The RSPCA is pleased to see animal welfare on the agenda this federal election and commends those parties and candidates that have committed to improving animal welfare.
The RSPCA continues to urge all political parties and candidates to commit to progressing priority animal welfare issues, including planning for the end of live sheep export.
The live sheep export industry has been in terminal decline for decades and a transition to a chilled and frozen meat only trade is not only the right thing for animal welfare but offers a better and more sustainable option for Australian farmers.
With a number of parties maintaining support for a phase out of live sheep exports from the last federal election to the present, this volatile and disaster-plagued industry’s days are predictably and clearly numbered.
Sheep subjected to long-haul live export face extreme temperatures and the risk of severe heat stress. They endure weeks at sea on a constantly moving boat at stocking densities that prevent them from comfortably lying down to rest at the same time or easily accessing food or water.
Those who survive this perilous journey face an uncertain outcome in the country of destination, with the risk of poor handling, poor transport and conditions, and inhumane slaughter - because Australian standards cannot be enforced overseas.
The overwhelming majority of Australians also don’t support live export, with more than 2 out of 3 Australians wanting to see the practice end according to recent polling. Importantly, this includes 70% of Western Australians and 66% of South Australians, the states where the industry is mostly based.
Claims about the economic impact of ending live export of sheep also appear to be vastly overstated and not borne out by the facts. Research shows that a sheep processed in Australia will contribute significantly more to the Australian economy than live exporting the animal.1
Most recently, economic analysis conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) also concluded that abolishing live export will generate an initial economic disruption that will be swiftly followed by a smooth and relatively low-cost transition to alternative markets.2
Claims that phasing out the trade will result in job losses for around 3,500 Australians, predominantly in WA where the majority of live sheep export occurs, are also untrue. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment's 2019 Regulatory Impact Statement found transitioning to domestic processing was likely to increase total employment in WA.3
Overseas demand for Australia's chilled and frozen meat continues to grow.
Live sheep export is bad for animal welfare, lacks the support of two-thirds of Australians and is unnecessary given the viable economic alternatives.
The RSPCA once again calls on all parties to proactively improve animal welfare, secure a better and more sustainable future for Australian farmers, and meet the community’s expectations by committing to phasing out this practice once and for all.
Authorised by Richard Mussell, RSPCA Australia, Canberra
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