Live Export

What does Australia really think about the live export industry?

James Nason, 05/11/2019

What does mainstream Australia really think about the live export industry?

Were you to base the answer on social media commentary or mainstream media coverage relating to the trade, it would most likely be resoundingly negative.

But beyond what the loudest voices say, what does the middle 90 percent of the community think, and why do they think the way they do?

That is a question an independent research company borne out of the CSIRO is now helping the livestock industry to answer, so it can more accurately understand where community sentiment lies, and what is needed for the industry to retain all important public trust, which every industry needs to remain operating.

Voconiq was developed over eight years within CSIRO before it was spun off into a standalone research company. It uses a proven science-based approach to analysing community views and opinions, which it then uses to provide companies, industry and government with insights to inform business practice and development. It has engaged more than 80,000 members of the community and has worked across a range of industry sectors.

It has only just started a three year project conducting community research for Australia’s livestock export industry.

Voconiq co-founders and CEO Kieren Moffat addresses the LIVEXchange conference in Townsville last week.

Voconiq CEO Kieren Moffat said people who are either really supportive of or really against an industry tend to use their voice, while most people in the middle do not and are largely absent from the public conversation.

“One of the real challenges I think is that groups pro and against a particular industry or practice will often purport to represent community, to speak beyond their constituency to reflect what they say is what the rest of community think,” he explained.

“Our job, our challenge is to go and test those assumptions, and to go out and engage that middle 90pc and bring their voice into the conversation.”

Early Findings

Mr Moffat stressed the project has only just begun and the data he presented at last week’s LIVEXchange conference in Townsville represented early figures from a pilot sample, and could change as larger data sets are collected. However, he also added he would not expect the numbers to change enormously.

So far it has found that public acceptance of the industry is sitting at a score of around 2.9 out of 5 – not brilliant, but also not terrible. It means the industry has more trust and acceptance from the public than the nature of mainstream media and social media commentary about live exports would suggest, but also has plenty of room for improvement.

Perhaps the most important message is that the key to building public trust is the industry’s ability to demonstrate it is actually responding to public concerns.

“In any issue or agenda members of the public want to see evidence the industry is listening – that is what counts,” Mr Moffat said.

“Do I feel heard and respected by the industry? Do I feel like it is listening to me? Critically do I feel like it is changing its behaviour based on the concerns I have about the way that it operates? Seeing that response is really important,” he stressed.

He also pointed out that there is no link or connection between the economic importance and value of an industry and its level of acceptance by the public.

“Why that is important is because if you’re looking to build a value proposition for your industry within community, talking about how much economic value it generates for the country is going to have limited effect in improving acceptance within community.

“The things that do improve acceptance are industry responsiveness to community concerns, and auditing of the industry processes.

“Those two things seems to be really important in that equation.”

Snapshots from the research compiled so far includes:

* Public trust in animal rights or animal activist groups is strong with scores of 3.6-3.7 out of 5.

* Right up there with them at the same level is livestock producers. “People really love farmers, they really think the agricultural sector has a critical fundamental role to play in the Australian economy, in Australian life,” Mr Moffat said. “It is really important to see this and understand and know that Australians really value you, because in this context when you’re getting attacked on social media for the work that you do, it can be really easy to feel like that is everybody, and it is not.”

* The live export industry overall scored 2.9 out of 5 –the same level as large meat retailers in Australia, and higher than Government (2.8/5). “You can see there is a drop when we ask about the live export industry, but most people agree it is an important part of the agricultural sector in Australia,” Mr Moffat said.

* A majority of people agree that live export is important to regional communities in Australia, important to farmers and the farming community, and helps to improve diet and nutrition of people in destination markets.

* In contrast though, 32pc of people agree live export should stop regardless of the impact it would have on farming communities and farmers. However 39pc disagree with this proposition. “There is a contest of ideas around this industry, and it is not over one way or the other, so that is what we’re looking to understand and to help this industry to understand how it can engage effectively with community.”

* 57pc of people agreed with the statement that conditions for animals on live export ships are not aligned with Australian animal welfare standards.

* 36pc of people pilot agreed that Australia’s livestock export industry listens to and respects community opinions, and 40pc agreed with the statement it is prepared to change its practices in response to community concerns.

“Industry responsiveness to community concerns is always a really strong driver of trust and then acceptance of any industry in Australia,” he said.



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  1. John Brockman, 11/11/2019

    I believe the industry is doing well in making changes to the live export industry for animal welfare.

  2. CRAIG F MARSTERSON, 07/11/2019

    In light of the damage caused by the “Awassi Express”, now ; Anna Marrra :, I noticed on Marine, that she spent 6 weeks in Singaporean Shipyards, what mods were done, was she inspected by Australian Officials before resuming in the trade. This needs to be transparent, people are so wary of Cover-ups and turn Negative We need to portray our industry wisel, we as graziers have nurtured these animals since birth, watched them grow and hopefully when out of our hands are treated well.!

  3. Michele Rodger, 06/11/2019

    I have zero faith in the live export industry. I have zero faith in a Coalition government to regulate it. I think it is grossly overestimated the contribution it makes to the economy. Most other industries have had to restructure & change even accept that their industry is in decline & change career paths, so why are farmers exempt from this action that most others face. We are a very dry country yet we continue to put these animals through so much for profit. Farming is a choice. Live export is a choice. Is this cruelty what we stand for in Australia? Do not accept the line when they say the animals will be found elsewhere if we don’t export them… good then we will start work educating the next lot about this horror trade.

    • Jacqui Doyle, 06/11/2019

      Hi Michele. Why do you think the contribution to the economy is over-stated? What is your estimation of it’s contribution? How do you propose all of the land that is currently used for animal production is put to use given ‘we are a very dry country’?

    • Bert Mann, 06/11/2019

      A truly ignorant and foolish comment.
      Living in your concrete jungle you wouldn’t understand or realise the huge contribution and just how valuable the live export trade is to Northern Australia.
      Pipe down you clown.

  4. David Heath, 05/11/2019

    I have complete faith in the live export trade. It trades against all odds from Government here in Australia and from receival governments at the import end. The understanding of the word protocols is an issue i have with keyboard warriors with zero knowledge of them.
    Cash for expectations for activists are easy and common place in this industry.

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