The RSPCA has warned the Australian Government against backflipping on animal welfare improvements to the live sheep export trade, as new polling confirms nearly 8 in 10 Australians oppose the planned move.
The alarming news comes as the independent polling reveals that - despite several years and millions of dollars invested in improving the disaster-plagued industry’s reputation – more than 2 out of 3 Australians still want to see an end to the live export trade.
The polling – which was commissioned by the RSPCA and conducted independently among a representative sample of 1500 Australians in January – also found that nearly 8 out of 10 Australians are opposed to reducing the northern summer prohibited period for live sheep exports to the Middle East as currently proposed by the government.
RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said that the new poll showed that the majority of Australians, no matter where they lived, still did not support the live export trade.
“This is particularly relevant as it’s revealed the industry is pushing to wind back the northern summer prohibition that was implemented to protect Australian sheep from being exported to the Middle East at the most dangerous times of the year.
“If this plan goes ahead, it will see tens of thousands more sheep every year exported in extreme heat and under extreme risk,” said Mr Mussell.
“The polling shows that not only are a majority of Australians against reducing the prohibited period, but – in news that should be very worrying for the Government – the vast majority of Australians still want an end to the live export trade altogether.
“That’s despite substantial investment by the government and the industry in trying to redeem this disastrous trade’s tattered reputation.
Two-thirds of Australians said that they support ending live exports, including 2 in every 3 people in rural or country areas, and almost 3 in 4 Western Australians, where more than 80% of Australian sheep are live exported from.
“The Federal Government must acknowledge that not only is live export unacceptable from an animal welfare perspective, it’s also unpopular with the community. It's time for the government to phase out live export, begin rapidly reducing the number of animals being exported and exposed to unacceptable conditions and increasing temperatures, and transitioning to a more valuable trade in chilled and frozen meat from animals slaughtered humanely here in Australia.
“In particular, we urge the regulator to – at least – maintain the existing northern summer prohibited period. Remember, the prohibition was implemented by this government after horrific scenes of sheep suffering and dying from extreme heat stress on the Awassi Express aired in 2018. Any reduction in the prohibition risks repeating such cruelty and will most certainly result in more sheep suffering.
“Allowing more sheep to be exported during the hot northern summer is an unacceptable animal welfare risk, and – as the repeated polling shows – is a move that the community does not and would not support.”
The polling was conducted in the week of 17 January 2022 as part of an independent omnibus poll conducted by The Digital Edge, commissioned by RSPCA Australia, among a representative sample of n=1502 Australians.
Questions asked were:
“Do you support ending live animal exports?” (67% yes, 33% no)
“The prohibition on live sheep exports to, and through, the Middle East currently runs from 1 June to 14 September every year. Do you think this prohibited period – where sheep cannot be exported to or through the Middle East – should be longer, shorter or remain the same?” (45% longer, 22% shorter, 33% remain the same).
Authorised by Richard Mussell, RSPCA Australia, Canberra
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