Industry trade

Labor push to ban live sheep exports sparks fight with Western Australian farmers

He also pledged to create an independent office of an animal welfare inspector general, with funding of $1 million a year. This Inspector General would provide reports to parliament on live animal exports and violations of animal welfare standards. Currently, only mortalities are publicly reported.

Labor will also provide $2.5 million to renew the animal welfare strategy.

Former opposition leader Bill Shorten promised in the 2019 election to phase out exports, but the policy, along with all others, was called into question after his defeat.

Labor was keen to mend barriers with voters in Western Australia, with three seats at stake: Swan, Pearce and Hasluck. The last two seats have rural communities.

Alliance co-founder and policy director Jed Goodfellow hailed the Labor Party’s decision to phase out exports.

“The work has been very strong in seeking to phase out trade in 2019 and nothing has fundamentally changed since that time. The evidence shows that [exports] cannot be done to prevent heat stress,” Dr. Goodfellow said.

“[Conditions are] will only get worse as the climate continues to warm, so it is almost inevitable that the sheep trade will come to an end in the future. It’s out of breath now, and it’s at the lowest level since the 1980s.”

But WA Farmers Association chairman John Hassell, a sheep farmer from southeast Perth, said the industry had cleaned up in recent years and death rates had dropped dramatically.

He claimed that only 20 to 30 sheep died during voyages with a cargo of 60,000 sheep, while sheep were visually inspected, their temperatures checked and removed from ships before departure if there were any signs of distress.

“We don’t want to see our animals treated badly and the track record over the past two years has been fantastic,” he said.

“But there will be no doubt that if sheep exports disappear, live cattle will be next.”

Mr Hassell said: ‘In fact what the Labor Party wants to do is export animal welfare issues to other countries’ which did not have the same level of protection that Australian sheep enjoyed .

He also said it was “paternalistic” for Australia to dictate to other countries whose religious practices required live animals for the festivities.

But Dr Goodfellow said other sheep exporting countries were also pulling out of the trade, while the key market of Kuwait increased its imports of chilled canned mutton. This represented an opportunity for Australian slaughterhouses to add value, he said.