AUSTRALIA'S live export industry has invited the public to jump on board a livestock ship - right from the comfort of their own home.
LiveCorp and not-for-profit The Livestock Collective launched the online virtual tour last week, providing the wider community with the opportunity to look around sheep and cattle pens via 360-degree videos.
Starting at the port, users navigate through the ship and decide where to go next at the touch of a fingertip with a virtual map.
The experience covers nine parts of the live export ship and voyage including the port, trucking and transport, sheep deck, cattle deck, hospital pen, captain's deck mess room, top deck and destination country port.
Throughout the journey there are also links to videos and resources shared to provide information on the preparation and behind the scenes management of livestock, as well as the people and practices involved.
For example, the hospital pen shares videos about sheep and cattle veterinarians and follows their daily routine.
The Livestock Collective said the industry was often asked about the availability of food and water on board, length of voyage and the care of animals.
But the most common question was - what really happens on a livestock ship?
They hoped the virtual reality tour could bridge the gap.
The Livestock Collective director John Cunnington said industry misconceptions were frequently linked to these questions, as there was a void of information about live export ships and the trade itself within the urban population.
"What may seem like common knowledge to people within agriculture isn't always the case," Mr Cunnington said.
"We encourage people to send us questions because ultimately that's why we exist - to share knowledge about the livestock supply chain and help people understand how it fits into Australia and the countries we trade with."
Ultimately - for The Livestock Collective - the tour has created another platform of engagement between the global online community and the live export industry.
It could also help to debunk any pre-existing misconceptions people may have about live export, after some negative media coverage in the past.
Mr Cunnington said the virtual reality experience provided an opportunity to those interested about life on board.
"This continues on from our original transparency program of ship tours," he said.
"It also helps people gain a greater understanding of the live export supply chain."
The Livestock Collective managing director Holly Ludeman said the experience would allow people from all over the world to see first-hand the conditions on livestock ships.
"One of the most rewarding projects when The Livestock Collective started, was to organise tours on livestock ships for farmers, politicians and media," Ms Ludeman said.
"It provided an opportunity to get a feel for how the sheep and cattle are housed, fed and watered, and ask any questions of people who work on the ships and within the supply chain.
"With COVID preventing the continuation of tours, this is the closest thing to being on a ship.
"We look forward to continually updating the website and adding new footage."
LiveCorp chief executive officer Wayne Collier said industry surveys showed many Australians had questions about conditions for livestock on ships.
He said research into community sentiment about livestock export told industry people recognised the contribution of the trade to the economy, as well as its importance to people's diets in other countries.
However, concerns about animal welfare, including what happens during sea voyages, were also raised.
"This website sheds more light on the management of the livestock, and will hopefully provide some answers," Mr Collier said.
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