Farmers make 11th hour plea to maintain live sheep trade

14 November 2023

The Keep Farmers Farming campaign has landed in Perth this week, with advertising targeting marginal seats sharing farmers’ fears about a phase-out of live sheep exports.

NFF President David Jochinke said with a decision imminent about the future of the trade, it was critical that voters in battleground seats like Swan, Tangney, and Hasluck understood what a ban would mean for jobs and small farming communities in WA.

“This policy is already hurting and frustrating farmers. We’re already hearing accounts of farmers getting out of sheep because they don’t know what the future holds.

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“What we’re seeing now is only the beginning. Shut down this trade and the whole future of WA’s $650 million merino wool industry is dicey at best.

“This isn’t just about the farmers. It’s the truck drivers, the livestock agents, the local schools, and sporting clubs that all depend on this trade.”

Mr Jochinke said the Government’s policy was based on an outdated activist campaign and was due for a rethink.

“This policy has nothing to do with animal welfare. It’s about Canberra trying to win back green votes on the East Coast at the expense of jobs and livelihoods in WA.

“If it was about animal welfare, you’d keep the trade going. Australia is the gold standard for live sheep exports. If we vacate the field, we just make way for competitors with no regulation. Those export markets have made it clear that’s what they’ll do,” Mr Jochinke said.

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Print, digital, and outdoor ads running in Perth this week feature sheep and grain farmer Jamie Spence, from Borden in WA’s Great Southern.

“A ban on live sheep to the Middle East would be a backward step for animal welfare because Australia holds the highest standard of welfare when it comes to the export market,” Mr Spence said.

He warned that pressures being felt on prices and continued backlogs in domestic processing could see producers like him quit the sheep industry if a ban was implemented.

“We can’t sell sheep to the market for a good price - young ewes which might have been $80 are now only getting $20,” he said.

“We currently send a portion of our sheep to the live sheep trade and if it’s banned – with the current backlogs in the domestic market – we feel we might not be able to keep operating our current sheep program.”

“The sheep industry in WA and Australia as a whole is an integral part of the economy. I urge the politicians in Canberra to rethink the decision,” he said.