Live sheep export ban sends warning to cattle industry and entire farm sector

Australian agriculture, including its more than 52,000 grass-fed cattle producers, is fed up with being used as political currency to buy fringe votes and appalled by the Animal Justice Party’s (AJP) confirmation it secured a preference deal with the Albanese Government to hasten the end of live sheep exports by sea.

The AJP stated on its website it had worked closely with the Federal Labor Government over recent months to secure the announcement by Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt that legislation would be introduced to phase out the trade by May 2028.

The AJP referred to this as a “knockout blow” after demanding the fast-tracking of the end of live sheep exports as a requirement for its preferences at the Dunkley By-election in March, which was won by the ALP’s Jodie Belyea, with the assistance of AJP preferences. Minister Watt has claimed he had no knowledge of the deal.

Cattle Australia (CA) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Chris Parker, who participated in a walk-out of key industry stakeholders during Minister Watt’s address at a Federal Budget breakfast in Canberra, said the live sheep ban had sent shivers down the spine of cattle producers.

“This Government decision serves as a warning to not just the cattle industry but the entire farm sector,” Dr Parker said.

“For too long in this country, agriculture has been used as a bargaining chip to appease the ideological whims of extreme groups that have little to no relevance to the sensible Australians who understand our industry is what places healthy and nutritious food on our plates and supports rural and regional communities and the wider economy.

“We are sick and tired of being taken for granted by governments who seem to have very little understanding of food production systems and who blatantly choose to ignore credible scientific and economic data to pander to fringe groups and cut deals that insult not just those involved in agriculture but all Australians who believe their vote should be respected.

“We acknowledge the Albanese Government went into the last election with a promise to ban the live export of sheep by sea, but it was wrong then and it is wrong now – they have done nothing to look at the science and make a data-backed, sensible decision on this since they came to office in 2022.

“Last week at Beef2024 in Rockhampton, the Prime Minister and Minister Watt were all smiles as they declared their commitment to Australian agriculture, but what a ruse that entire performance was.

“Every cattle producer, along with anyone who has an informed interest in Australian agriculture, is deeply concerned by the actions of this Government and what could be coming down the line.

“We understand agriculture is not always perfect, there is no industry that is, but we work tirelessly to lead global research and implement world-best animal welfare and land management practices, and refuse to keep being the Government’s fall guy. Enough is enough.”

-Cattle Australia