Australia to ban live sheep exports by sea by 2028

Australia to ban live sheep exports by sea by 2028

Australia announced on Saturday that it will ban live sheep exports by sea from May 2028 over animal welfare concerns. Live exports by sea of cattle -bulls, cows and calves- will not be banned.

The decision to ban live sheep exports by sea follows the Labor government’s commitment to ending the controversial practice. Live sheep exports by sea has faced significant criticism from animal welfare groups.

Live sheep export by sea

The journey of live sheep export starts with strangers taking sheep from the familiarity of their farm and transporting them without food or water to a feedlot, the animal welfare organization Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) explained.

After they stay at the feedlot for a few days, they undergo another long journey to a port. There, they are loaded onto a ship, where handlers sometimes use electric prods to make them move.

Onboard the ship, up to 60,000 sheep face extreme conditions. They are confined in unclean pens and exposed to high heat and humidity. Due to the crowded and filthy environment, the sheep can get injured or ill.

Upon arrival at their final destination, they continue to face harsh conditions and possibly inhumane slaughter. 

Sheep farmers

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt wants to give the faring industry four years to adapt to the ban. As part of the transition, the government has pledged 107 million Australian dollars (approximately 66 million euros) over five years to support workers and farmers affected by the upcoming changes.

The legislation required to formalize the ban is expected to be introduced during the current term of the federal parliament.

Last year, around 684,000 sheep were exported, according to Australian trade data. Most exported sheep are sent to the Middle East, with the journey to destinations like Kuwait, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates taking approximately two weeks.

The industry has faced intense criticism and public backlash, particularly following incidents such as the death of 2,400 sheep from heat stress in 2018, which led to calls for stricter animal welfare standards.

More recently, in January, a ship carrying 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cows bound for Israel faced severe issues when it became stranded off the Australian coast in extreme heat.

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