A KEY initiative in raising animal welfare awareness in the Middle East was the introduction of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) awards.
The purpose of this initiative was to acknowledge and reward improved management practices and facilities that optimise the health and wellbeing of Australian livestock in the Middle East and African regions.
The awards, which have been running for two years, are open to all operators in the MENA region that either transport, feedlot or process Australian livestock.
Peter Dundon said the introduction of these awards has contributed to a significant increase in the awareness and understanding of the people that are importing Australian sheep.
Of more importance is the opportunity it provides for these people to network with one another and discuss practices that work in their own situations.
“There is no importers association as such in this region, so the people who are involved in importing didn’t actually get together as a group,” Peter said.
“Through these awards we are able to get our target audience together in one room and work through the issues and the priorities that we are keen to address through the Live Export Program.
“We also invite Australian exporters to attend the awards and I think this has led to a more united industry. The importers are certainly aware of the issues.
“They are also very proud people, so being recognised for their improvement processes through winning an award means a lot to them.”
Assessment is done by an independent assessor, last year it was well-known Australian vet, Dr Kev Sullivan of Bells Veterinary Service, with categories for feeding and nutrition management, health and welfare management, biosecurity and infrastructure and facilities.
Infrastructure and facilities includes feedlot facilities, transport and handling facilities and staff training and development.
Peter said the opportunity for importers to meet and talk has led to a number of changes taking place to facilities across the region.
“Because we go through and demonstrate why someone has won an award, the other importers can see their facilities and the improvements they have made,” he said.
“They have then gone back to their own facilities and implemented those improvements as well. It also makes them stop and think about how they can make more improvement to their own operations, which can only be beneficial to the whole industry.
“Given the price they are now paying for sheep, anything that reduces cost is looked at and increasing efficiency is a key way to cut costs.”