13/08/2009 - 00:00

Farmers dig in over trade

13/08/2009 - 00:00

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WESTERN Australian farmers and industry groups have defended the export of live sheep after a RSPCA-commissioned report suggested the valuable trade could be phased out with little impact on local sheep farmers and the Australian economy.

WESTERN Australian farmers and industry groups have defended the export of live sheep after a RSPCA-commissioned report suggested the valuable trade could be phased out with little impact on local sheep farmers and the Australian economy.

The RSPCA commissioned economists ACIL Tasman to look at the farm-level adjustments that would be required if live sheep exports from WA were halted.

The report, released last week, concludes that adjustment costs and the impact on farmers will be modest if the trade is phased out over five years, arguing that other farming enterprises might fill the gap.

However, farmers and representative groups slammed the report, suggesting it was completed without any consultation with farmers, lacked basic facts, and failed to consider all the relevant issues.

The Western Australian Farmers Federation said RSPCA Australia failed to consider local and international welfare issues, the whole of the supply chain, farm enterprise risk management, the complete impact on other commodities, the economics of proposed systems, and the high level of commitment shown by farmers and industry towards animal welfare.

WAFarmers claims the livestock export industry contributes more than $470 million to the state's economy and employs 7,000 people.

WAFarmers meat section president, Jeff Murray met with RSPCA Australia representatives last week to express the group's concerns.

"In pushing to cease live exports, RSPCA Australia is choosing to ignore that animal welfare would suffer, as the countries that would replace Australia in overseas markets don't share Australia's commitment to animal welfare," Mr Murray said.

"Live exports are an integral part of mixed-farm enterprises in Western Australia, ensuring competition in the marketplace and allowing vital access to alternative markets, particularly in times of drought."

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA believes the RSPCA and other animal rights groups need to recognise that any further reduction in the status of Australia's sheep flock could prove terminal for the industry.

PGA meat and livestock chairman Tim D'Arcy said the report was commissioned on an emotional basis and failed to acknowledge the industry's multi-million dollar investment in scientifically approaching the animal welfare issue of live sheep transport.

"The anti live export campaign that the RSPCA are running totally disregards the animal food production industry in Australia because processors have an inability to process the total output of sheep in Western Australia," Mr D'Arcy said.

"These processors are still unable to get enough labour to manage the stock they already handle."

He said the RSPCA had a serious philosophical problem in being unable to accept that live animal exports were now a safe, integral component of Australia's total animal production industry.

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