PRODUCERS attending LambEx 2018 in Perth have been urged to contact eastern states acquaintances to advocate for live sheep exports to continue.
In an unscheduled address to a predominantly Western Australian audience on Tuesday, Allan Piggott, president of peak body Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) called on everyone attending LambEx to play their part to win over “the silent majority" and eastern states politicians.
WA sheep producers should contact people they know, particularly in the eastern states, Mr Piggott said, to convince them the live sheep export industry had changed and is a different industry to what it was last year when pictures of Australian sheep dying of heat stress on board ship in the Middle East were taken.
The export licences of two live sheep exporters were later suspended after the distressing footage of dead and dying sheep appeared on national television some seven months after the event.
Mr Piggott said sheep producers first needed to convince eastern states’ acquaintances the industry had changed then ask them to pass that message on to their local politicians.
“Don't concentrate on the economics or social impact (of stopping live exports),” Mr Piggott advised the LambEx audience on trying to convincing acquaintances of the merits of the industry.
“It (message) is how the industry has changed and that they need to get on to their local politicians and explain how the industry has changed and how welfare has been improved,” he said.
“They (eastern states politicians) will always listen to one of their own constituents before they'll read an email from Western Australia - so that is important.”
Mr Piggott said the biggest challenge facing the live sheep export industry was “regaining the trust and confidence of the population, particularly in the eastern states”.
"We know that the silent majority they'll support live export if we can demonstrate that we have made significant changes, that we have listened to their concerns and we will address their concerns about animal welfare,” he said.
“So that's where everybody comes into play, all you people here (at LambEx 2018) have a role to play.
“We need to get the information, particularly into the eastern states, that the industry has changed.
“We can easily argue for the continuation of trade on social grounds, on economic grounds, but they (silent majority) want to know the industry has changed.
“We need to demonstrate that it is a fundamentally different industry now to what it was last year.
“So we talk about the McCarthy report (the report prepared in May on the live export industry by livestock veterinarian Dr Michael McCarthy at the request of Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud).
“The 23 recommendations from that report are guaranteed to improve welfare on boats, that's irrefutable,” Mr Piggott said.
“But I think, more importantly, we talk about the cultural change that's occurred within the industry,” he said.
“The industry has been talking to producers in developing a shared vision for the welfare of stock - and that's the message we need to get to the eastern states.
“As you are aware, like it or not, the future of this trade is in the hands of the politicians.
Like it or not, the future of this trade is in the hands of the politicians
“They're getting a lot of emails from people saying the trade should stop.
“So I encourage all of you to get on to everyone you know in the eastern states and talk about how the industry has changed.”
Mr Piggott told the audience SPA had been working very hard and supporting Mr Littleproud’s “approach to this trade”.
“We've been working with a lot of organisations to come to some sustainable solutions that are going to protect the export trade.
“SPA will always have animal welfare as our highest priority, it's not just on farm, but it is also after those animals leave our farm gate,” he said.