Federal judge orders live cattle export from Brazil to end.

A Brazilian court has ruled that no live cattle can be exported from Brazil – a decision that could spare millions of animals from suffering.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated May 9, 2023

The live export of cattle could be set to end in Brazil, after a Federal judge ordered that no animals are to be sent overseas from any Brazilian port.

Brazil is a major exporter of live cattle, with 150,000 animals condemned to export in 2022. The ruling has come after our colleagues from local animal protection organisation, Fórum Nacional de Proteção e Defesa Animal (The National Forum for the Protection and Defense of Animals), filed a lawsuit in a Sao Paulo court in 2017 requesting all live cattle exports be banned.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A photo from the Animals Australia Brazil conference showing a speaker and an Animals Australia sign.
Footage captured by Animals International provided evidence of cruelty for this judgement.

Footage captured by investigators from Animals Australia’s global arm, Animals International, provided evidence of cruelty for this judgement.

The cruelty endured by Brazilian cattle in importing countries was described by Investigators as some of the worst they’d ever seen. Frightened animals had their eyes and faces stabbed, their leg tendons slashed, and tails painfully twisted in crude attempts to restrain them before they were beheaded while conscious.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A steer with his legs bound is restrained on the floor before being slaughtered.
Brazilian cattle endured some of the worst cruelty that our investigations team had ever seen.
Image credit: Animals International

Why is this decision so important?

One of the similarities between the Brazilian and Australian live export industries is that both countries are signatories to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) minimum animal welfare standards — but both countries conveniently ignore this in order to participate in live export by exporting animals to countries where even these most basic standards are not followed.

In his judgement, Judge Djalma Gomes made powerful statements about Brazil’s participation in the live cattle export trade — statements that could easily be said of Australia;

  • The ship voyage and then slaughter in destination countries causes suffering to animals that would never be allowed — and in fact are against the law — in Brazil.
  • The hypocrisy that Brazilian’s animal welfare laws require animals to be stunned prior to slaughter, but also allows animals to be exported to countries where they may be slaughtered fully-conscious.
  • The judge determined that “economic interests do not dilute our standards in animal welfare.”

He also made a powerful reference to Brazil’s troubled history of slave trading, saying;

“To our eternal shame, Brazil was the last country to abolish the slave regime… May we not become the last country to effectively respect the rights of non-human animals, but may we be at the forefront in abolishing inappropriate handling and in eradicating all types of cruelty against animals.”

What happens now?

It’s important to note, that while this ruling is worthy of celebration, the live export of cattle from Brazil has not stopped. Because of the nature of this judgement — in that it has significant economic and political impacts — it now must go through a review and analysis by the Federal Regional Court. If it is then determined to be legally compliant, only then will the live export of cattle by sea from Brazil cease. This will have an instant effect.

After the review process, the Brazilian government can appeal the decision. During the appeal process, animals can not be exported and this will only happen should the appeal be successful, ie. the appeal court rules that the judgement should be overturned.

Unfortunately we don’t know how long the review/analysis process or any possible appeal process may take — however we are in regular contact with our colleagues in Brazil and will provide updates as they come to hand.

For now — we welcome this ruling, and especially the message that has been sent by this Federal judge who has used some of the most powerful language that we have heard from someone in his position to condemn the trade in live animals.

This ruling comes as caring people everywhere celebrated world-first legislation banning live animal exports by sea from New Zealand coming into effect from the first of May. This, along with the fact that the Australian Labor Government has committed to phasing-out live sheep exports will no doubt mean that the global animal export industry is starting to finally see the writing on the wall: treating living, feeling animals like ‘cargo’ is never ethical — and live animal export is a dying trade.

Animals are not things. They are sentient living beings, that is, individuals who feel hunger, thirst, pain, cold, anguish, fear...
Djalma Gomes
Brazilian Federal Court Judge

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A woman with black hair stands with a video camera in her hand. You can see the side of her face as she holds the camera at eye level, there are buildings and men in the background.

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