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‘Left wing woke’ climate-conscious consumers are an opportunity

Terry Sim, November 24, 2023

Sheep seedstock producer Tom Bull at the MLA Update in Bendigo.

LIVESTOCK producers were told they needed to treat the “left wing woke” section of the community as customers at the Meat & Livestock Australia Update at Bendigo yesterday.

During a session on ‘Solutions that embrace sustainability and set you up for success’, Red Angus Cliff Downey asked what could be done about “the woke left wing conspiracy called climate change.”

“That’s where we are I think – how can that change, how can we do something about it?”

Sheep seedstock producer Tom Bull said those people described as “left wing woke” were the industry’s customers.

“Marketing is about doing what a consumer needs.

“If the consumer wants to buy carbon neutral sustainably grown meat, see that as an opportunity,” he said.

“I think we’ve got to be more tactful the way we take, particularly lamb, to the market.

“So I see opportunities with the so-called left wing…. There’s a huge opportunity, can we extract value, that’s going to be the ongoing opportunity,” Mr Bull said.

“Certainly when I look at our customer, particularly in the (United) States they are such a diverse category and I think brands are the answer – different brands reflecting different values and getting into markets.”

Continuing on a similar theme, Gippsland producer John Buxton said sustainability was all about money for him, “nothing else; if I can’t pay the bills I’m not sustainable.”

“What can I do to drive up atmospheric CO2?

“Because that will drive up crop yield and productivity for me,” he said.

He said the net zero agenda driven by the “deep green left” that had nothing to do with protecting the environment and will fail drastically because he believed it was impossible for CO2 to generate heat. Mr Buxton also wanted to know if MLA could get him a DNA sire test that only cost $1 to unlock value in his flock.

After the panel session, Mr Buxton said “giving in to the demands of the ‘deep green left’ in the hope that by satisfying their demands you will get them to leave you alone is seriously misguided.”

“Once you comply with their demand they will be back with more demands.

“If you know anything about the Victorian native timber industry, which is infinitely renewable, you will understand what is meant by the quote: “One logging coupe at a time we will shut your industry down”, he said.

MLA managing director Jason Strong at the MLA Update in Bendigo.

Can’t separate sustainability from profitability – Strong

MLA managing director Jason Strong said Mr Buxton had demonstrated there was a broad range of views and was highlighting the challenge with sustainability “where we don’t know everything and there is a lot of definitive statements that get made that don’t necessarily have all the information.”

“The broader challenge we have is the potential for policy and requirements that will potentially drive a credit risk for our industry.

He said the benefits are that the red meat industry has been looking at the issue for some time and that the things being worked on are also connected to productivity.

“Tom made a really good point that you can’t separate sustainability and profitability.”

Mr Strong said everybody would love technology to be cheaper, and DNA technology is exponentially cheaper than it once was.

“I’m not sure it is going to get to a buck, but the solutions that are being provided in that space are certainly getting better and better.”

Mr Bull said “as a producer, it doesn’t matter what we think, it matters what our customers think.”

“And our customers think it is a thing.”

“So we can sit here with our own personal views, or we can sit here and look at our customer and I think in the cold hard light of day …”

Mr Bull said his urban friends in Sydney boast about meat-free Mondays.

“There’s no doubt our customers think it is a big issue.”

He couldn’t see the red meat industry being prosperous in 20 years if it failed to deliver change “irrespective as farmers what we think.”


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  1. Peter Small, November 25, 2023

    It was heartening to read the account of Tom Bull’s address to the MLA update at Bendigo. We need to see more of this rational, proactive thinking throughout our industry. Farmers, farm organisations and statutory bodies like MLA and AWI, take note.
    The consumers’ perception is their reality. Be it climate change, live sheep/live cattle exports, mulesing whatever. Either industry provide the funds and the expertise to change consumer sentiment, which could take billions and then fail, or the industry accepts the reality of the consumer believes and provide to the consumer with what they demand.
    Wool growers for example need to realise mulesing is finished, as is the live sheep trade and then cattle. The longer we persist the more the damage to the industry’s reputation and the loss of market share.
    With mulesing- had we set out 20 years ago, and did what AWI said the industry would do and ban mulesing we could by now have a mules-free Merino flock.
    It is quite incredulous that Wally Merriman’s grandfather, Sir Walter Merriman said in 1972, “One of the early lessons I learned….was that you could grow a big plain-bodied, fine wool sheep that would produce a three to four-inch staple. Most of the fine wool studs at the time grew a staple of two to two and half inches. From tests that were carried out ….. about that time, it was proved conclusively that the long-stapled, plain-bodied good quality wool sheep was by far the best paying proposition, especially as the wool buyers showed a decided preference for this type of wool”. The Australian Merino, Massy, Page 784.
    Had Sir Walter Merriman’s insights been incorporated with the knowledge of Jim Watts and other researchers going back to Harold B Carter in the 1940’s, Sir Walters’s grandson could, today be proclaiming, ‘Australia had a mules-free Merino flock’.

  2. Glenn Nix, November 25, 2023

    Trying to pander to people who hate you regardless is a waste of time . Debunk their rubbish. You will not win over the “meat is murder mob ” or the ” farmers spray Roundup on everything mob.” Food miles has been discredited, you don’t hear that anymore. Somehow ‘natural gas’ (methane from carbon) is good, but methane from natural animals is bad. We need the spin doctors from the gas industry on our side. Explain the gas and carbon cycle. Get Dr Brad Ridoutt from the CSIRO selling lamb , educate the stupids. The earth got cleaner during COVID, could see the TAJ Mahal, Venice’s canal bottoms and the Himalayas from China. We have the same number of livestock, how OMG can that be. Listening to your yoga teacher for climate advice and dietary choices andf economic choices may not be the best sources, just saying.

    • Peter Small, November 27, 2023

      Glenn, it may well make you feel better after writing your comment, but it will do little to address the problems.

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