AUSTRALIAN farmers and friends have taken their fight to save the beleaguered live sheep export trade online with the launch of a new website.
The Live Export Facts website page was launched without fanfare last Friday by the National Farmers’ Federation, Sheep Producers Australia and WAFarmers “with the aim of sharing the facts behind Australia’s livestock export industry”.
The website offers a subscription to interested stakeholders, but also has sections such as ‘Meet the farmers and their communities’, questions and answers, livestock export news and ‘get the facts’.
Farmers and regional community leaders shared their stories on the importance of sheep exports and their vision for the industry’s sustainable future on the website. These include Woodanilling farmer Bindi Murray, sheep breeder Dawson Bradford, Katanning shire president Liz Guidera, livestock carrier Andy Jacob and Wagin sheep and crop farmer Clayton South.
The website includes no images or footage of the dead and dying sheep on Middle East shipments, which has prompted several industry reviews, legislation to halt the trade, new loading density and reporting rules, the suspension of Western Australian exporter Emanuel Exports and Livestock Shipping Service’s review of its northern summer sheep business.
In his Youtube presentation on the website, Mr South said a ban of the live export trade would be a huge blow to his family’s business when margins are already being squeezed.
“Livestock farmers were as distressed as anybody at the images of sheep suffering aboard the Awassi Express.
“The welfare of our animals is of the highest priority – our businesses are built on animal welfare,” he said.
Mr South said he was proud his business and the people and contractors it employed contributed to the local economy. He said he did not sell sheep direct to WA exporters, but the live trade underpinned the WA sheep market “as we don’t have the population to support a large domestic market.”
The science is clear. The minister’s McCarthy review and the Australian Veterinary Association have reached the conclusion that heat stress is a major killer and cause of immense suffering. The AVA report said it could not recommend exporting sheep to the Middle East between May and October – “irrespective of stocking densities”. What sort of farmer would expose their sheep to this fate – and then unstunned slaughter if they survive after all that suffering? It is a disgrace that this trade has been going on for more than 30 years with disaster after disaster. Farmers are better off working with the WA govt to phase out the trade. The cruelty sets a bad example to the world and reflects badly on the majority of our farmers who do not export their animals live and are mindful of animal welfare.
Good to see that this website has been started, although if WA farmers are serious about getting the facts out to the public, social media and television campaigns would be the better answer. You need to get this information into the homes of people – not make them go looking for it on a website they would need to know about in the first place. The fact of the matter is that livestock mortality rates are less than 1 percent on board ships, but it is true that a small minority have got away with horrible treatment of the livestock they are charged with safely and comfortably getting to their final destination. They need to be punished for it and they are being, but it should not be at the expense of the majority who rely on the trade and do the right thing by the stock. The ramifications of banning the industry to thousands of people and the Australian economy far outweighs keeping the industry and rectifying the processes that need to be brought into line to ensure Australia’s animal welfare continues to be top notch and the best in the world.
That 6 percent of Australia’s sheep exported live keeps the prices of locally processed sheep higher — a win-win for farmers. Take that market away and watch prices fall. I blame the DPI vets who charge a motser to oversee the loading of live sheep. They chose to ignore the high mortality rates on previous consignments and even turned a blind eye to the loading of heavily pregnant animals that were never to be loaded — assuming they bothered to be present during the loadings. Graziers trust that their interests will be protected when all that money is paid over.
These live exporters and the farmers who support them have had over three decades to clean up their act. You have that exporter Emanuel Exports and its wealthy owner and CEO Graham Daws doing pretty much as they like for as long as I can remember; that goes back to the early seventies. Now that their whole rotten industry is under pressure, they are moaning and groaning about their future income and what it will do to them. Well I say they should have diversified years ago; so don’t start complaining now.