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Why phasing out live sheep exports should be a priority for the next Australian Government

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Friday, 15 March 2019

In the lead up to the 2019 Federal election, we’re calling for animal welfare to be a priority for the next Australian Government. The RSPCA has identified three priority areas that need immediate action. The second is to commit to phasing out live sheep export.

In 2018 Australians saw the conditions sheep experience on board live export ships.  Sheep cannot lie down at the same time or easily access food and water.  Animals stand and lie in their own waste and endure extreme temperatures and humidity as well as the constant movement of the ship.  Most sheep suffer and thousands die on board every year.

The changes introduced by the Government since April 2018 are inadequate and do not protect the welfare of sheep during this journey. 

What is the current state of play?

The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) governs the handling and management of Australia live-exported animals from the point of disembarkation to slaughter. The ESCAS does not adequately protect Australian animals from abuse. The 2015 review of the ESCAS found, ‘it is not known what proportion of non-compliance is detected and reported’. When breaches are detected, the penalties imposed are consistently inadequate.

The new Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP) proposed by the livestock export industry will lead to less government oversight of an industry that continues to see shocking breaches of animal welfare.

Over many years and many chances, the live export industry has consistently failed to meet community expectations, flouted Australian regulations, and continuously resisted any efforts to improve animal welfare. As a result, this industry has irrevocably lost its social license to operate.

There is a growing international demand for Australian meat.  Meat is exported to more than 50 countries and contributes seven times more to the Australian economy than the live animal trade. 

Supply of Australian lamb and mutton carcasses in the Middle East alone is now three times greater than the supply for live sheep. 

Expanding meat exports supports growth in regional areas and the creation of more local jobs.

Why is this an issue for the federal government?

The Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Act 1997 (Cth) and the Export Control Act 1982 (Cth) regulate the live export trade from on-farm sourcing to the point of slaughter in the importing country. These are both federal legislation, and therefore require federal action.

What is the way forward?

  1. The Australian Government must implement a phase-out of long-haul live sheep export within a five-year period.
  2. Until this phase-out can be completed, the Australian Government must immediately halve the stocking density available to animals on all ships and permanently end the trade during the high-risk northern summer months of May to October.
  3. Until live sheep exports are phased-out completely, the Australian Government must implement all recommendations of the Moss Review, including the establishment of an independent Inspector-General to oversee the regulator.
  4. The Australian Government must commit to implementing a revised version of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) that improves animal welfare outcomes during transport.
  5. The Australian Government must dedicate greater resources to the administration of the ESCAS, including strengthening the Government’s role in investigating reported non-compliances and imposing adequate sanctions.
  6. The Australian Government must announce new actions to expand the share of Australia’s chilled and frozen meat exports and reduce that represented by live animal exports.

Where do candidates in your electorate stand on animal welfare?

As we get closer to the election, we’re asking supporters to reach out to their current federal members and senators, to ask them where they stand on animal welfare. You can use our handy contact form here, and take action today!

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