French economist Frederic Bastait (1850) famously said that ‘ if goods don’t cross borders then soldiers will’, advocating the tremendous benefits of free trade, suggesting demolition of all forms of protectionism and government subsidy.
He encouraged leaders to consider every aspect of any government trade decision, always with the ‘ whole picture’ in mind.
Our live export industry represents much more than just the ferrying of live animals to hungry markets. The ‘whole picture’ presents remarkable opportunities to build long term relationships with countries who would otherwise have very little to do with us, bringing greater understanding of cultural differences and the chance to build friendships and peace.
Behind the scenes of live export, for many years, Australian scientists and researchers, vets, business people, and government representatives have been quietly working in these markets, promoting better ways to farm and handle animals, increasing living standards and diets of people, all only possible by live export. Who would replace this tremendous community service if live export ceased?
There is no doubt that this trade is making a better world, not to say it is a perfect system, as improvement is needed in how we react to animal welfare problems within the trade. All those who wish to see better ways to improve welfare must work together. Non-government organisations (rights groups) have a right to expose isolated issues of cruelty; indeed, we should welcome their help to improve our trade’s ‘bigger picture’.
Australian agriculture products are in the international spotlight, simply because we are a leading and influential export nation, with unbeatable quality and service. Opening our doors, being transparent, welcoming our critics, endeavouring to work with them will only grow our reputation and ability to deal with industry issues. Overseas markets will love this approach. Bashing the messengers of poor animal practice is not a sensible approach.
Our live export trade supports many thousands of Australian businesses, while feeding millions of people every year. It’s worth defending, improving and preserving.
Charles (Chick) Olsson
Australian Wool Growers’ Association