THE beef industry has once again made a vain attempt to release a report that apologises for our industry's very existence.
The Beef Sustainability Framework makes an annual pilgrimage to apologise to virtue signallers.
The virtue signalling is not driven by our customers, those who love eating a great steak and value our farmers and our food security.
It is driven by suits in board rooms wanting to feel better about their own business.
So here is my message to those board rooms at the forefront of our annual pilgrimage.
McDonald's, there are times I have been tempted to tell you how to cook a meal that actually had some flavour, even times I've really been tempted to tell you how to mop a floor. I resisted because you run an extremely successful business, you use heaps of beef, employ thousands of people and you do some wonderful philanthropic work, I admire those things. I couldn't fathom running a business of the size, scale and global footprint as yours, after all I'm just a cowgirl.
NAB, there are times I would have liked to walk into your board room and shown you images of hardened men reduced to tears, when, post GFC, your board thought it might be a good policy to just wind back your agricultural lending regardless of a client's history with your organisation. I'd like to have told you of their heartbreak and pain. To find that in many cases you and your peers had acted illegally was a real kicker. But I didn't, I have no knowledge of international credit markets or the complex regulatory environment that you operate in. I don't know much about APRA, after all I'm just a cowgirl.
WWF, there are plenty of times I wished you were out here with me trying to actually help our wildlife. I've been frustrated that your policies appear more about running a mega-corporation and puffing your chest at the United Nations than actually learning more about our wildlife. But I've never cared for a panda in the wilds of China, or grappled with maintaining the magnificent savannahs of Africa in times of civil unrest. I don't know how to solve every environmental problem on the planet, after-all I'm just a cowgirl.
I'm just a cowgirl,
McDonald's, but I do know that land management isn't just a simple equation of: cram as many trees per acre of land as you can. I do however, know what it's like to watch grand old trees die to be replaced by a million little whipsticks. I do watch those natural springs dry up, those quaint hollows once frequented by all manner of darting visitors, choked by thickening eucalypts. I do know the torture of wildfires. I do know land management is complexity beyond your wildest dreams and it requires feel, flexibility and change, every, single year.
I'm just a cowgirl,
NAB, but what I do know is that painting and injecting a bunch of drugs and chemicals into our calves in some misleading attempt at perception is not the panacea of "animal welfare". Stockmanship is something deep in your heart, your blood, it's something you live and breathe every day. It's that feeling when your cattle look to you with confidence and respect, that's a feeling you don't find in a drug store. It takes a lifetime to learn.
I'm just a cowgirl,
WWF, but I do know that taxing producers with certification schemes to build big corporations and the "just lock it up policy for land management" are failures. I know you prefer corporate agriculture, after all they are far easier to push around than family farmers. I do know the strength of small rural communities and the importance of those salt of the earth people to the fabric of our society. I know about the creatures that share our land, I marvel every day at their interactions, their curiosity, their unique beauty and their abundance. I know enough about biology and physics to know that not one cow ever created one gram of carbon. I know that because I nurtured that grass, I felt the sunlight on my face as it worked its magic capturing carbon, growing those grasslands. I felt that soil, the greatest carbon sink, run through my fingers. I watched that cow at water as she chewed her cud, her amazing four stomachs, so incredibly designed, that even when that grass looked like a piece of cardboard, she managed to turn that carbon into the tastiest protein on the face of the planet. I watched her victimised for the fact that she only managed to utilise 94% of that energy she consumed, creating awesome steak, lifesaving pharmaceuticals and the best biological fertilisers we have to grow our vegetables (after all every now and then we do need sides!). I watched her victimised because she had the audacity to simply burp at the end of that meal.
Land management, animal welfare, the environment, it's like riding a horse, it takes a lot of feel on the reins. I'm just a cowgirl, but I know a bit about holding the reins. It's about eternally learning, there is no standard operating procedure for it, there is no simple calculation and there definitely isn't a model. Above all else, sitting behind a board room table, you have no feel.
Recently, we've seen a couple of big wins against virtue signalling, the Brett family's successful class action against an unjust shut down and NAB's apology to gun store owners. The NFF, NTCA and many of our industry organisations were vital in achieving that incredible class action win.
May I say to our industry leaders, there is no shame in backing away from this annual pilgrimage to the alter of virtue. The only shame is in trumpeting disproven science, all the while sacrificing your constituents to the alter.
I may not know much about virtue signalling but I do know that my peers have some of the most incredible skills in land and cattle management.
I won't ever apologise for that.
- Josie Angus is a Central Queensland cattle producer, who with her husband Blair, runs about 35,000 cattle on four properties.