‘Historic moment in animal welfare’ as RSPCA urges support for Bill to end long-haul live sheep exports

The RSPCA has welcomed today’s Private Member’s Bill to end the long-haul live export of sheep, and says it’s time for producers to take the final steps to protect the welfare of these last remaining sheep.

“This is an historic moment in Australia’s history of animal welfare,” said RSPCA Australia Chair Gary Humphries.

“We warmly congratulate the Government’s members, including Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson as well as Jason Wood, for reflecting the overwhelming science, as well as the views of the community, that says it’s time for live export to come to an end,

“For decades, Australian sheep have suffered immensely in the live export trade – from overwhelming heat and humidity as well as lack of space, food, water, and reliable veterinary care,

“But just as importantly, they’ve suffered from the lack of a political will to protect them from those circumstances, to say ‘these profits aren’t worth it’ and put a stop to that suffering,

“We have to do better, and we can do better, and this Bill is a step in that direction,

The RSPCA understands the Bill is based around a five-year phase out of live sheep exports, with an immediate end to trade during the hottest months from July to September.

“We’d certainly rather the Bill reflects the evidence that says halving of the stocking density and, particularly, a stop to May to October exports are the most immediate needs to improve animal welfare outcomes,” said Mr Humphries.

“Right now, sheep are travelling into temperatures of over 40 degrees and intense humidity, and it’s very likely we’ll see conditions again like we saw on the Awassi Express, the ship featured in the recent footage aired on 60 Minutes,

“As it is however, the Bill is based around a very generous timeframe that will hasten the end of the trade in a steady, measured and sustainable way,

“We urge Members of Parliament, and the Australian community, to loudly and enthusiastically support this Bill and stop the cruelty of live sheep exports once and for all,” said Mr Humphries.

“Live sheep exports have halved in the last 10 years anyway, so this Bill will effectively end the industry in half the time it would take to die away naturally anyway,

“Live export is also just a very small part of sheep production – last year around 30 million sheep were sent to Australian abattoirs to be killed under Australia laws and conditions, while just 1.8 million were sent on ships to be killed overseas while fully conscious,

“It’s also a business model that can’t survive if animals don’t suffer,

“One way or another, live sheep export is coming to an end,

“But no one wants to make these decisions without the input of farmers, and right now is the opportunity for forward-thinking farmers to join and lead the conversation about how we go about exiting this cruel trade as soon as possible,

“Live export is just too risky, too uncertain and too volatile - we continue to urge farmers to work with governments to find a better way,

“A better future for Australian farmers and Australian rural communities means turning our attention to alternatives that support regional economies as well as support good animal welfare,” said Mr Humphries.