Do the hard yards on our live trade

David Wolfenden says it is dangerous to tell other countries they must change their cultural practices. Picture: DAVID THORPE
David Wolfenden says it is dangerous to tell other countries they must change their cultural practices. Picture: DAVID THORPE

DAVID Wolfenden was at the tail-end of the shearing season this week when the live export trade debate roared into life again.

The Rand farmer, who runs 6500 sheep, watched ABC-TV’s Four Corners program, Another Bloody Business, and was disgusted at what he saw on his screen.

“I’m absolutely appalled at the Pakistani treatment of the situation,” he said.

The program detailed how a shipment of sheep was rejected in Bahrain and ended up in Pakistan, where the sheep were brutally slaughtered after claims they were infected with foot and mouth disease, scabby mouth and anthrax.

It was clear politics was behind the decision to cull the sheep.

The bloody and gruesome manner in which the sheep died has prompted calls to end the live export trade.

But proponents of the trade say that if Australia exited the industry, we would no longer have any say on how animals were treated overseas.

They also criticise animal welfare groups for not showing concern for the welfare of animals outside Australia, given other countries are sure to fill the void Australia leaves should the market be wound up.

Australian Beef Association chairman Brad Bellinger says Australia’s input would then become irrelevant.

He described the rationale that cruelty would end if Australia was not a part of the trade as absurd.

“Surely the aim of groups such as Animals Australia and the RSPCA should be to improve conditions for all livestock, not just those coming from Australia,” he said.

Mr Wolfenden, a former president of the Wool Council of Australia — now WoolProducers Australia — cautioned against allowing the incident to end the trade, given the culture of meat consumption in such countries as Pakistan.

“There is a strong culture of buying fresh meat and hot meat in those countries,” he said.

“It is both a community and cultural thing and I think it is dangerous to be saying: ‘You must change’.”

Charles Sturt University’s Professor Peter Wynn, from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Wagga, agreed it would be better to work with the people of Pakistan, rather than cut Australia’s losses.

Professor Wynn has been involved in developing Pakistan’s dairy program and meat industry, having last visited the country in July.

He is also involved in framing Indonesia’s animal handling practices.

“Just like in Indonesia, you work with people as professionals,” he said, referring to Australia’s involvement in improving Indonesia’s animal welfare standards in the wake of the suspension of the live export trade last year.

“If you work with someone and build confidence and a relationship, it’s amazing how things can change.

“That’s exactly what I want to do in Pakistan.

“I’m already talking to a major funding body to work out how we can have a more functional international-standard industry in Pakistan.”

To read more of Border farmers’ and industry experts’ views on the live export trade, go to Pulse.