Live sheep exports to be phased out in 'orderly manner'

Tens of thousands of Australians have called on the Albanese government to set a date this term of parliament for the start of a ban on "cruel" live sheep exports by sea.

Labor MP Josh Wilson, who holds the West Australian port seat of Fremantle, has thrown his support behind an RSPCA petition signed by 43,000 people.

Mr Wilson said setting a date was the logical next step to bring the "outdated, unnecessary, and cruel" trade to an end.

"Australians don’t accept the mistreatment of animals," he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"They don’t want to watch on their television screens or passing through their communities the kinds of terrible mistreatment of animals which has been intrinsic to this trade."

Labor pledged at the 2022 federal election to end the trade, but the government has consistently said it won't happen this term to allow the industry a smooth transition.

An independent panel taking feedback on the issue is due to report to Agriculture Minister Murray Watt by the end of September.

"Our government does intend to keep its promises, including this one, that we will phase out the live sheep export trade," Senator Watt told parliament.

He said the government is waiting for the recommendations of the panel, which will include a suggested timeframe to phase out the trade in an "orderly manner".

The proposed phase out does not apply to live cattle exports.

A WA delegation of sheep producers and industry groups will travel to Canberra on Tuesday to discuss the ban with the government.

Darren Spencer, who owns a shearing business in WA, said banning live sheep exports would devastate communities.

"We want to make sure politicians from across Australia understand that when they talk about phasing out live sheep exports, they risk phasing out whole towns,” he said.

Australia’s live animal export industry is worth about $1.3 billion and supports about 10,000 jobs, according to industry groups.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the coalition will support the live trade industry.

Mr Wilson said the export of live sheep had declined by more than 92 per cent, and the trade in chilled and frozen meat was now worth 50 times more.

"There is just no doubt that it’s time for the trade to come to an end," he said.

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