HERE we go again! Just when the Indonesian export cattle debacle starts to settle down, Animals Australia starts on the pursuit of the live sheep export trade.
I suppose it is inevitable – the people involved in the various animal rights movements are hell-bent on stopping the export of any animals from Australia – and the ramifications of these actions are of no concern to them at all.
The export sheep trade has a bedevilled history. In the 1970s, it was the union movement that tried unsuccessfully to curtail the trade.
A lot of us can remember the union blockade of the docks at Port Adelaide and the covert action by farmers to move tens of thousands of wethers from Metro Meat's feedlot at Virginia to Wallaroo, where the ship had been secretly docked. It was an astonishing sight with farm trucks of all sizes and vintages tootling up Port Wakefield road under the cover of darkness loaded with sheep that were immediately loaded onto the ship. I would have loved to been a fly on wall when the union hierarchy found out that they had hoodwinked by a bunch of what they thought were country yokels.
I doubt whether the general public has any idea of the economic importance of the live sheep trade to rural Australia. It is estimated that the trade is worth $1 billion a year and underpins 10,000 jobs.
Numbers have fallen from a peak of 6.8 million head in 2001 back to 2.45m last year, but despite the falling numbers the pressure from animal activists has intensified. Australian exporters have to comply with strict processes and they are overseen by the Export Supply Chain Assurance System. The trouble is that other countries comply only with World Organisation of Animal Health regulations that are only a pale image of the regulations Australian exporters must abide by.
There was an article in last Friday's The Advertiser by the Member for Makin Tony Zappia, making some valid points but displaying a degree of naivety with some statements. He highlights that there are claims that the live export trade is solely motivated by profit. But it is perhaps time that politicians got a reminder that farming and grazing are businesses, and like all businesses require a profit to exist. The ongoing suggestion that export sheep could be slaughtered in Australia is true to an extent.
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