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  • Stop Live Exports March In May 2014 (photo: Katrina Love)
    Stop Live Exports March In May 2014 (photo: Katrina Love)
  • Cow Truck (photo: Katrina Love)
    Cow Truck (photo: Katrina Love)
  • Mauritius Oct 2013 (photo: Animals Australia)
    Mauritius Oct 2013 (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Au cattle-truck (Photo:
    Au cattle-truck (Photo:
  • Nada Fremantle (photo: Katrina Love)
    Nada Fremantle (photo: Katrina Love)
  • Sheep dragged by head Jordan Oct 2013 (photo: Animals Australia)
    Sheep dragged by head Jordan Oct 2013 (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Rally Poster (Photo: Animals Australia)
    Rally Poster (Photo: Animals Australia)
  • Gaza (photo: Animals Australia)
    Gaza (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Cattle Truck (photo: Weekly Times)
    Cattle Truck (photo: Weekly Times)
  • Human Chain  Against Live Exports 2013
    Human Chain Against Live Exports 2013
  • Gaza  (photo: Animals Australia)
    Gaza (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Kuwait trussed Aus sheep lifted by horns into car-boot Eid-Nov2010 (photo: Animals Australia)
    Kuwait trussed Aus sheep lifted by horns into car-boot Eid-Nov2010 (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Fully conscious trussed Aus sheep awaits throat-cut Eid Nov2010 (photo: Animals Australia)
    Fully conscious trussed Aus sheep awaits throat-cut Eid Nov2010 (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Fremantle Festival 2012 (photo: Katrina Love)
    Fremantle Festival 2012 (photo: Katrina Love)
  • Mauritius 2013 media image (photo: Animals Australia)
    Mauritius 2013 media image (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Distressed roped AU steer vocalising prior to slaughter on MLA installed equipment 2011 (photo: Animals Australia)
    Distressed roped AU steer vocalising prior to slaughter on MLA installed equipment 2011 (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Port Protest 2013
    Port Protest 2013
  • Bahrian Feedlot (photo: Animals Australia)
    Bahrian Feedlot (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Jordan street slaughter Oct 2013 (photo: Animals Australia)
    Jordan street slaughter Oct 2013 (photo: Animals Australia)
  • Dairy suffering in qatar
    Dairy suffering in qatar
  • Fremantle Festival (photo: Katrina Love)
    Fremantle Festival (photo: Katrina Love)
  • Cattle (photo: The Age)
    Cattle (photo: The Age)

About the Live Export Trade

Click on the tabs below to view information:

Australia is the world's largest exporter of live sheep and one of the largest exporters of live cattle, by sea, for slaughter. We also export smaller numbers of buffalo and live goats, camels, alpacas and breeding "stock" cattle by air (also some "breeders" by sea.

We have been a major player in the export of live animals since the mid 1970s, when Middle Eastern countries started looking to import and Australia had plenty of sheep to spare. Sheep exports peaked in 1987 with 7.2 million exported and came close again in 2001/2 with 6,257,120 and 6,069,702 sheep exported respectively. Cattle exports peaked in 2014 with over 1 million exported.

Although the live export industry is worth around $1 billion annually, it makes up a tiny percentage of Australia's total exports, at just 0.5%. Ending live exports would not see the loss of that $1 billion, it would see it transferred to the chilled meat export industry (3.4% of total exports) and also see more jobs and profits staying in Australia.

We now export to about 40 countries, mainly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and our biggest importers are Indonesia for cattle and Kuwait for sheep. See Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA)'s in-depth figures for live exports here.

About 36 ships currently service Australia, loading mainly sheep and cattle and some buffalo, from 12 ports around Australia, with by far the greatest number of cattle exported from Darwin, and the greatest number of sheep exported from Fremantle:

Adelaide  SA
Brisbane QLD
Broome WA
Darwin NT
Fremantle WA
Geelong VIC
Geraldton WA
Karumba QLD
Mourilyan QLD
Portland VIC
Townsville QLD
Wyndham QLD


Loading at Fremantle port.

Approximately 70% of all animals exported live from Australia for slaughter in foreign countries will have their throats cut whilst fully conscious, but their fate is not always the worst part of the live export process. Voyages can take up to 41 days (Livestock Shipping Services, 62,857 sheep and 10,237 cattle from Fremantle to Izmar, Turkey, May 2011), depending on point of origin and destination. Average voyage length to Indonesia is eight days and voyages to the Middle East vary between 14 and 34 days, with the average being 25 days.

Over 2.5 million animals have died on route in the last 30 years, and nearly half of those have died from inanition, or failure to eat - they starved to death. The other main casue of death for cattle is respiratory illness, and for sheep, heat stress and salmonellosis. Most animals die in their pens - often a long and painful death - they are not humanely euthanised.


