The Australian House of Representatives has passed legislation aimed at banning live sheep exports by sea from May 1, 2028.

The move, as part of the Export Control Amendment (ending live sheep exports by sea) Bill 2024, now advances to the senate for further debate and a vote.

The bill passed in the lower house, by a margin of 89 to 54.

The federal government has highlighted the economic context and welfare considerations driving the ban.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Australia, Murray Watt pointed out that while the live sheep export industry contributes $77 million to the national economy, sheep meat exports are valued at $4.5 billion annually, with domestic demand for sheep products reaching $3.5 billion.

Live sheep exports

The transition from live exports is also supported by a $107 million package intended to help farmers and the supply chain in Western Australia, according to the government.

Minister Watt stated: “The transition plan strikes a balance between improving sheep welfare and providing time for a sustainable pathway for sheep farmers, the supply chain participants and communities in Western Australia, and for our trading partners to adjust.”

However, the bill still faced significant scrutiny.

Nationals leader, David Littleproud previously criticised the plan as being “senseless”, arguing that it would merely shift the market to other countries with lower animal welfare standards.

CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Mark Harvey-Sutton said the passage of the sheep ban bill through the House of Representatives was an act of “political bastardry”.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Catherine King said she acknowledged the industry’s concerns but insisted that the ban was necessary to end uncertainty for sheep producers and related businesses.

The bill still has to be passed in the senate and the decision may significantly influence the future trajectory of Australia’s sheep industry depending on the result.