LIVE export industry members fear they’re facing another potential sabotage from the ABC’s Four Corners with an expose into the recent Pakistani sheep crisis now under production, which is expected to underpin a broader attack on the embattled industry.
ABC research staff contacted Fairfax Agricultural Media this week, seeking contact details for WA sheep producers who may have supplied sheep to the consignment.
It’s understood the program is again being spearheaded by ABC reporter Sarah Ferguson, and is due to air on Monday November 5.
Ms Ferguson is understood to be heading to WA next week with a production crew to gather comment from sheep producers at saleyards in Katanning and/or Muchea.
In addition, it’s believed the ABC may also be sending production staff to the Middle East or using additional resources based in the region, to develop the broader story about the trade, with the Eid religious festival due to start.
Warnings of the latest Four Corners attack on industry have already surfaced in cyberspace, with horse enthusiast and agricultural advocate Bridgette Bouma sending a message on Wednesday.
”Rumor has it that four corners will be doing a show on live export & Pakistan 5/11 #saveliveexport #liveexport”, the tweet said.
Several industry sources confirmed they’ve been contacted by the ABC’s research staff or Ms Ferguson over the past week, seeking information, comment and/or details of sheep producers, which have mostly been rejected.
Most have so far declined the opportunity to participate in the latest Four Corners program, citing a lack of trust in the production and its processes.
Several industry members also declined to comment to Fairfax Agricultural Media fearing they may also face future repercussions for voicing their frank views.
However, they expressed fears the dynamics of last year’s production of “A Bloody Business” could be repeated.
The program won Ms Ferguson a Gold Walkley award, with the emotional, dramatic documentary causing the Federal Labor government to impose a snap ban on the live cattle trade to Indonesia, while unprecedented animal welfare reforms were implemented, through the ESCAS.
Sources fear the program may also reveal new vision of the cull – with some footage already available on the internet.
Wellard declined to comment as did the Sheepmeat Council of Australia (SCA).
Meat and Livestock Australia and LiveCorp, who both faced bitter criticism over the Indonesian crisis, say the role of official industry spokesperson is now in the hands of peak industry councils.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) chief executive Alison Penfold confirmed her office had been contacted by Four Corners in relation to the Pakistani sheep crisis but she had declined an interview opportunity.
Ms Penfold said it was disappointing the ABC was producing another story on a controversial but isolated section of the live export industry, while ignoring many positive aspects.
She said Four Corners hadn’t followed-up with a story updating cattle exports to Indonesia, where “significant and positive improvements” in animal welfare have unfolded since the June 6, 2011 ban, which was sparked by the government’s over-reaction to “A Bloody Business” a week before.
Ms Penfold said rapid improvements in animal welfare outcomes had also taken place in several abattoirs featured the program.
Another senior industry source, who also declined to be named, said they had also refused an interview with Ms Ferguson about the Pakistan crisis.
The source confirmed urgent meetings and teleconferences have been held this week, with a view to making a co-ordinated industry response, “with a single voice”.
They were also unsure if the ABC had any explosive footage that may appear in the program – but their co-ordinated response would assume there could be.
“Australia is the only country working on the betterment of animal welfare in global markets,” one source said.
Another source who asked not to be named said the industry members, in particular cattle producers, who appeared in “A Bloody Business” felt cheated by the ABC, after originally being told they were contributing to a positive story about the trade, but were “sold a furphy”.
“The wider industry feels they were very badly burnt and incorrectly portrayed last time around over cattle in Indonesia and that’s why they’re feeling very sceptical about doing anything with the Four Corners again,” the source said.
“They are worried about being taken out of context again and only being used as part of a campaign to close down the trade.
“There are hundreds of sheep consignments to the Middle East that are highly successful for animal welfare outcomes – but they only want to show this one because it’s negative.
“People are sick of being treated this way and feel Four Corners is just like Animals Australia and only want to see the live trade closed.
“They could do lots of positive stories about animal welfare around live exports but instead they pick and choose a few controversial or isolated incidents and make them out to be the norm.”
Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s office said they were aware that the program was currently under production.
The ABC said they didn’t have any comment to make, as was the case with all Four Corners’ programs in pre-production.
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