Live Export

Live sheep export campaign celebrates strong survey result

Terry Sim, June 7, 2024

The Keep The Sheep demonstration in Perth last week.

PRO-LIVE sheep export campaign Keep The Sheep’s online petition supporting the reversal of the Albanese Government’s phaseout plan has generated more than 44,000 signatures in a week, denting claims the industry has lost its social license.

The KTS survey result exceeds the number of respondents to a major RSPCA-initiated petition in 2023 calling for a legislated end to the trade.

Other petitions and research that extrapolated conclusions either supporting or opposing the trade from far smaller numbers of respondents have been used by both sides of the debate.

The Keep The Sheep survey had received more than 45,000 signatures by noon today.

Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt has repeatedly referred to the anti-trade petitions as indicating the export of live sheep by sea had lost its social licence.

In 2023, 43,758 Australians signed the RSPCA-Initiated petition (petition EN5323) calling for the parliament to legislate an end date to phase out the export of live sheep by sea from Australia.

The RSPCA-initiated petition was open for four weeks from 4 August 2023 to midnight 31 August 2023, and its 43,758 signatures made it the 31st largest petition ever made via the e-petitions website, and the 5th largest in the 47th Parliament. It was cited by the RSPCA as indicating overwhelming support for a legislated end to the trade.

The federal Minister for Infrastructure Transport Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King last week also referred to Petition EN5323 in recommending the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 that will amend the Export Control Act 2020 to prohibit the export of live sheep by sea from Australia from 1 May 2028.

Survey shows support for sheep farmers

Keep the Sheep organiser Ben Sutherland said the survey result was no surprise and further evidence that the Federal Government’s phaseout policy was out of touch with mainstream people.

“We’ve set an amazing record, with over 44,000 signatures in a single week.

“This has been from a standing start, without a heavily funded campaign like the ones activists have,” he said.

“It shows the community supports farmers, truckies and people in country towns.

“In introducing the Bill to ban live sheep to Parliament, the Government used the activists’ petition as justification, saying it ‘represented community expectations’, well, what about our communities’ expectations?” he said.

“Labor wants to take away our livelihoods and communities based on a petition by activists, that we have blown past in just six days. It’s clear we have the Australian community on our side.”

Mr Sutherland said it had been amazing to see the grassroots movement gather steam with people jumping on board the cause and sending the petition to friends and family.

“We’re grateful for everyone taking the time and supporting us to get this far, so quickly.

“What we will continue to do is keep the pressure on to the Government to drop this awful policy.”\

Reverse the ban – WoolProducers Australia

WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall said the Keep The Sheep survey figures speak for themselves.

“If governments are going to measure community sentiment through the number of signatures collected on any given issue, then the Minister needs to come out in support of the live sheep export trade.”

Ms Hall said there are many different metrics that could be used to measure industry’s progress; however, it is incumbent on the Minister to be consistent in his approach to evaluating community sentiment amongst groups.

“If the 43,000 signatures collected opposing the trade was enough evidence for the ALP to justify their proposed ban, then 45,000 signatures in support of the trade should mean that the Minister needs to reverse the ban.”

Watt has done nothing to ascertain truce community support – ALEC

Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said the success of the Keep the Sheep petition has been outstanding.

“The government using the RSPCA petition — which went out to an established supporter base — as some sort of justification for ending the trade is a farce.”

He said the Keep The Sheep petition response is further evidence that the community doesn’t support the Albanese Government’s ban on live sheep exports.

“The Government has long held up the RSPCA’s petition as ‘proof’ that the community supports the ban.

“The Keep the Sheep petition has surpassed this in a single week, relying on word of mouth and social media advertising,” he said.

“The RSPCA took four weeks for their petition – imagine how many signatures KTS will have by then!

“There is now concrete evidence that there is no widespread community support for this terrible policy.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said Minister Watt continues to act as a mouthpiece for activist groups, citing their petitions and reposting their content on social media.

“But it is clear he has done nothing to ascertain the true levels of community support for the trade.