Dead Australian steer aboard the Barkly Pearl, October 2012

There have also been regular mass deaths on board due to delays in unloading, illness, fire, accident or heat events - 4,179 sheep aboard the Bader III in August 2013 die to "an unforseen heat event" in the (Persian) Gulf... because who would expect high temperratures in the Middle East in the middle of summer, right? The latest exposé of one exporter came just this year (2018), from a Pakistani crew member abaord Emanuel Exports-leased vessels. Some of the footage taken over five voyages to the Middle East between August 2017 and February 2018 is below *warning - disturbing images*


FAQ's - The Truth About Live Exports

There are many myths about the live export trade.  Here are some commonly asked questions and the truth about live exports.

Live export of animals for slaughter usually involves confining animals, often in cramped, filthy conditions for days or even weeks at a time.

Animals can be on board ships for up to six weeks, even longer if something goes wrong or if there are multiple pick up and drop-off ports. During that time, they are often subjected to extremes of temperature and high levels of ammonia. With ships at full capacity (the norm), they will be kept in cramped conditions where they can do little more than stand or lie down - depending on weight, sheep are allocated as little as 0.61 square metres each.

The long distance transportation of animals contradicts the universally accepted principle that animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to the point of production.

Bahrain dehydrated sheep in truck

Live export also exports jobs. Jobs in abattoirs and downstream processing are exported overseas.

Large meat processors, such as Fletchers International, say if they had access to stock, they could employ this number of people plus many more.

The live export industry likes to say that it employs around 13,000 people. This is somewhat questionable - when asked for a break down and further clarification of these figures, it has not been forthcoming. Some estimates put the numbers of jobs lost in the value-adding industries, due to live exports at 250,000.

We know that the majority of people would still be required in a chilled meat trade, such as sheep and cattle farmers, stock-hands, stock transport drivers, shearers, vets, truckies etc. these people are also employed within the meat processing sector and are not employed exclusively within the live export industry.
Immense animal suffering is hidden in statistics.

2% of mortalities in sheep equates to 30,000 to 60,000 animals every year.

Although the actual mortality rate recently is less than 1% for sheep and less than 0.2% for cattle, the "acceptable" loss is 2% for sheep and goats and 1% for cattle. This means that industry would have "accepted" the deaths of 7,766 cattle and 37,946 sheep in 2013, and it would not have instigated an enquiry into those deaths - these are the expendables in an industry that knows it places animals in compromising situations both on board and in importing countries. 

The live export industry measures animal welfare by counting how many animals have fallen down dead; the death statistics tell us nothing about the other animals who have endured the same extremely hot, cramped, ammonia-filled conditions on rolling, pitching ships with 24/7 fluorescent ligthing and engine noise from both ships' engines and extraction fans - the ones who make it to the destination countries alive enough to slaughter.

Most animals who die on board ships are found dead in their pens: they are not humanely euthanised before they reach that point.


Ship used to transport sheep to the Middle East

Some vessels, such as the Al Messilah are old, completely enclosed, converted car carriers or cargo ships. Decks on the Bader III barely have head clearance for larger sheep and at full capacity, sheep in those decks are cramped together in near darkness.

Even vessels built specifically for carrying sheep and cattle have their problems; in February 2010 the cattle on the lower decks of the Ocean Shearer were observed to be in severe respiratory distress for several days continuously. Some of the animals were in such bad condition they were slumped on the deck or hunched over and drooling. Others were agitated and panting.

The Department of Agriculture Report on this voyage found that animals on the Ocean Shearer, particularly on the lower decks, were subject to extreme heat stress, high humidity and high levels of ammonia. The Department of Agriculture postulated that the lower decks of the Ocean Shearer possibly have 'hot spots' which cause animals to suffer and die.

The Ocean Shearer was decommisioned in 2012, but there are still ships used to transport animals that are in worse condition than she was. The Bader III, mentioned before had 4179 sheep die in 30 minutes during an "unforseen heat event" in the Gulf in August last year.

Ship used to transport sheep to the middle east

There is a scant amount of animal welfare legislation in place. However, there is no government agency enforcing that legislation.

Live exporters are obliged to comply with the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL), administered by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). ASEL only governs the condition of animals fit for loading and does not cover animal cruelty.

AQIS's only assessment of animal welfare is to briefly glance at animals as they are running up the loading ramp onto the ship. Our observation is that AQIS frequently fails not spot blind, lame or injured animals.

