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There is no certainty for sheep farmers in live animal exports, and last-ditch promises by live exporters to “re-set” their practices must be viewed with the scepticism they deserve.

That’s the strong message from the RSPCA today as it cautiously welcomed a commitment from the live export industry association as a first step in protecting Australian sheep from the live export trade for at least three months of the year.

However, the moratorium must cover the entire highest-risk period of May to October, which is recognised by government as when the largest numbers of mortalities occur; and it must form part of a measured plan to phase-out the practice for good.

The RSPCA said today’s announcement was a strategic move by the live export industry to attempt to salvage its shattered social licence, and is intended to forewarn the few remaining live sheep importers so they can plan to stockpile animals in the lead-up to the Middle Eastern summer next year.

The RSPCA also said the announcement was an attempt to pre-empt the looming release of reviews of live export standards (ASEL) and a new heat stress risk assessment (HSRA) model; both of which are likely to confirm that good animal welfare and live sheep export as we know it are incompatible.

The RSPCA also said this latest announcement must be seen for what it is: a desperate and last-ditch attempt by a dying industry, to prolong practices that Australians no longer want or support.

The RSPCA welcome the suggestion of industry-wide reforms, but highlighted that there continues to be a grave absence of evidence or ‘truth and proof’ to give these commitments any credibility.

Australians must never forget this is an industry that has fought vigorously against improvements for decades; and which oversaw and accepted the routine suffering and disastrous conditions in the trade, that will almost certainly bring about its end.

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