“Pain killers won’t cut it” in European markets, press club told

Eric Barker, February 3, 2023

Su McCluskey delivering the key note speech to the Queensland Rural Press Club.

AUSTRALIA’S special representative for agriculture has given the Queensland Rural Press Club a rare insight into the animal welfare mentality of some overseas markets, delivering a sobering message about one of the key issues.

Su McCluskey has been in the Federal Government’s representative role for more than a year, travelling to several countries – including Europe, Singapore, South America and New Zealand.

Running through some of the key themes of her travels, Ms McCluskey said she had spoken at length with European officials about animal welfare.

“The main message I received in Europe was that ‘the UK gave you a good deal, you won’t get such a good deal from us’,” she said.

“Europe thinks mulesing is a barbaric activity and the reality is that pain killers are not going to cut it.

“China doesn’t care too much about animal welfare, but wait until China starts to realise the premium they are getting in Europe will not be there unless they are scouring non-mulesed wool.”

Ms McCluskey said she had explained the animal welfare benefits of mulesing to officials in Europe – with the message hard to get through.

“You have people making decisions that need to have some of the basic things explained to them,” she said.

“I made a presentation to them about flystrike, climatic conditions and how removing a little bit of skin from the breech of the sheep is better outcome than having them die a slow and painful death.”

Ms McCluskey said demonstrating sustainability credentials was coming to the entire agricultural industry. She said it was a challenge with increased demand from the world’s growing population.

“We know we have an increasing world demand and challenge to achieve food security,” she said.

“It is not just meeting world demand, it is about meeting the demand and doing it sustainably.”

Agriculture becoming more implicated in climate politics

With Australia increasing its ambition on reducing emissions and the agriculture becoming increasingly involved, Ms McCluskey said agriculture was likely to be a topic of discussion in global meetings.

“Australian agriculture was really present at the COP27 meetings in Egypt last year and I we are going to see an even higher presence,” she said.

“But at the same time we need to reduce our inputs while still being profitable, which is going to be a real challenge.”

While Ms McCluskey highlighted sustainability as one of the highest priorities of government across the world, she said Australian agriculture needed to push back on some of the non-tariff barriers to trade – like the European Green Deal.

“What it does not recognise, is that there needs to be flexibility, because everybody farms in different environments and different production systems,” she said.

“We are seeing some agitation against this in Europe – particularly in The Netherlands and Ireland. I want to learn from those countries about how they think the green deal could work and take examples of what we are doing in Australia.

“If we have an outcomes approach, you can still get a measure of really good animal health practices, just how you do it might be different.”










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  1. Doug Wright, February 14, 2023

    Marketing 101; give the market what it wants.

  2. Don Mudford, February 6, 2023

    I’m surprised anyone is still mulesing sheep with the premiums now obtained for wool from non mulesed Merinos.

  3. Bill Bruce, February 5, 2023

    Ms McCluskey is certainly on thin ice with the animal welfare issue in regards to sheep products into the European Union and Great Britain. Wait until the lamb producers in Great Britain find out that Aussie lamb is coming out of 1st cross ewes that are mulesed. This is a well-hidden nugget that the trade minister keeps very quiet about.
    She uses the word sustainable and how many times do we hear it in agriculture, but can any person tell us what it means? Does it mean profitable sustainability without regards to the environment or is it sustainability in an environmental context? Just have a look at cropping; spraying lentils 10 times to grow a crop might be financially sustainable, but is it good for the environment and the consumer? I suspect it’s not.
    As primary producers, we don’t seem to have developed the next plan once this high chemical input farming has run its race.
    My final comment is in regards the Mr. Nix’s comment on barns. What do you want European farmers to do, leave their livestock out in the snow over Winter? I have seen these over-Winter barns and some of them should be in Vogue magazine; they are so well made.

    • Glenn Nix, February 8, 2023

      Bill, the point is, it’s easy to be appalled by what you don’t understand. Conditions are different in different countries and we do things differently due to climate , terrain and conditions. Do they care like this year that my shearers were three weeks late despite perfect weather, due to lack of shearers? And it will get worse. If I could shear at perfect times or shear twice yearly I might consider not mulesing. Do they care if you get years like 2016 over east when the local Western Australian ag suppliers were pulling jetting chemicals off our shelves and trucking them back east, because with heavy persistent rainfall jetting chemicals fail and break down?
      I know what data came back from the Mt Barker (WA) research station on un-mulesed sheep in fly waves and it is only an hour’s drive away. It was a massacre. Click is failing over east, works only for half the time it used to. The click junkies will hit a wall. I didn’t lose one mulesed sheep this Spring/Summer. We did jet with Zinjet. The un-mulesed sheep started getting struck before we got to shear. There is nothing very sustainable about sustainability because return to grower is never discussed, only can the land handle it. Economic return is the most important, because you can be very sustainable when you need tax deductions. Poor returns means cost cutting.

  4. Glenn Nix, February 3, 2023

    I am appalled at Europeans keeping animals in barns. My mulesed sheep are free to roam. Are Europeans pro-flystike? I am offended if they are.

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