Live exporters are also bound by the Animal Welfare Acts in each state. Due to a lack of funding by the WA State Government, livestock facilities in WA are seldom inspected.

Click here to take action about Animal Welfare Unit under funding

Monitoring of animal cruelty at the port is often left to animal welfare groups or concerned individuals - Stop Live Exports, Animals Angels and Vets Against Live Exports (VALE) used to monitor the loading of ships at Fremantle until the Port Authority mad it a no-go zone, which effectively leaves no one to observe whether regulations and standards are being followed.

However, most cruelty in live export occurs out at sea where perpetrators are beyond the jurisdictional reach of the state governments.

The following animals were observed at Fremantle Port

injured sheep

This sheep was observed to have a profusely bleeding horn. Standard 1.7 of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock says that an animal who has a bleeding horn must be rejected from the export chain.

Injured sheep from live animal transportInjured sheep from live animal transportThese images captured by volunteers show a sheep with its leg painfully trapped in a truck.  In WA, with an under-funded Animal Welfare Unit, there is no one to call to report this.

blind sheepThis image is of a sheep with a blind eye. Standard 1.7 of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock says that an animal who is blind in one or both eyes must be rejected from the export chain.

sheep with Keratoconjuntivitis

This image is of a sheep with Keratoconjuntivitis, also known as pink eye, in its right eye. Standard 1.7 of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock says that an animal who has keratoconjunctivitis must be rejected from the export chain.

Sheep hanging outside of truckSheep in transport

These photos were taken at Fremantle Port, Western Australia bound for the live export market. These photographs of live sheep export show limbs protruding from the truck and other issues.  Often, drivers are not aware of their responsibilities under State and Federal legislation and codes.  Driver training is essential and authorities should be at both the feedlot and port for loading and unloading.

Most sheep exported from Australia are slaughtered in a way which would be unacceptable and illegal in Australia.

Footage and photographs obtained in Kuwait and Bahrain show terrified Australian sheep being manhandled, trussed, thrown, shoved into car boots and lying across the bodies of other bloodied dying sheep on roadsides, before having their throats cut whilst fully conscious. In one incident in Kuwait three Australian sheep were forced into a boot whilst another terrified animal purchased for sacrifice was transported to a private premises chained by his neck to the winch of a tow truck.  This is simply horrific stuff in anyone’s book.

Click here to watch WSPA’s footage 

Click here to watch Animals Australia’s 2010 footage

A joint industry and Government report concluded that Australian cattle are subjected to shocking cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs. The report found that it takes an average of four cuts to the throat for the animal to die.

What is most shocking is that cattle are placed in slaughter restraint boxes that are not legally able to be used in Australia.  The box intentionally trips the animal so that it falls on its side. Cattle are dying very slowly and cruelly in these abattoirs. On average, cattle rise 3.5 times which usually results in them hitting their heads on the concrete. The authors of the study observed one cow who needed to have its throat cut 18 times before it finally died.

Slaughter methods are not the only concern. As 80% of animals that are unloaded are sent to one of 120 locations, this often results in poor animal welfare outcomes. Animals have to be transported multiple times and are often left without food or water.

The live export industry has been exporting cattle to Indonesia for nearly 20 years yet we are still seeing major animal cruelty issues and contraventions of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health)”. If this is the best the live export industry and the Australian government can do after 19 years, it is obvious that they do not place any importance whatsoever on animal welfare.

Read the full report here.

This is an unfortunate commonly used marketing ploy used by live exporters that is not only incorrect but culturally insensitive. Even the Australian government acknowledges that the live trade to the Middle East is not driven by a lack of available refrigeration. (source: ABARE 2008), yet this is a myth perpetuated by Politicians and industry alike.

When WSPA’s Campaign Manager, Jessica Borg visited the Middle East, she said that “The idea that everyone in the Middle East goes to a wet market and lacks proper refrigeration is simply misguided. They even have air-conditioned bus stops over here. Living in the Middle East without access to refrigeration is just not possible.” 

Australia mainly exports to the Gulf region of the Middle East, which is rich in resources. There are only two religious ceremonies where live animals are required on mass. For every day meat products, consumers in the Middle East generally buy products from a supermarket.

Australia has been exporting live animals to the Middle East for over 30 years. Footage taken at Middle Eastern abattoirs at the end of 2010 indicates that animal welfare standards are negligible or non-existent.

Click here to watch WSPA’s footage

Click here to watch Animals Australia’s 2010 footage

The live export industry's claim that they might try to improve animal welfare by exporting animals to the Middle East has only emerged in the last few years since animal welfare groups have exposed the handling and slaughter practices in the Middle East.

