Sheep producers fear for Greens live cattle threat

Zach RelphCountryman
Sheep during a media tour aboard the Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading Company-owned Al Messilah at Fremantle port.
Camera IconSheep during a media tour aboard the Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading Company-owned Al Messilah at Fremantle port. Credit: Sharon Smith

WA’s sheep industry is fearing the death of all live exports from Australia, warning the Greens will coax a Bill Shorten-led government into killing the live cattle trade after banning live sheep shipping.

In an email responding to queries from an export industry representative, obtained by Countryman, a Greens staffer confirmed the party was committed to ending “live exports of all animals for slaughter”.

The email said the Greens were “working with animal welfare activists to end live exports” in an effort to “protect animals from inhumane treatment”, potentially blowing a $610 million annual hole in the State’s economy.

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi told Countryman all livestock exports were “fundamentally cruel” in a stern warning to cattle producers.

“We will push to see an end to live exports of both sheep and cattle,” she said.

“Time and time again we see examples of animals exported from Australia experiencing terrible suffering and horrific deaths.

“This industry cannot be made safe for animals.”

Protesters at an ant-live export rally in Adelaide in April.
Camera IconProtesters at an ant-live export rally in Adelaide in April. Credit: AAP

The Greens’ stance sent shock waves through WA’s agriculture sector, with farmers concerned a live sheep ban could encourage the Greens to prompt Labor to consider ending the live cattle trade.

It comes as Federal Labor stands strong behind its threat to draw the curtain on the live sheep industry within five years, if elected at Saturday’s Federal election, to establish a domestic processing market.

York sheep producer Peter Boyle said uncertainty surrounded Labor’s live export policy, with the party yet to determine what months would define the northern summer under its plan.

Mr Boyle would not rule out a cattle-ban tilt and said livestock exports’ waters remained muddied. “Anything is possible,” he said. “I don’t think live cattle exports are completely safe but good luck to them.”

Despite the concern, Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon shut down suggestions and said the cattle sector would continue under Labor’s live export policy.

“Labor has restated numerous times that it supports the live cattle trade,” he said.

However, livestock veterinarian Holly Ludeman — Emanuel Exports’ compliance officer and co-founder of lobby group The Sheep Collective — said the Greens’ cattle threat was still distressing.

Dr Ludeman said if live sheep shipping was banned, the same anti-export argument could be applied to the cattle sector.

“The industry definitely is, and should be, worried about it,” she said.

“It would take minimal non-compliance to generate a similar kind of wave of activist activity to ban cattle shipping.”

The live sheep industry is worth $210 million to WA annually, while live cattle exports net about $410 million each year, according to Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development figures.

Nationals WA last week accused the McGowan Government of failing to champion the live sheep export industry’s importance for the State to its Federal counterparts.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan hit back and said she’d had multiple discussions with Mr Fitzgibbon about the industry’s future.

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