WA's livestock export industry looks set to enjoy a new boom with the Abbott Government opening trade with Iran.
But the move has earned the ire of animal welfare groups who are warning the Government will have no power to police cruelty issues in the country.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce revealed yesterday the Government would allow live animal exports to Iran for the first time in almost 40 years.
Iran was once one of the most lucrative markets for the live export industry but it was closed after the revolution in 1979.
Mr Joyce estimated about 1.3 million sheep would be exported to Iran each year, most of the animals coming from WA. The market will also be opened to cattle and goat exporters.
A Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA spokesman said the sheep trade alone could be $50 million a year.
Exporters will be subject to the same animal cruelty regulations put in place by the Gillard Government in the wake of horrific revelations about the treatment of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs.
Under the rules, known as the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, Australian exporters are obliged to show animals will be killed humanely when sold into foreign markets.
Activists have continued to expose cases of cruelty.
Australian exporters will have to navigate United Nations sanctions that bar dealing with individuals connected with the Iranian regime and some financial institutions.
"I am very happy with the fact the Government and my department has really managed to expand the live sheep and live cattle trade," Mr Joyce said.
Since the Abbott Government has come to power it has reopened live trade markets with Bahrain and Egypt.
WA Liberal Senator Chris Back said animal welfare standards in Iran would be better as a result of Australia's entry into the market.
"We know that throughout the Middle East when Australians are in the market animal welfare standards always go up," Senator Back said.
But the RSPCA said if the Government was really concerned about the welfare of Australian animals, it should be focusing on increasing the meat trade to Iran and having the animals killed here.
"The best welfare outcome for Australian animals is for them to be slaughtered here to Australian standards," the RSPCA said.