When they last rallied in Western Australia, live export industry supporters said they’d “had a gutful”.
Now their message is that the Federal Government’s new Export Supply Chain Assurance System has created a crisis by causing the loss of multi-million dollar export markets, and has resulted in new animal welfare issues on properties stocked carrying livestock that now cannot be sold.
Live export producers and industry supporters are planning to vent their soaring frustration at the impact of new mandatory welfare regulations in export markets at a Community Cabinet Meeting in Perth next week, to be attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The same Community Cabinet meeting has also been targeted anti-live export activists.
In an email sent last week, the Stop Live Exports group urged its members to bring signs to the event supporting its theme of “No ban, No vote”, but also warned of the need “to be respectful” of the Prime Minister.
“We want her on our side and we want the ALP to win this next election – a Liberal/National win most likely spells at least another eight years of live exports, with a relaxing of current ESCAS requirements,” the group said.
The email also urged its members not to discuss the rally on social media to “avoid a repeat” of the counter presence that occurred in Fremantle when pro-live export supporters ‘crashed’ an anti-live export rally to highlight support for the industry.
Live export industry supporters say they have been planning their own rally since the WA community cabinet meeting was announced to ensure Australia’s political decision makers hear their voice.
WA sheep farmer Michael Trant, who helped to organise last year’s ‘Hadagutgul’ rally and is also behind next week’s event, has become one of the most prominent public faces of the impact one of the live export trade downturn on the rural sector.
His Damara sheep breeding and lot feeding operation is specifically geared towards supplying live export markets in the Middle East, but is now facing crisis as foreign customers turn away from Australian sheep in favour of livestock from countries that do not require importers to meet the same regulatory requirements.
In a letter appealing to fellow producers and live export industry supporters to attend next week’s meeting, Mr Trant said the live export industry had “had a gutful of the criticism, the insults, the assumptions, the simplistic solutions offered, the ideological claims and counter claims against our trade”.
“Had a gutful of some bright spark in an office somewhere claiming that he’d worked out on a piece of paper that should the live trade cease, sheep prices will only drop by $5-10, while at the same time we watch them plummet from $90 to $35 in the space of twelve months with a restricted trade.
“And that’s if you can actually sell them.
“Had a gutful of being told we should send all our animals to local processors while the local processor tells us they either a) don’t want them b) can’t take them for eight weeks or c) can only take some until the new season lambs come online.
“Had a gutful of being told how much of a difference our new regulations are making a huge to overseas markets, while reading that Romania has lifted sheep exports from zero to a million head, and how Somaliland is gearing up their new
55,000 head holding facility for Saudi. Only difference has been we aren’t there.
“Had a gutful of being told how our new regulations are an improvement in animal welfare, while we castrate ram hoggets and lop their horns off to the ear because we can’t sell them anymore, but might be able to as wethers, once they heal.”
Mr Trant said media coverage and letters, emails and phone calls to Australia’s political leaders had not worked, with Senator Bob Carr, an avowed critic of the live export trade prior to his appointment as foreign minister last year, stating two weeks ago that he was unaware of concerns with Australia’s live export markets.
Mr Trant said next week’s rally was focused on providing a show of numbers to illustrate then number of lives that have been affected by the loss of live export markets.
Organisers also plan to use livestock ear tags to symbolise the number of businesses that have been affected by the ban on live exports, and are calling on supporters who cannot attend the rally to send in ear tags or emailed brands.
The Community Cabinet meeting will be held at Thornlie Senior High School, Ovens Road, Thornlie, WA, from 4.30 pm on March 27. Details of the event are here.