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Why the decision on live export matters to everyone

The consultation on the proposed ban of live export of sheep by sea closed at the end of May. While red meat is an important but secondary consideration to the wool industry this ill-informed policy decision has many ramifications for the wool industry and the broader ag sector, particularly as the current government can provide no justification for this decision other than it was an ‘election promise’.

WoolProducers does not usually advocate on the live export industry due to the focus on red meat, however given the principle (or lack of) of this government decision we have been spending considerable time on this issue in recent months, including participating in numerous industry meetings, advocacy, meeting with the government appointed panel and providing a submission in to the public consultation.

In 2018, the Board of WoolProducers were horrified by the footage from the Awassi Express showing sheep in awful conditions en route to the Middle East and for the first time considered the position of the wool industry on the support or otherwise of the trade. At that time WoolProducers resolved the following policy position; The wool industry continues to support the live export of sheep contingent on adherence to animal welfare standards underpinned by science.

Since that time the industry has rightly undertaken significant reform with a number of industry and government processes put in place to ensure the welfare of exported sheep, including the Northern Hemisphere moratorium, increased pen space, improved ventilation and the requirement of independent government observers on vessels. This has seen voyage mortality rates drop from 0.47% in 2018 to a record low of 0.13% in 2022 – demonstrable evidence that the trade has improved and that the Australian live export industry has the highest standards of animal welfare in the world.

The Australian Government shutting down a legitimate industry due to perceived concerns about animal welfare, when the industry is meeting and exceeding government-set metrics on animal welfare, is counterintuitive to establishing a thriving economy and makes no sense economically or logically.

The precedence of closing an entire trade based on nothing more than ‘an election promise’ which is not based on science or evidence, should be a concern for all involved in agriculture, regardless of if they are directly involved in the trade or not.

When governments start basing decisions on ideology and can shut down an entire industry because activists have made some emotive claims, it is easy to envisage that an industry practice such as mulesing, or the use of a chemical such as glyphosate could also be ceased on the whim of a government. This demonstrates that this decision does have implications for us all.


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