Australia has no control over handling and slaughter practices in the Middle East. However, Australia can choose not to sell animals into a situation where we are certain that they will be subjected to horrific cruelty. By continuing to supply animals to countries where they are routinely abused, we send a clear message that we approve of that abuse.

The only way to ensure that animals are handled humanely as possible is to slaughter them in Australia and export them as chilled or frozen meat

The Middle East loves frozen Australian sheep meat. It is Halal, disease free and good quality. The Middle East already imports far more frozen meat from Australia than they import live animals.

In 2005 the total value of processed meat exports was over $5.9 billion compared to around $700 million for live exports. (Reference: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) The Economic Comparison of Live Export Vs Total Meat Exports from Australia 2004/5 (Source: ABS)

The Economic Comparison of Live Export Vs Total Meat Exports from Australia 2004/5
(Source: ABS)


Live export of cattle:

$464 million (FOB value*)

(623,579 live cattle)

Beef exports:

$4.9 billion

(947,866 tonnes)


Live export of Sheep:

$210 million (FOB* value)

(3,236,415 live sheep)

Lamb exports

$701 million

(123,060 tonnes)

Mutton exports

$418 million

(136,718 tonnes)

Total value of chilled meat exports 

$1.119 billion 

*Free On Board – the value of the animals before loading in Australia

When the trade to Egypt was suspended, additional chilled meat was imported from Australia.

After the trade to Saudi Arabia was suspended after the Cormo Express disaster, there was a 67% increase in mutton exports.

We can still provide that protein via chilled meat.

All of the Middle Eastern countries which import sheep from Australia are wealthy nations and every country we currently export live animals to, with the exception of Turkey, also imports chilled beef and/or lamb from Australia.

The farmers need not be so worried.  See our open statement to farmers by clicking here. Australia already exports billions of dollars worth of frozen meat to many countries including the Middle East. In fact, the live export trade is just a tiny proportion of Australia’s livestock industry.[Australia’s live export trade accounts for less than 5% of the value of Australia’s livestock industries.


Value (A$M) 

% of Total Industry 



















Live exports (sheep & cattle)



Other livestock products





Ref – ABARE (2005) Statistical Tables, Australian Commodities, 12(1),
Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Clearly, far greater long-term security for both Australian farmers and Australian workers in meat processing industries in Australia could be created through vigorous marketing of Australian chilled disease-free meat to importing countries.

According to many industry representatives, no other country is currently able to supply the same volume of healthy, good quality sheep to the Middle East as Australia.

Also, it is difficult to imagine animal welfare standards worse than those sanctioned by Australia’s live export industry. Australia’s distance from importing countries means that our animals are forced to travel much longer distances than local animals, and our animals are less suitable for the stress of handling and transport because they have such limited contact with humans. (Jones, B & Hart, S 2008) Situation report on the long-distance transportation of live animals for slaughter in Australia and export for slaughter overseas, WSPA Sydney

At various times when the live export trade to Egypt and Saudi has been suspended, these countries simply purchase more chilled meat from Australia.

No - Australia has around 70 certified Halal slaughterhouses, with the slaughter of each animal overseen by Muslim officials who are licensed by importing countries. Halal accreditation of meat is administered under the 'Australian Government Supervised Muslim Slaughter Programme'. Meat from animals Hala-slaughtered in Australia is genuinely Halal as oppose to the meat from animals slaughtered in the back streets and makeshift abattoirs where they are traumatised first - the levels of abuse some animals suffer would make the meat "Haram" - forbidden.

For example, the largest sheep meat processor in Australia is Fletcher International, which operates a large abattoir in Albany, Western Australia, and another in Dubbo, New South Wales. All of the animals slaughtered at Fletcher are slaughtered in a Halal manner and the animals are sold to various markets, including the Middle East.

Islamic leaders have approved the pre-stunning of sheep and cattle prior to the cutting of the throat. Because electrical stunning is 'reversible', the animal is not injured and still alive, the practice is consistent with Islamic requirements.[Soft Break][Soft Break]Recent footage of investigations in the Middle East show that the way animals are being slaughtered is not in accordance with Halal principles, which are:

  • Not killing animals in the presence of other animals
  • The animals are not to be bound
  • The slaughterman makes a dedication of the animal to “Allah”
  • The animal being slaughtered must face Mecca
  • The animal should be killed with a single cut to the throat with a long sharp blade
  • The animal must not suffer prior to slaughter

Not really. A shipboard veterinarian may have responsibility for more than 100,000 animals on board.

Despite the presence of a veterinarian on each long haul shipment to the. Sick or moribund animals are not routinely euthanased. Most animals who die on live export ships are found dead in their pens – they are not euthanased before they reach this point.



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