PRODUCERS attending LambEx 2018 at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre last week were urged to contact Eastern States acquaintances to advocate for ongoing live sheep exports.
In an unscheduled address to a predominantly Western Australian audience, Allan Piggott, president of peak body Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) called on everyone attending LambEx recently to play their part to win over “the silent majority” and politicians in the Eastern States.
He said WA sheep producers should convince everyone that the live sheep export industry had changed and it was a different industry to what it was last year when pictures of Australian sheep dying of heat stress on board a ship in the Middle East were taken.
The export licences of two live sheep exporters were later suspended after the distressing footage of dead and dying sheep appeared on national television – seven months after the event.
Mr Piggott said sheep producers first needed to convince people in the Eastern States that the industry had changed then ask them to pass that message on to their local politicians.
He said it was important to not concentrate on the economics or social impact of stopping live exports but to talk about the animal welfare improvements that have been made.
“They (Eastern States politicians) will always listen to one of their own constituents before they’ll read an email from Western Australia – so that is important.”
Mr Piggott said the biggest challenge facing the live sheep export industry was “regaining the trust and confidence of the population, particularly in the Eastern States”.
“We know that the silent majority will support live export if we can demonstrate that we have made significant changes, that we have listened to their concerns and we will address their concerns about animal welfare,” he said.
“So that’s where everybody comes into play, all you people here (at LambEx 2018) have a role to play.
“We can easily argue for the continuation of trade on social grounds, on economic grounds, but they (silent majority) want to know the industry has changed.
“So we talk about the McCarthy report (the report prepared in May on the live export industry by livestock veterinarian Dr Michael McCarthy at the request of Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud).
“The 23 recommendations from that report are guaranteed to improve welfare on boats, that’s irrefutable,” Mr Piggott said.
“But I think, more importantly, we talk about the cultural change that’s occurred within the industry.
“The industry has been talking to producers in developing a shared vision for the welfare of stock – and that’s the message we need to get to the Eastern States.
“As you are aware, like it or not, the future of this trade is in the hands of the politicians.
“They’re getting a lot of emails from people saying the trade should stop.”
Mr Piggott told the audience SPA has been working very hard and supporting Mr Littleproud’s “approach to this trade”.
“We’ve been working with a lot of organisations to come to some sustainable solutions that are going to protect the export trade,” he said.
“SPA will always have animal welfare as our highest priority, it’s not just on farm, but it is also after those animals leave our farmgate.”