Two sheep nuzzle lovingly against a pale blue sky.

An end to live sheep export cruelty is finally on the horizon. So, what now?

The Australian Government has finally announced the end date to the cruel live sheep export trade. Here's what you can do now.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated May 14, 2024

After decades of our investigations, exposés, and tireless political lobbying, the Albanese government has announced that live sheep export by sea will end on the 1st of May, 2028. And importantly, this date will be enshrined in law during this term of government.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has announced the government will accept the recommendations of the Independent Panel and that the live sheep trade will end after some 60 long years. The live export industry was pushing for a 10+ year phase-out which gives the government’s end date in less than four years a lot of perspective. While all of us of course want the trade to end tomorrow — we cannot deny, this decision took courage.

A government decision based on compassion for animals, and acknowledging society’s shifting consciousness around our treatment of animals, is momentous.

It’s not surprising that the live export lobby has come out swinging and the Agriculture Minister has weathered some pretty fierce criticism already. At times like this, a little thanks can go along way. Here’s where you come in. While we wait to learn when exactly the legislation will be introduced (our best guess is sometime after the winter parliamentary break), please consider spending a few minutes to spread some gratitude.

1. Comment with a message of support for Minister Murray Watts’ decision.

As Federal Agriculture Minister, Murray Watt was ultimately tasked with the responsibility of signing off on the decision for a shorter phase-out, and unsurprisingly has faced some condemnation from supporters of the industry. You can extend some support his way during this important time by commenting under his social media posts with positive feedback for his decision to adopt the independent advisory panel’s recommendations for a shorter phase-out.

  • Facebook: Head to this post or this one (or even better — both!) to share a message of support.
  • Instagram: There are two posts about the announcement on instagram too — head here and here.
  • Twitter/X: Head here to post a comment on Twitter/X.

2. Send a quick message of thanks to Labor MPs and Senators.

Thousands of e-mails have been sent to Labor MPs in recent months calling for the government to ‘legislate the date’… and now, they have done just that. This is proof that caring voices united on behalf of animals are powerful — and we believe that conveying some gratitude and appreciation will be equally so! If you are an Australian resident, then please take a couple of minutes to share some positive feedback about this decision. (NOTE: if you aren’t in a Labor electorate, click here to email Labor Senators instead.)

Send a message to Labor MPs

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Letter to the editor
Many thanks to Jan Kendall for this fantastic letter published in the Australian on the 14th of May,

3. Write a letter to your local newspaper.

Having a letter to the editor published in a local or national newspaper can be an effective way to inform public opinion about the cruelty of live sheep export, validate decision-makers in their support of phasing out the trade, and to keep this issue in the public eye. Try to keep it short and punchy — around 200 words or less. Some of the messages that might be helpful to include are below (click on each one to expand).

The live sheep export industry has an appalling track record of disasters, but even the ‘best case’ scenario involves animals languishing in their own waste for days or weeks on end.

Animals Australia’s investigations spanning decades have revealed the extreme suffering animals are forced to endure on board ships and the cruelty they’re exposed to in destination countries.  The vast majority of exported animals have their throats cut while they are fully conscious and sensible to pain.

The live sheep trade has been operating for around 60 years and after multiple investigations, complaints and extreme cruelty revelations, this industry has had endless opportunities to demonstrate a willingness to genuinely improve its treatment of animals. But as our investigations have continued to reveal, even the most basic welfare requirements are still being dismissed. The recent MV Bahijah crisis — when 16,000 animals were trapped on a live export ship for months after the industry attempted to send the vessel into a conflict zone — has made it quite clear that the live export industry is either unwilling or incapable of improvement, and continues to operate with a ruthless a “profit at all costs” culture, to the great detriment of animals (and Australia’s reputation).

The decision to implement a relatively short four year phase-out has been made on the recommendation of an independent advisory panel appointed to oversee the phase-out of the live sheep export industry. Their report was made after extensive consultation with stakeholders, including the live export industry.

Australians overwhelmingly support the Federal Government’s policy to phase out live sheep exports by sea (78%, McCrindle, 2022)

Almost 44,000 Australians signed a Parliamentary petition – one of the largest official e-Petitions in history – calling on the government to legislate the date to end the cruel trade as soon as possible (August 2023).

The live export trade is already in long-term structural decline and accounts for 0.1% of Australia’s agricultural exports.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A sheep sticks their head out of a truck while being transported.
Thank you for ensuring that the animals remain at the forefront of people's minds and hearts.

Thank you for ensuring that the public’s focus remains firmly where it should — on the animals.

It’s fair to say that in the weeks and months ahead, we are likely to see significant pushback from the live export industry in response to this latest announcement. This is expected, and has undoubtedly been anticipated and thoroughly considered by decision-makers over the extended inquiry, advisory panel reporting and subsequent assessment period.

Thank you for helping ensure that the animals — the individuals who have suffered for so long at the hands of the live export industry — are not forgotten. After all, it is for them that we celebrate this historic step forward — and on their behalf that we extend our gratitude to those who have courageously acted to shape a future where no sheep endures the prolonged misery of export by sea, ever again.