The export of live sheep by sea from Australia will end on in 2028, the Australian government has announced.

A AUD$107 million federal transition support package for the Australian sheep industry will support the phase out of live sheep exports by sea.

Legislation enacting the phase out is to be introduced in this term of the Parliament of Australia.

The date for when the export of live sheep by sea will end was confirmed by the Australian government as May 1, 2028.

In a statement from the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt on Saturday, May 11, the live sheep export industry was revealed as being “in decline for many years”.

This is shown through the value of the exports being down from AUD$415 million in 2002-03 to $77 million in 2022-2023.

However, the statement revealed that the demand for processed sheepmeat both in Australia and overseas “has been rapidly expanding”.

This is expected to present an opportunity for more processing to occur onshore in Western Australia (WA) and create local jobs.

Minister Watt said: “We are giving certainty to sheep producers and the supply chain by legislating the date, and putting $107 million on the table to enable an orderly and well-planned transition away from the trade.

“This is a comprehensive package that will assist to strengthen supply chains, develop market opportunities and improve animal welfare. 

“With the Australian sheepmeat sector booming, our sheep industry has a bright future. This support will help it continue to grow, creating more local jobs through increased value adding.”

ship at sea
MV Bahijah Source: Animals Australia

Minister Watt said that the transition support will focus on helping affected individuals, businesses and communities to plan for, and adjust to the phase out.

“Importantly, it will be available to help all parts of the sheep industry supply chain, from farmers, to truckies, to shearers and processors.

“We want to ensure those affected by the phase are well-positioned, resilient and ready when the trade ends in 2028,” Minister Watt said.


The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has said farmers have been left “shocked” after the announcement of the four years to phase out live sheep exports.

NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar said: “We’re turning our back on crucial Middle Eastern partners who have plead for this trade to continue.

“Make no mistake, this battle is far from over. We will not rest until this misguided policy is overturned, and we urge everyone, especially in the west, to keep fighting tooth and nail,” Mahar added.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) WA has welcomed the announcement of a live sheep export end date.

RSPCA WA chair, Lynne Bradshaw, said: “It’s an historic day for animal welfare in Australia. We have been working towards this outcome for decades.

“I congratulate the government for its considered decision which will put an end to unnecessary cruelty for millions of sheep.”

“Australia’s live sheep trade has resulted in multiple animal welfare catastrophes and publicly documented cruelty over the past forty years, most recently the shambles of the MV Bahijah,” she added.

Australian sheep sector

Minister Watt explained that Australia’s lamb and mutton exports were worth $4.5 billion in 2022-23, while live sheep exports by sea were less than $77 million in 2022-23.

He said this was “less than 0.1% of Australia’s estimated agricultural production in that year”.

“While live sheep exports have shrunk by AUD$338 million over the past 20 years, our sheepmeat exports have grown by over 300% over that same period, with exports to the North Africa and Middle East region more than tripling in value over this period.

“This package will provide more consumers, at home and overseas, the opportunity to sample Australia’s world class sheepmeat products.

“I understand that some in the community will want to see the trade stopped tomorrow, and others not at all. As a government, we have taken the time to get this right,” he said.