WA farmers would be facing an “uphill” battle against changes to the Animal Welfare Act, according to WAFarmers Livestock Section president David Slade.
Mr Slade made the comment at the WAFarmers Annual Conference: Vitality 2018, which was held at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Perth late last week.
Mr Slade was re-elected unopposed during the Livestock Section annual general meeting with senior vice-president John Wallace also re-elected.
There were no nominations received for the position of vice-president, with an appointment expected in the near future.
Mr Slade said there had been “a lot happening in the livestock council” during 2017 and there were challenges ahead for this year.
“Animal welfare is something we are concerned about,” Mr Slade said.
He said producers were on an “uphill registry” at the moment against some of the proposed changes to the industry.
In his president’s report, Mr Slade said farmers were the greatest advocates of best practice animal welfare, with this belief supported by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF).
“The implementation of any additional regulation would be an unnecessary duplication, creating more red tape for farmers,” Mr Slade said.
“WAFarmers supports nationwide benchmarks to demonstrate best practice and continuous improvement and, in doing so, suggests to government that additional regulation is unnecessary.
“WAFarmers will continue to engage on the proposed amendments to the Animal Welfare Act and the proposed full review of the Act that will continue into 2018.”
Mr Slade said some of “the issues in front of us are stock theft – which is a big issue”.
He said to addres this issue movement collars could be used, that would send a message to a mobile phone when stock were moved.
“Neighbourhood Watch could be ramped up more and the stock squad needs more resources,” Mr Slade said.
These resources could include camera technology and the development of GPS trackers.
Mr Slade highlighted the issue of wild dogs and the State Barrier Fence.
He also touched on checks held at the border for Bovine Johnes Disease (BJD), which stopped infected cattle getting into WA.
“We did subsequent testing and so far have proved that WA is free of BJD,” Mr Slade said.
People who attended the Livestock Section conference heard presentations from Meat and Livestock Australia managing director Richard Norton, Australian Wool Innovation chief executive officer Stuart McCullough, Sheep Producers Australia president Allan Piggott, Teys Australia industry and corporate affairs manager John Langbridge and NFF general manager of trade and economics Scott Kompo-Harms.
Mr Norton focused on global trends and market access due to WA’s red meat and live export industries having customers all around the world.
He said MLA was focused on assisting to establish a free trade agreement with the European Union and a separate one with the United Kingdom in order to benefit from the demand for quality red meat in these high end markets.
Mr Norton also said there was a growing trend in western societies to move away from red meat consumption towards a more vegan diet, mainly due to misinformation about red meat.
Though that was being outweighed by the growing demand by Asian consumers who could afford the product and wanted a quality product.
He said consumer trends and “markets change and change rapidly” and MLA was working to be on top of the issues so it could promote red meat into all these markets despite the opposing arguments.
Mr Norton said the MLA had commissioned Queensland University research into what Australia’s environment would look like, including its carbon footprint and water usage, if the whole of Australia went vegan.
“It is quite positive for the livestock industry – particularly as we move into a more science-based argument,” Mr Norton said.
He also said “animal welfare is the issue that is forefront of mind” with producers.
“This is the discussion I have a lot,” he said.
“Yes transparency on farm is invasive and is controversial and it is an affront to what you think you should be allowed to do on farm.
“But if you want to continue diversity within our markets we are going to have to address animal welfare head on.