ONE of Australia’s biggest cattle producers has taken aim at the industry’s peak bodies saying they have been missing in action over recent live export events.
Heytesbury Cattle Company’s marketing manager Hugh Barnet was critical of the response of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council and Livecorp to recent challenges to the industry.
He raised his concerns at a live export forum on animal welfare held as part of Beef 2018.
Mr Barnet said there had been no counter-balancing of what he termed the “current debacle within the sheep live export industry”. This was in reference to the recent 60 minutes report which showed poor conditions on a live export ship bound for the Middle East.
“In the current debacle with the sheep industry, where was the chairman of ALEC?” Mr Barnet said.
“Where was the response of the industry to the general public?
“You (Livecorp) talk about research and development but you need a PR department.
“We are not trying to convince people in this room (producers).”
Mr Barnet said there were lots of positive stories which were not receiving any coverage or promotion.
“There are stories about the Indigenous Exchange program and the Northern Territory Cattlemen Association Indonesian program but the stories are not getting out there and someone needs to do more.”
Speaking to Beef Central after the forum, Mr Barnet said the industry bodies like ALEC and Livecorp could be doing more to show the benefits of Australia’s push to improve animal welfare in other countries.
“The thing is that every animal that goes over from Australia raises the standards of animal welfare in those countries,” Mr Barnet said.
“If we (Australia) pull out, then a competitor like Brazil will come in with a million cattle and they will go back to killing cattle with a hammer.”
And while the most recent export welfare episode was with sheep, Mr Barnet said this had direct relevance for the cattle industry.
“People don’t differentiate – it is all live cattle to them,” he said.
“ALEC’s lack of response to the current live export issue is disappointing.
“We also need positive stories out there.”
Private veterinarian Dr Gehan Jayawardhana from Darwin was heavily involved in the discussions when the live export trade was halted in 2011, and he too was critical of the lack of promotion of the good stories in live export.
“They have 20,000 stockmen involved in the live export industry but they don’t have one person to do the PR,” he said.
Dr Jayawardhana said he considered Australia did a “bad job” of telling the good news of the improvements in animal welfare in destination countries.
“I really think we are doing a bad job of the good we are doing in Asia,” he said.
“Wherever we (Australia) go to a market, we improve the welfare around the world but we do a terrible job of telling people.”
Livecorp chief executive Sam Brown said he understood the frustrations.
“There needs to be stronger voice and people coming and talking– I agree with you and am not going to shy away from that.”
Mr Brown said the programs run by Livecorp and MLA put efforts into market improvements.
“It is really important to get it right first in order to have a story that is defendable,” he said.
He said while Livecorp was not the spokesman for the industry, the 60 Minutes footage “rattled us”.
“We are working hard to drive the right kind of change and stories like this affect us deeply.”
Mr Brown said it was no longer good enough to give figures of mortalities, which did not hold weight with critics as an animal welfare measure.
HAVE YOUR SAY