Live sheep export phaseout set in law

Legislation to end the export of live sheep by sea has passed both houses of the Australian Parliament and is now law, strengthening animal welfare and opening up opportunities for more jobs and value adding in Western Australia.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt said this was a significant moment for animal welfare and enables the rollout of a range of financial assistance under the $107 million phase out transition support package.

“We made a commitment at two elections to phase out the export of live sheep by sea, after years of community concern about the trade,” Minister Watt said.

“Around 70% of West Australians support ending this industry and the Parliament has now acted.

“The Albanese Government’s transition plan provides certainty, time and support.

“This law is a critical foundation for transitioning towards the end of the trade.

“This legislation delivers certainty for the sheep industry to make decisions for the future by enshrining the 1 May 2028 end date.

“Sheep producers, the sheep supply chain and trading partners can now plan and take action with confidence, knowing there is four years until the trade ends.”

Minister Watt said the Albanese Government is committed to supporting the sheep industry to continue to thrive, including by leveraging more onshore meat processing, particularly in Western Australia.

“Live sheep exports by sea from Australia have been plummeting over the last 20 years.

“It's an industry that's been in long-term decline with the evolution of global food supply chains, and it now represents less than 1% of Western Australia's agriculture sector.

At the same time demand for our lamb and mutton is going through the roof, both here and overseas – and just as other states have moved from live exports of sheep to more onshore processing, that's the high-value future for Western Australia.

“The fact is Australians and our trading partners buy a lot more processed sheepmeat than live exported sheep.

“Our sheepmeat exports are worth $4.5 billion and the domestic industry worth $3.5 billion, while the live trade is worth just $77 million.

“Enhancing demand for Australian sheep products here in Australia and in other international markets is a key component of our transition plan.

“The government will work with a range of delivery partners to stand up programs to assist with the transition and appoint a Transition Advocate, as recommended by the independent panel which consulted widely with interested parties.

“I remain optimistic for the future of Australia’s sheep industry and WA’s sheep industry for that matter.

“I'm confident that the transition package will continue to take the sheep industry and the communities of Western Australia forward.”


  • $77 million: value of live sheep exports by sea from Australia, 2022-23 (ABS)
  • $4.5 billion: value of Australian sheep meat exports, 2022-23 (ABS)
  • $5.1 billion: forecast value of Australian sheep meat exports, 2024-25 (ABARES)
  • $3.5 billion: estimated value of sheep meat in domestic retail markets, 2022 (MLA)
  • 7kg per person: average Australian’s consumption of sheep meat, 2023 (MLA)
  • 88 thousand tonnes: Australia’s mutton exports to China, highest on record, 2022-23
  • 20 thousand tonnes: Australia’s mutton exports to Malaysia, 2022-23
  • From 2001-2002 to 2022-23, the number of live sheep exported by sea has decreased from over 6.5 million head to 652,000 head.