“The evidence is there from industry research and development body, Livecorp, in its five-year study into community sentiment,” he said.

“The evidence was also on display last week with 1700 vehicles lining the streets of Perth with widespread support from the Perth community for their efforts.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said that while the Minister continued to beat the drum of sheep meat exports being the ‘solution’, the reality is that this is not a debate about processing vs live exports, because a viable sheep industry needs both and our trading partners need both.

“We completely support the growth in sheep meat exports as that is good for everyone.

“But if you take a market live exports away then the market’s dynamic that delivers this value falls away too.

“We know this policy is actually going to cost jobs and impact thousands of rural businesses in WA and the Albanese Government has left the industry stranded with their dismal transition package.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said the phaseout policy is not supported by the Western Australian Government nor by a single agricultural peak body.

“The Western Australian community does not support this policy.

“The only people that do are animal activists and the Albanese Government.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said the live export industry has worked tirelessly on improvement, to the point where Australia leads standards of animal welfare globally.

“We have worked on educating and informing the public and are proud of the industry. Our exporters and farmers work tirelessly on innovation, animal welfare and have the goal of feeding people here and overseas with a top quality product.

“The success that Keep the Sheep has had so far appears to be because there is genuine support for real people standing up for their towns and livelihoods, in the face of poor policy from government,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said Animals Australia and the RPSCA are morally bankrupt, because they are valuing the life of a sheep in Australia over that from another country.

“The market overseas will continue, this is a food security and cultural issue.

“Australian exporters have world leading standards and are able to measure the pants of a sheep per minute, as well as the length of their wool to the millimetre on a boat,” he said.

“There is growing anger among farmers, as witnessed recently in Perth, because Labor is treating them with absolute contempt.

“Labor’s House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into the phase out of live sheep is also disingenuous,” Mr Littleproud said.

“A future Coalition Government will reinstate the live sheep export trade.”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. David Batt, June 10, 2024

    Save the export of sheep. There is nothing wrong with the export market of sheep. If we are rid of the Greens, the country will be a lot better off.

  2. Ken Schultz, June 10, 2024

    Watt did a backyard deal.

  3. John Keniry, June 8, 2024

    It is Minister Watt and the activists who are losing their social licence.

  4. Katrina Love, June 8, 2024

    It is disingenuous to compare petitions given the RSPCA petition was an unambiguous petition calling for an end date to be set and the other is an online petition with a tagline of “Keep the Sheep” which is exactly what the 70 percent of the population who want to see an end to the live sheep trade want to do #KeepTheSheep in Australia, #KeepTheSheep off the ships and #KeepTheSheep safe.

    How is the industry’s parliamentary petition doing?

  5. Peter DeGaris, June 7, 2024

    This Federal Government has lost the plot, on not only the live sheep trade. Our record animal welfare standards in the live export trade is world-leading.
    Kuwait, our earliest country of destination for live sheep exports, wishes to keep the trade and has lobbied the pro-activist government to reverse their decision. I understand they are considering stopping the importation of our barley if the live trade is stopped. Thanks Labor.

  6. Michelle Hudson, June 7, 2024

    Keep The Sheep!

    • Katrina Love, June 8, 2024

      Yes – that’s what most people who signed the petition were probably thinking – Keep The Sheep in Australia; Keep The Sheep off the ships, Keep The Sheep safe.

      The “Keep The Sheep” parliamentary petition that calls for “the House to halt any further actions that undermine the live export industry. Ensure transparent and accountable governance that truly protects the best interests of Australian producers. Recognise and support the critical role of free markets in the economic stability and sustainability of rural communities.”

      It has 1306 signatures, compared to the RSPCA’s parliamentary petition calling for an end date to be set, which has 43,758 signatures.

      • Beth Green, June 11, 2024

        I think you need to understand that removing the live export sector will remove many sheep producers altogether. Without export, there will be no significant sheep industry.
        That is why they sign the petition. No confusion.

Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -