Clever change of tack

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Beef Australia 2018 - — Ed Gan­non, pub­lisher of The Weekly Times

IT HAS been al­most im­pos­si­ble to miss the hor­rific im­ages of cru­elty in the live sheep trade.

The footage of bar­baric filth and dead or suf­fer­ing sheep shown on 60 Min­utes could be met only with re­vul­sion. But what many may have missed is what ap­pears to be a sub­tle change of tac­tics from An­i­mals Aus­tralia in its cam­paign to rid Aus­tralia of the live an­i­mal ex­port in­dus­try.

First, the footage didn’t come from a covert op­er­a­tion car­ried out by one of their own who gained ac­cess in a way that might or might not be il­le­gal. It came from an in­sider, a whistle­blower, who couldn’t bear to see such cru­elty to the an­i­mals. This gave the footage le­git­i­macy.

Sec­ondly, though I don’t know whether An­i­mals Aus­tralia first of­fered the footage to its nat­u­ral bed­fel­low, the ABC, par­tic­u­larly Four Cor­ners, its use of 60 Min­utes was a clever change of tack.

I sus­pect 60 Min­utes was cho­sen by An­i­mals Aus­tralia be­cause it wanted to get to a new au­di­ence.

The ABC au­di­ence is most likely al­ready in fu­ri­ous agree­ment that live ex­ports should be ban­ished.

The 60 Min­utes au­di­ence of sub­ur­ban mums and dads is the one that now needs turn­ing. There was also the pointed ref­er­ence in the re­port that farm­ers ought to be an­gry about the treat­ment of the an­i­mals. While no farm­ers fea­tured in the re­port, few would dis­agree. It ap­peared a sub­tle but clear push to get farm­ers to call for an end to live an­i­mal ex­ports.

This is a change in di­rec­tion. And a clever one.

Then came the call from the RSPCA for the govern­ment to ba­si­cally sub­sidise farm­ers in re­turn for end­ing live ex­ports. It means farm­ers wouldn’t lose out, which coun­ters the ar­gu­ment from farm groups in de­fend­ing the trade. And fi­nally, a study re­leased amid the fall­out found that shut­ting the live an­i­mal ex­port trade would have a “neg­li­gi­ble” im­pact on farm­ers’ in­comes. The study found the live-ex­port trade de­liv­ers less than $2000 to a West Aus­tralian farmer, or 0.5 per cent of to­tal in­come.

That com­pletes the cir­cle. Ex­pose the cru­elty, get the masses and the farm­ers on side, let the RSPCA raise the pos­si­bil­ity of bail­ing out farm­ers, then show the trade doesn’t ac­tu­ally do much for farm­ers’ bot­tom line any­way. You have to hand it to An­i­mals Aus­tralia. It is a fine-tuned ma­chine.

But what hasn’t been ad­dressed is that this is a de­mand-driven busi­ness. Mid­dle East cus­tomers de­mand live sheep so they can be slaugh­tered ac­cord­ing to re­li­gious prac­tices. They can’t pro­duce the sheep lo­cally, so rely on im­ports. The same is true of live cat­tle ex­ports to Asia. It is re­li­gion, and a lack of re­frig­er­a­tion in many ar­eas, that drives the de­mand for live cat­tle.

The prob­lem is if Aus­tralia pulls out, these cus­tomers will seek live an­i­mals from elsewhere. And while it won’t be our prob­lem any more, it will be a prob­lem for sheep from an­other coun­try. Aus­tralia’s live-ex­port in­dus­try has been say­ing for years it has the high­est stan­dards in the world.

If so, go­ing on what we saw the other day, stan­dards elsewhere must be pretty bloody aw­ful.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Grand­daugh­ter proves handy for keep­ing the cack­lers well fed COUN­TRY KID: Edith, 3, feeds the chooks at her Ma and Grandy’s farm at Clifton. Taken a nice snap lately? Send your pic­tures to an­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au.

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