Search icon

Australia sets date to ban live sheep exports

News Section Icon Published 5/14/2024

Sheep being transported for export
Sheep being transported for export

We welcome the news that the Australian government has finally announced an end date for the export of live sheep by sea.

The current government pledged to end the trade when it came to power in 2022. Since then, we – along with many local and global animal welfare groups – have been waiting for a date for the practice to be outlawed. The federal government has stated it will introduce legislation into parliament this week to ensure the ban is in place by 1 May 2028.

Hundreds of thousands of sheep to be spared brutal journeys

Last year, Australia exported more than 593,000 sheep, with almost half of them sent to Kuwait, which was the country’s largest importer of the animal.*

The Australian live exports industry has made international headlines recently, with a number of high-profile incidents highlighting the cruelty suffered by farmed animals on these journeys.

Notably, in February, 15,000 sheep and 1,750 cattle spent over a month on board the MV Bahijah ship when it abandoned its journey to Israel due to the current conflict in the Middle East. The animals were returned to Western Australia where they spent many days onboard in temperatures of up to 40°C before being unloaded. Despite public outrage, the Australian government approved the re-export of these animals, on another journey of over a month.

In response, our Global CEO, Philip Lymbery wrote to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Murray Watt, asking that he use the MV Bahijah’s arrival in Israel as an opportunity to provide a clear timescale for his Government’s legislation.

More countries accepting this barbaric trade must end

Australia’s confirmation of an end date is much cause for celebration, as governments increasingly come under pressure to ban the trade. In Great Britain, the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill is expected to pass its final stage in Parliament today. Once enacted, farmed animals can no longer be exported for slaughter or fattening.

New Zealand introduced a ban on live animal exports in April 2023, but this legislation is currently in jeopardy following a new coalition government vowing to repeal the law.

Meanwhile, the EU continues to transport millions of animals each year on long journeys between its Member States, including unweaned calves and lambs. In addition, the EU exports over three million sheep and cattle a year to non-EU countries, mainly to the Middle East and North Africa, on journeys that can last up to three weeks. Last year, the EU Commission proposed a new transport regulation for the export of farmed animals, but it is very weak and does little to protect these animals from suffering, such as dehydration, illness, hunger and stress.

Our Chief Policy Advisor, Peter Stevenson commented:

“We welcome this news and congratulate the Australian government on its progressive stance. Finally, after over 60 years, millions of sheep will be spared these long journeys, primarily to the Middle East, often experiencing inhumane conditions en route and on arrival.

“The world is starting to wake up to the cruelty of this trade and to listen to organisations like Compassion and our supporters. Yet one of the biggest profiteers of the trade – the EU – has no plans to ban it, despite the suffering it causes millions of sentient animals each year. The Australian government – much like the British – is setting an example and the rest of the world must follow.”

Read more about the annual Ban Live Exports International Awareness Day on 14th June, where people from all over the world will be calling on governments to put an end to this trade. 



You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).