This week I wrote to the Agriculture Minister, the Hon David Littleproud MP, congratulating him on the steps he has taken in response to Australia’s latest live sheep debacle, but asking him to go further and, in consultation with farmers and associated rural industries, set a date by which live sheep exports cease permanently.
As part of our immediate response, those responsible for the harrowing conditions revealed to all should be prosecuted. Certainly any farmer treating stock this way would be hauled before the magistrate in record time.
In August 2003, when Saudi Arabia refused to accept 58,000 head (from the Cormo Express) and 6000 sheep perished, official recommendations were put in place to prevent such disasters from reoccurring.
Sadly, exporters have not been able to clean up their act, indeed I suspect it is impossible for them to do so.
My reasoning comes after spending over half of my life in the farming sector and as a Member of Parliament representing a rural electorate for the past 17 years.
No reasonable farmer wants to see stock they have grown with pride leave their care only to perish in such horrific circumstances.
We must work with farming organisations to secure new processing opportunities.
With increasing urbanisation and changing tastes in the Middle East, coupled with our strong trade relationships, the future for sheep meat exports remains bright.
In fact 50 per cent of our chilled lamb exports already go to consumers in this region; this will surely increase.
Arguments suggesting we will decimate the industry or that other nations with lesser regulations will simply fill the void, are lazy ‘non’ arguments in my view.
These are Australian sheep, being loaded in Australian ports.
Everyone in the supply chain must bear a level of responsibility for what happens to them.
The journey is too long, the temperatures are too high, the housing too crowded and decent animal husbandry is non-existent.
In the face of what is rapidly becoming a national shame, it is my view that Australians have crossed a line on this issue.
The goodwill that many of us had for the industry is gone.
It will not return.
The wave of revulsion we are feeling will not subside.
Let’s work closely with farmers, taking the time to get it right, but plan a sensible end date for live sheep exports.
Enough is enough.