33 years on, a long-term solution to live export trade remains elusive

Reports show the economic importance of the industry is shrinking for everyone but the exporters themselves

Distressed sheep on livestock carrier Awassi Express
Distressed sheep on livestock carrier Awassi Express. Debate continues on how much ending live exports would cost Australian farmers. Photograph: Animals Australia/AFP/Getty Images

The first parliamentary report decrying the cruelty of the Australian live export trade was delivered in 1985.

Live sheep export, the senate report found, was not compatible with good animal welfare. But it was also profitable and deemed necessary for the livelihoods of Australian farmers.

The first statement remains true. The second is less clear.

“The committee,” said the 1985 report, “came to the conclusion that, if a decision were to be made on the future of the trade purely on animal welfare grounds, there is enough evidence to stop the trade. The trade is, in many respects, inimical to good animal welfare, and it is not in the interests of the animal to be transported to the Middle East for slaughter.”

It went on to say that an immediate halt to the trade would be too “disruptive,” but said a long-term solution of phasing out live sheep exports in favour of exporting chilled or “boxed” meat must be pursued.

It has been 33 years. That long-term solution has been repeatedly delayed.

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