Conditions for sheep exports during the northern summer

28 March 2019

(Issued by Department of Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has finalised the conditions for sheep exports to the Middle East for the upcoming northern summer to support animal welfare outcomes.

These were settled after considering feedback to our proposed conditions, and follow numerous previous consultations across live export regulation.

The Secretary has signed an Order prohibiting sheep exports from 1 June 2019 to 31 August 2019—the first ever prohibition on the export of sheep on animal welfare grounds.

Before the prohibition commences, exporters will be required to comply with strict conditions during May 2019 under a separate Order, including:

  • allometric stocking densities requiring between 11 and 39 per cent more space for sheep than prescribed under the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock
  • independent auditing of pen air turnover readings
  • automatic watering arrangements
  • a reduced notifiable mortality level of 1 per cent.

Similar conditions were applied during the previous northern summer and there was little evidence of significant animal welfare issues.

In addition to both Orders, exporters will also be directed to comply with an additional requirement for automated data logging equipment to record wet bulb temperatures on any May shipments to the Middle East and for that data to be reported to the department to provide a comprehensive picture of animal welfare.

The department remains committed to a regulatory system that establishes the highest standards of animal welfare based on the best possible evidence.

The prohibition and conditions were finalised following a thorough examination across all aspects of live export regulation. Evidence from the expert panel on the Heat Stress Risk Assessment review indicates that the risk of adverse welfare outcomes during May remains very low.

The strict conditions mitigate the known risks, while further work is underway and new, more comprehensive evidence is analysed.

There has been a clear shift to an animal welfare based model of regulation, with greater scrutiny of the trade than ever before.

Independent Observers provide an additional layer of assurance that exporters are complying with their requirements.

Conditions for September and October are not settled. These will be determined once the Heat Stress Risk Assessment panel has completed its review, a Regulation Impact Statement has been undertaken and any additional evidence is examined.