export industries, such as live cattle exports, nor does it apply to live sheep exports by air.

The national body representing farmers, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), said its members were “left shocked” by the timeline for the phase-out.

“Murray Watt has decided to book us on the express train to disaster,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said in a statement.

Australia’s live sheep trade, centred in the country’s vast Western Australia state, shipped about 5 million sheep a year in the 1990s and early 2000s, but that number has gradually declined. Last year, Australia exported 684,000 sheep, worth about $50 million, Australian trade data show.

Most sheep are shipped to the Middle East, around two weeks’ sailing away. The main export destinations are Kuwait, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Animal rights groups have for years pushed to end those shipments from Australia, where public outcry in 2018 over the death of 2,400 sheep from heat stress prompted calls for stricter welfare standards.
In January, a ship carrying about 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle bound for Israel became stranded off the coast of Australia in sweltering heat after it was forced to abandon a trip through the Red Sea, causing renewed outcry from people concerned about animal welfare in the industry.
Source: Reuters

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