THE live export sector’s research, development and services body LiveCorp has rejected criticism of its use of survey results by the RSPCA, as debate rages over community perceptions of the sheep trade in the leadup to its proposed phaseout after 2025.
After the release of a Voconiq survey report showing growing community confidence in the livestock export industry, including its animal welfare standards, RSPCA Australia chief executive officer Richard Mussell said in a media release it was disappointing, but not surprising, “to see more push polling from live export lobbyists.”
A RSPCA survey found 67 percent of Australians surveyed supported ending live animal exports – including 70pc of West Australians. The Collins English Dictionary defines push polling as “the use of loaded questions in a supposedly objective telephone opinion poll during a political campaign in order to bias voters against an opposing candidate.”
A Sheep Central story on Monday outlined the contrasting RSPCA and Voconiq survey results and a call from Sheep Producers Australia for the Federal Government do further community sentiment studies.
LiveCorp has told Sheep Central that it categorically refutes criticism of the validity of its research, by Voconiq, into community sentiment regarding the live export industry, and the label of ‘live export lobbyists’.
LiveCorp chair Troy Setter said the RSPCA comments were a slight on LiveCorp and Voconiq, the independent company that carried out the research.
“As a rural research and development corporation, LiveCorp is not allowed to operate in the agri-political space.
“We take that very seriously and object in the strongest terms to accusations made by RSPCA, which is clearly active in the activist and lobbying space itself,” Mr Setter said.
“Our role is to provide objective and factual information to industry and stakeholders, and LiveCorp commissioned this project in 2019.”
LiveCorp said Voconiq produces a comprehensive public report after each survey. The most recent report summarised the third national survey of about 4500 Australians, providing an analysis of trends over time.
“Participants are recruited from an online panel, agreeing to the survey before knowing the topic.
“They are then provided information about who is funding the work and how the data’s going to be used – a key tenant of ethical research practice,” Mr Setter said.
“LiveCorp stands by the independence of the approach used by Voconiq and the results it has delivered, and calls on RSPCA to redact the false statements.”
The report ‘Live exports and the Australian community 2019-2023’ is available on LiveCorp’s website (livecorp.com.au), along with reports on the two previous surveys. All outline the methodology involved and the demographics of the participants.
Key findings of the Voconiq survey
- When asked whether live exports should be stopped regardless of the impact on farmers, 29pc of participants agreed in 2023, while 42pc disagreed (increasing from 37pc in 2019).
- In 2023, 64pc of participants agreed the industry supports the diet and nutrition to people overseas (increasing substantially from 55pc in 2019).
- Agreement that “conditions for animals on live export ships are not in line with Australian animal welfare standards” decreased by 14.7pc, from 53.7pc in 2019 to 39pc in 2023.
- On the question “the live export industry is prepared to change its practices in response to community concerns”, 37pc agreed in 2023 compared to 24pc who disagreed.
- In the 2023 survey, six questions asked about livestock export generally were also adapted to examine attitudes toward the export of sheep, specifically. The results showed that there was no significant difference in the two sets of answers where appropriate, LiveCorp said.