Live export trade lacks ‘moral support’

Calls for agriculture to have greater voice in live export debate

Beef
Boulia Shire mayor and beef producer Rick Britton, who said Australia's agriculture sector lacked moral support from both sides of politics.

Boulia Shire mayor and beef producer Rick Britton, who said Australia's agriculture sector lacked moral support from both sides of politics.

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Producers say they have 'best interests' in animal welfare.

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Queensland producer Rick Britton says there is no “moral support” for the rural sector as the fallout continues from allegations that animal activists paid for distressing live export images.

Animals Australia is currently facing allegations that it paid for footage of sheep suffering in the heat during a live export trip to the Middle East. 

The video had been used to support calls to ban the live export trade, although the cash-for-footage allegations have since raised concerning questions about whether payment creates a market in animal cruelty.

Mr Britton, a beef producer and the mayor of Boulia Shire Council, said there was a lack of understanding among the general public for agricultural industries like the live export trade. 

He said the public should be able to engage directly with producers to learn the truth about controversial subjects such as live export.

"If you're in Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane or any of those places, and you really want to know what's going on in the rural industry, ask a farmer," he said. 

"We've got the best interest in the well-being of our animals.”

We've got the best interests in the well-being of our animals - Beef producer Rick Britton

Mr Britton said the live export saga had exposed a lack of “moral support” for Australian agriculture, stretching across both sides of politics. 

Some cattle businesses were still feeling the pinch from the last live export ban in 2011, Mr Britton said. 

That temporary ban created a supply glut in Australia that drove down cattle prices, he added.

"Everyone in the beef industry was affected, regardless of whether you were in live export or not.

"It had a massive financial impact right across Australia. From Darwin to Adelaide, from Perth to Melbourne. There was too much supply."

At the time of the 2011 ban, Mr Britton said his Goodwood cattle business had just come out of drought and was looking to capitalise on the live export market. 

"In 2009 and 2010 - when we were buying replacement breeders - we invested in big Brahman cows to go to the live export trade as a good steady cash flow," he said.

"And then it came crashing down in 2011. We were lucky we had diversified into other markets. But it did have an impact.”

Last year Mr Britton sent about 50 per cent of his stock for live export. 

Northern Territory Live Exporters Association chairman David Warriner said producers and exporters were the "true custodians of animal welfare". 

"While many tax exempt organisations claim to be the voice of animals, we are the ones actually looking after them each and every day, because our businesses and livelihoods depend on good animal welfare outcomes," he said. 

Live export had a positive impact across all Australian cattle markets, Mr Warriner said. 

“Having competition in the market for cattle during a time of drought is vital to the environmental and market sustainability of the northern production sector. 

“While not all producers sell directly into the trade, the live trade has a direct and positive influence across all markets.”

Mr Warriner said the Animals Australia allegations had to be investigated, and that both sides of politics needed to work together to get to the bottom of the saga. 

"Whether it’s illegal right now or not, creating a market for workers in charge of animal welfare, to sell footage of poor animal welfare, is something that must be absolutely stamped out.”

“...I think there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered, and it is incumbent upon the federal government, and the opposition, to be sensible and ensure answers are provided through a rigorous, objective and transparent inquiry.”

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