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Welfare in Live Export

Australia is the world’s leading supplier of high quality live cattle and sheep to countries around the world – primarily to the Middle East and South East Asia. In 2013 Australia exported 850,273 live cattle and 1,973,373 live sheep.

The Issues

Australian livestock are most commonly transported by sea, where voyages can last up to four weeks. Due to the nature of the travel, some animals can experience travel related illness.  There are incidents of animal cruelty in export markets occasionally, despite the implementation of a regulatory framework in which the exporter must provide evidence of compliance from discharge to point of processing.

There is often public outrage at the issue of live exporting Australian cattle and sheep and the industry is working hard to reduce incidents in breach of the regulatory framework.

The Facts

  • In 2013, 99.89% of cattle and 99.26% of sheep exported by sea and air from Australia arrived at their destination fit and healthy.
  • The 2013 shipboard mortality rates for sheep were 0.68% and cattle: 0.11%
  • Australia exports livestock by sea and air and the industry is recognised as having the world's highest animal welfare standards for livestock export.
  • Australian live export operates under strict regulations and is committed to maintaining Australia's world leading reputation.
  • Live exporters must be licensed by the Australian Government and livestock vessels must meet strict requirements governed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
  • At the export destinations, livestock are cared for by trained stockmen in feedlots where they have constant access to food, fresh water and shade.
  • Australian animal welfare experts are based in export locations and regularly deliver animal welfare training and education programs and make improvements to infrastructure and livestock facilities.
  • In addition to providing much needed protein for global communities, the livestock export industry also supports the livelihoods of thousands of farming families and communities. The industry employs 13,000 people across rural and regional Australia and is worth $1.8 billion to the Australian economy.
  • For more facts about live export visit

The Research

  • The Australian beef and lamb industry is investing in R&D, training, education and infrastructure across the supply chain to improve animal welfare outcomes.
  • Meat & Livestock Australia and LiveCorp invest levies paid by Australian cattle and sheep producers and exporters into supporting and fostering the industry through the Livestock Export Program.
  • The joint Meat & Livestock Australia and LiveCorp initiative invests in activities and tools to improve the trade both in Australia, on-board livestock vessels and overseas. The key topics the Livestock Export Program focuses on are:
    • Livestock management and welfare
    • Market access and trade development
    • Supply chain improvements
  • The Australian Government introduced a new regulatory framework, the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), from October 2011. Under ESCAS, the exporter must provide evidence of compliance right through the supply chain before being issued with approval by the Department of Agriculture.
  • Exporters are required to comply with State and Federal Government animal welfare regulations including the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) which covers the preparation of livestock for the voyage from farm through to on-board care and the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) from discharge to point of processing.
  • Where breaches of the ESCAS occur immediate action is taken to remedy the situation as soon as it is identified. The ESCAS stipulates penalties for breaches, including revoking export licences, applying additional conditions to licences or the stationing of animal welfare officers at facilities, through to criminal sanctions for the most serious offences.
  • The positive aspect about ESCAS is that it is designed to assure the welfare of livestock in-market and although not perfect, it has resulted in enormous welfare improvements overseasNo other exporting country in the world has this regulatory requirement upon its live export industry.  ESCAS has transformed the industry and provided a basis for greatly improved standards across all of Australia’s live export markets for feeder and slaughter livestock
  • All vessels transporting livestock operate under strict Australian Maritime Safety Authority regulations.