The recent Beef Central article, ‘Sustainability: Should we fear the Panda?’, I believe warrants a response; hence the motivation for this opinion piece that is written in the context of the debate of participation alongside WWF in the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. That’s not to say that I found no positives in the article, there are many, the difference on the main lies in the conclusions.
Each of the panellists at the Rural Press Club Qld sustainability forum brought forward truths that we should take note of especially the statement by Tony Gleeson, Chief executive of the Australian Land Management Group that, “the one thing that agriculture needed to be fearful of was us not filling the space. If we don’t fill the space here then others will.”
It is my contention that this space should not be filled by WWF nor do we need dialog with this organisation with no credentials in the field of beef sustainability. To validate my contention I could continue in the style of a 2012 Beef Central opinion article, ‘Can producers trust WWF to be accountable?’ There is after all a plethora of further negative material against WWF from which to quote. However after being in the trenches against the 2012 unsuccessful attempt to establish the Australian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and more recently the abandoning the promotion of the WWF/ GRSB ambiguous sustainability principles, I believe that now after the late May 2014 Squaretable forum all combatants should take a more conciliatory approach to allow a fair go the current agreed position of the development of a ‘whole-of-industry’ approach to define and report on sustainability, led by Jim Cudmore, a former Australian Lot Feeders Association president. To this end I would ask the reader to review a third Beef Central article, ‘Jim Cudmore to lead beef industry sustainability process’.
The question arose in my mind about my own lack of action that I wish in turn to extend to beef industry leaders, beef producers and interested people associated with the beef industry and its future; what inquiry have you made in the progress of Jim Cudmore’s task, have you examined how you could contribute, enhance or promote a whole-of-industry’ approach to define and report on sustainability? After all if we don’t fill the space, others will.
We need to be able to tell the story of the Australian beef industry, we have a good story to tell and we need to communicate it. This much I agree with Ian McCamley of Cattle Council of Australia in the report from the Rural Press Club Qld sustainability forum but not at some “table” with some third party as he proposed. Cotton Australia’s Adam Kay gave an account that illustrated to an important sector to which we need to communicate. Adam Kay told of being shocked to learn that Tesco considered the only sustainable cotton was organic cotton produced in Africa under BCI cotton initiative. There was nothing scientific about any of this and it just reflects the opinion of whoever they are listening to.
It is not hard find similar stories. These multinational food chains suddenly decide they need to grow a conscience. They know nothing about a subject so they outsource their conscience and hand the job over to an organisation that is doing the best job of selling itself as the moral adjudicator. They don’t necessarily know anything about the subject but they are good at marketing.
These food supply corporations are looking for a stable platform and WWF another multinational has been very good at positioning themselves as a single, convenient entity operating across international borders. WWF has also applied considerable pressure to the big food corporations in which comprehensive research has called, “naked extortion.”
The challenge is for us, the Australian beef industry to provide a stable platform from which we can communicate our credentials. By going along with the WWF schemes it just perpetuates the myth that they occupy some higher moral ground, which they do not and that their opinions are based on impartial science, which they also are not.
Should we fear the panda; only if we make them relevant.
* Dale Stiller is a Wandoan district cattle producer and the chair of Property Rights Australia
Many producers have a deep philosophical objection to extreme green groups based on robust grounds.
That industry leaders, retailers and sometimes Government give credence to these groups in such a way that makes our interaction with them unavoidable shows an arrogance and lack of respect for our viewpoint that would be unacceptable in other circles.
These green groups are good at marketing and protecting their own economic bottom line and not much else and the high moral ground they occupy is extraordinary.
Let us cut them out before we cannot cut them out.