Sigh. It’s happened again.
How does Australian agriculture so regularly – and spectacularly – evacuate the moral high ground and competitive advantage to its international competitors?
AWB in Iraq, AWI and mulesing……..now live animals exports. Again.
Yes, the vision from Indonesia is terrible. The farming kids (mostly now adults) in the office acknowledge that horror and the unacceptable lack of concern for animal welfare. Most of us who grew up on the land have waved goodbye to sheep and cattle destined for remote international dinner plates.
However, once again, a legitimate agricultural industry with worthy motive has been caught out, and in being caught has lost any opportunity for moderate debate, perhaps this time, irretrievably.
Here’s a simple perspective. The reason live export is preferred for markets like Indonesia, the Middle East and other parts of Asia are partly cultural and religious, but they’re also quite practical. Refrigeration. Or, rather, the cost of refrigeration, both commercial and domestic.
Fresh meat (not frozen) is required, so animals must be freshly slaughtered. As it does in so many global markets, Australian agriculture is a big player in feeding the world.
The problem is that live animal export communication – like so much of Australia’s agricultural trade – has been managed by industry bodies as an issue to mitigate, unsupported by a program to educate and inform. Too late came this Meat and Livestock Australia op-ed in The Australian.
The current situation is an opportunity for all stakeholders to better collaborate on a trade that is economically and socially beneficial for Australia and its trading partners.
In the interests of animal welfare and food safety, Australia should be involved in the trade.
It can and should – as a major producer – set the standard for global animal welfare by ensuring that more money and effort is directed effectively towards education and facilities in end-use countries. The animal rights lobby has a voice and a cause, but ending the trade from Australia doesn’t serve the cause.
The way forward is all parties – producers, regulators, the complete supply chain, governments, observers and the wider community - to accept and agree live animal exports serve a legitimate economic and social purpose, that Australia can lead this industry, and that animal welfare should be the centrepiece of action.
Update 04/07/11 – today’s Australian and Weekly Times
“INDONESIA has slapped its own ban on live cattle imports, citing the Australian government’s export embargo that has paralysed the northern cattle industry.”
This is hardly surprising given the knee jerk reaction to cease live export. They are naturally going to maintain security of supply from elsewhere, sadly from countries without animal rights charters. The Australian industry loses again, as do the animals themselves.
NB. This blog post was written in collaboration with Porter Novelli consultant, Sharon Watt.