The livestock export industry is a valuable Australian industry that was valued at over $2.035 Billion for the 2020 financial year and supports the livelihood of many people in rural and regional Australia.

The Australian Government has a responsibility to all those involved in the export of livestock. This includes livestock producers, exporters and support industries such as transport that rely on livestock exports for their income, and the broader Australian community that relies on the Australian Government to enforce standards that reflect their values, including protecting the welfare of exported animals.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment regulates the export livestock industry. Livestock exporters must meet high animal welfare standards through regulations such as those that underpin the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).

The introduction in July 2011 of ESCAS, first for export of feeder and slaughter cattle to Indonesia, and later extended to all feeder and slaughter livestock to all destinations, was a significant reform for the livestock export industry. ESCAS gives transparency and accountability to how exported livestock are treated, starting from the farm, and extending to slaughter in the importing country. ESCAS is also a system that can identify where a problem exists, and address it directly.

The introduction of ESCAS means that Australia’s commitment to the humane treatment of its exported livestock does not stop the moment they are unloaded from an export vessel. Australia is the only country of more than 100 countries that export livestock that requires its exporters to achieve specific animal welfare outcomes for exported livestock in the importing country.

Since the inception of ESCAS in 2012, Australia has exported 23,032,889 head of livestock as at 1 March 2021.

Livestock exporters must also comply with the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock.
The Australian Government has memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa, and negotiations continue with other trading partners. MoUs reinforce importing country commitment to international animal welfare standards and provide government-to-government assurances that Australian livestock will be unloaded on arrival, regardless of the results of initial animal health inspection.

The department’s work also means that Australia is a global leader in animal welfare. The ‘Australian position statement on the export of livestock’ sets out guiding principles and minimum recommended animal health and welfare outcomes for animals in the export livestock industry, consistent with international animal welfare standards (OIE). Australia is an active member of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and strongly supports OIE activities on animal welfare.

The Export Control Act 2020 requires that the department send a report to parliament every six months on mortalities for livestock exported by sea. These reports show that voyage mortality rates have fallen considerably since the year 2000.

History of the trade and reviews​

The Australian Government has a responsibility to ensure that exporters maintain high standards of animal welfare throughout the export chain, for the sake of the exported livestock, and for the sake of the farmers, exporters and communities who rely on livestock exports for their livelihood.

The department also plays a wider policy role in the export livestock industry by regularly undertaking policy reviews and driving improvements.

The department supports the export livestock industry to achieve high standards of animal welfare. Our work helps provide long-term stability for the industry and its workers.

The department's international work in the export of livestock is vital. We engage with overseas governments to negotiate memorandums of understanding and facilitate trade within a framework of high standards of animal welfare.

Other information

If you have a general question or comment about exporting livestock please contact us.

Last reviewed: 27 March 2021
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