Australia to ban live sheep exports in 2028

The Australian government has announced the cessation of live sheep exports by sea, effective May 1, 2028, following extensive advocacy by animal welfare groups. Despite opposition from some in the agricultural sector, the Labor Party’s longstanding policy to end this trade has gained momentum, particularly with declining exports and seasonal bans on shipping sheep during the Middle Eastern summer. To aid in the transition, the government has pledged a $107 million support package over five years for affected stakeholders.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt cited community expectations and the importance of Australia’s animal welfare reputation in justifying the decision. Legislative action aims to provide certainty for producers and facilitate a smooth transition away from live exports. Meanwhile, meat exports have thrived, leading to increased domestic processing and job creation.

The allocated funding includes provisions for affected producers and supply chains, initiatives to boost demand for sheep products, ongoing welfare standards improvement, and support for transitioning away from live exports. However, the National Farmers’ Federation expressed shock at the accelerated timeline, asserting that the support package falls short of addressing industry concerns and the significant investments made by farmers. They argue that the move disregards national interests, strains diplomatic relations, and fails to eliminate global demand for live sheep.

In contrast, RSPCA Australia welcomed the decision as a step towards ending a “cruel and unfixable” industry. They emphasized the growing importance of the boxed and chilled meat sector as a more sustainable and ethical alternative for Australia’s sheep industry.

Following the announcement, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) expressed deep concern over the abrupt timeline and the perceived inadequacy of the support package. Tony Mahar, the CEO of NFF, criticized the government’s decision, stating that it would have detrimental effects on farmers and the economy. He argued that the allocated funds were insufficient compared to the investments made by farmers and warned of potential economic repercussions.

Mahar emphasized the pivotal role of the agricultural sector in global food production and expressed dismay at what he perceived as the government prioritizing activist pressure over the interests of Australian farmers. He stressed the importance of maintaining strong partnerships with Middle Eastern trading partners and raised doubts about the effectiveness of ending live sheep exports in addressing global demand for such products.

In contrast, RSPCA Australia hailed the decision as a victory for animal welfare and sustainability. Richard Mussell, the CEO of RSPCA Australia, praised the government for recognizing the inherent cruelty of live sheep exports and urged a shift towards more humane and modern practices in the sheep industry. Mussell emphasized the growing consumer preference for ethically sourced products and expressed optimism about the future of the sheep industry in Australia.

Overall, the announcement has sparked debate and raised questions about the balance between economic interests, animal welfare, and international trade relations in Australia’s agricultural sector.

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