Support for live sheep exports ban grows as Labor backs Lib MP’s bill

Liberal MP Sussan Ley is pushing for a ban on all live sheep exports. Source: Getty and Channel 9/60 Minutes.

A plea to ban all live sheep exports from Australia is gaining huge support, as Labor threw their weight behind a bill from a Liberal MP this week.

The Liberal party’s Sussan Ley introduced a private member’s bill in parliament on Monday, calling for a ban on all live sheep exports to the Middle East in the northern hemisphere’s summer months in 2019, before banning them completely in five years.

Liberal MP Sarah Henderson has already shared her support for her colleague, while they also have the backing of Labor’s Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

In her speech, Ley opened up on her past working on sheep farms throughout her childhood, as well as growing up in the deserts of the United Arab Emirates before becoming a mustering pilot. She gave some perspective to her argument as she admitted she openly supported the live sheep trade for 15 years.

However, she said that recently changed her view on the issue when footage of the horrific conditions onboard livestock ships was aired on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes.

“Recently I found cause to look at the industry with fresh eyes,” she said. “I have been shocked, angered, bewildered and disappointed.”

Read more: PETA calls for live animal exports ban as horrific sheep cruelty exposed

The TV show aired “heartbreaking” footage showing sheep packed onboard for three weeks, and dying from heat stress and “terrible” living conditions. Brave young trainee navigator Faisal Ullah blew the whistle on the horrific conditions after recording secret videos onboard the giant livestock carrier, Awassi Express.

“Once I was on board the ship, and when I saw the animal’s condition on board, it was just, I mean, terrible inside,” Ullah said on the show.

Speaking about the revelations, Ley added: “I have researched the science, the facts, the economics and the opinions. I have not allowed emotions to overcome reason,” before stating: “The live sheep trade is in terminal decline, dropping by two thirds in the last five years.”

Her colleague Henderson backed her plea when she appeared on Sky News on Monday, and said: “It is farmers that have been deceived by an export industry that – for 33 years and countless second chances – has been very good at talking the talk, but downright culpable when it comes to walking the walk.”

She added: “There’s been a monumental failure of compliance, underpinned by rogue exporters. It’s absolutely untenable that these exports should continue over summer, as the Australian Veterinary Association has said.”

Meanwhile, Labor’s Fitzgibbon revealed he’s also supporting the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill, and told ABC’s AM radio: “I will certainly be recommending to both the shadow cabinet and to the party room this week that we support the bill.”

He added: “I have no doubt that the bill reflects the view of the broader Labor Party and on that basis I’m very confident that the party room will embrace the bill.”

However, not everyone agrees with the bill, and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud revealed the government would not be imposing a ban in the summer months, but would instead introduce new rules to improve comfort for animals.

And that comes after vet and Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm told Miranda Devine recently that live exports can actually benefit the animals – while claiming “most of the time the sheep gain weight on the trip”.

He said killing it off altogether would have a “devastating” effect on the sheep industry as a whole, and added: “The death rate on farms is typically higher than it is on the ship.”

Asked about Ley’s bill, he said: “She’s responding with her heart, and her heart is not talking to her head.”

Do you think there needs to be a ban on all live sheep exports? Do you think it would have a negative effect on the sheep industry as a whole, or is it still worth risking?

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