AUSTRALIAN farmers are being asked to join a national MP email campaign to support live sheep exports, but weeks after hundreds of thousands of people have responded to online petitions aimed at banning the trade.
An email campaign initiated by the National Farmers Federation for its state farming organisations started last week, coinciding with the introduction of Liberal MP Sussan Ley’s Private Members’ Bill to end Middle East northern summer shipments and phase-out the long-haul trade over five years.
It also comes as Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud meets with Middle East leaders to discuss recent reforms and the future of the trade.
State farming organisations supporting the email “fix it, don’t ban it” campaign include AgForce in Queensland, NSW Farmers, Livestock SA, WAFarmers, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA and the Victorian Farmers Federation.
VFF letter urges MPs to support farmers
The VFF this week sent a sample letter for its members to send to parliamentarians declaring that phasing out the sheep trade could create a precedent for other live export markets.
“If one supply chain falls to the activists, the rest will follow.”
The VFF said the Ley Bill, if passed, would have a negative impact on farmers, animal welfare and regional communities.
“It is vital that politicians understand farmers concerns and work with us to improve the trade. Fix it- don’t ban it,” the VFF said.
Farmers are being asked to either email their local MP or use an auto-generated email that will be sent to several key politicians including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition leader Bill Shorten, Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud, his Labor counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon, Sussan Ley and her Bill’s seconder Corangamite Liberal MP Sarah Henderson.
The VFF sample letter says walking away from the live sheep trade equated to “walking away from our regional communities” and Australia vacating its leadership role in animal welfare internationally. The letter highlights the value of the trade to Western Australian producers and suggested the “ripple effect” would be felt nationally. It also backs the McCarthy Review as “the first step on a path forward”, but states it is incumbent on exporters and regulators to fix “what has occurred” and work with industry to assess and ensure the trade’s standards meet community expectations.
“It is also incumbent on you as an elected representative to make decisions that are pragmatic and informed by fact – not emotion. Doing otherwise, let’s all of us down,” the letter said.
The VFF Livestock Council met last week and resolved to support the live export trade of sheep under certain conditions. These conditions included improved animal welfare outcomes to protect the livestock and farmers supplying the trade, accountability of supply chain participants to uphold trade integrity and the level of damage to the reputation of the Australian sheep industry from the recent incidents “not happen again”.
VFF Livestock president Leonard Vallance said Australia’s politicians have a job to ensure the regulator was well-resourced to ensure the trade was accountable.
“They’ve been put on notice, they’ve got a job to do.”
Global and domestic campaign against live exports is growing
Globally, community anger over the recent live sheep export footage has led to hundreds of thousands of people signing online petitions to ban the trade.
Animals Australia said its petition has more than 587,000 signatures and the Derryn Hinch Justice Party petition has received more than 119,000 signatories. Global activism website Avaaz started a new petition a few weeks ago that now has 898,379 signatures. An Animals Australia spokeswoman said it is seven weeks since the 60 Minutes footage was aired.
“The daily calls and emails coming through to our office are still overwhelming.
“There is no sign that this will slow down anytime soon,” she said.
“The government’s very weak response to the McCarthy review has only fuelled further outrage and distress in the community.
“This palpable concern will only increase with every ship that is allowed to head into the Middle Eastern summer, now that everyone knows how sheep will be suffering on board,” she said.
“This is not just Animals Australia and the RSPCA saying that shipments shouldn’t be going in the summer months – its Australia’s peak veterinary body.”
She said that given that 95pc of sheep turned off from Australian farms go to abattoirs and most sheep farmers don’t supply the live export trade, “we are surprised that rural leaders haven’t determined that the risks, welfare implications and reputational cost of live export is too great.”
RSPCA Australia said since the 60 Minutes program aired, more than 200,000 emails have been sent via the RSPCA website by “caring and concerned” Australians to their elected representatives and the Agriculture Minister, demanding an end to long-haul live sheep exports.
With independent polling showing around 3 in 4 Australians surveyed wanted an end to live export, it is unsurprising the campaign is continuing to see such a strong response from outraged Australians, RSPCA Australia said.