Live Export

Opinion: Time to end live export ban madness

Opinion by Rob Gillam, Pastoralists & Graziers Association of WA, 10/10/2012

Every day farming organisations, export companies and our politicians are besieged by emails and comments in the media from what are described as countless Australians demanding an end to the live export trade.

Terms like cruel, inhumane, barbaric, and shameful are commonplace, as are the occasional death threats and promises of political and economic retribution.

Adding insult to injury these self-appointed voices of animals have made a concerted effort to convince the general public that because of the live export trade, Australia’s international reputation is being tarnished, and in the eyes of the rest of the world we are a nation of barbarians.

These churlish attempts at propaganda would be laughable if it wasn't so offensive.

Having raised livestock in Western Australia for over 40 years it angers me to see these groups assuming Australians are so stupid and gullible.

In fact I am appalled, angry, saddened and outraged that we can allow this vilification of farmers and the public condemnation of our elected representatives continue just because a group of professional activists are committed to ending the slaughter of animals for food, stopping global free trade, and making sure that farming returns to the days of communes and collectivization under a plan for ethical compassionate sustainability.

But what these professional activists fail to realise is that by banning the live export trade they will be destroying the lives of thousands of farming families, the future of hundred of regional and rural communities, and increasing the levels of animal cruelty in many developing nations.

In the past week Saudi Arabia and Turkey has opened their market to live cattle exports from Brazil, and Qatar has opened its market to live sheep exports from Canada.

Australia is replaceable, and not only will our livestock be replaced but so will our standards of animal welfare that we have established in these markets.

It is the live export industry, not the animal rights activists that are ensuring that existing routine slaughter practices in many importing countries are brought up to the world’s best practice expected by the Australian people.

And while recent footage and reports of stranded shipments in Bahrain and of animals being slaughtered by the Pakistani Government continue to be fodder for these animal activists the simple truth is that in both of these cases the initial cause of the issue was not animal health, animal welfare, or a breakdown of within the export supply chain, but was due to internal political and social issues within each of these countries.

It has been the farmers, exporters and Government who have been trying to recover the situation in Pakistan. They have committed millions of dollars and man-hours to regain control and care for the sheep – that's a commitment to animal welfare.

The animal activist groups haven't lifted a finger to assist with the situation in Pakistan, nor have they ever really been committed to working with Governments in developing nations to increase their levels of animal welfare. 

They are only concerned with hounding the exporters and farmers like the paparazzi; seeking that sensationalistic photo in order to sell their cause.

Transporting and exporting sheep is not without risk, and Australia has measures in place to reduce that risk. However, no system is perfect and decisions should not be made on the future of the trade based on achieving a risk free environment.

We don't impose that requirement on other sections of society (workplace accidents, deaths on roads) so it is unfair to impose that on farmers and the live export industry.

The Federal Government realizes this and the Government must be recognised for its acknowledgement that Australia operates in an international live export marketplace and it can best influence that marketplace by remaining involved in live export rather than walking away and causing unnecessary and untold pain to farmers, their families and communities in the process.

This is not to say that the Government’s response to date has been perfect, as the increases in regulations they have imposed on exporters – which have no ability to deal with the type of rejections seen in Bahrain and Pakistan – has created an extra financial burden on everyone involved in live exports, from farmers, to transporters to feed suppliers to exporters.

However the ones who stand to lose the most if the live trade is shut down would be the thousands of Australian Farmers, and their families.

This reality was driven home in September when farmers in Western Australia saw sheep prices drop from $100 to $60 per head after livestock exporters withdrew from the market due to uncertainty over the ability to gain export permits. 

While the average person in the city might not understand the implications of this, it is the equivalent of having your wage cut by 40pc overnight. And if you and your co-workers were all facing further cuts to your paycheck, would you think it fair?

The only ones who do think it is fair are the animal activist groups. But they are also the only ones with nothing to lose if you stop the live export trade.


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