Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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Peoples Voice

Live Export

By @farmers_w_i_t

They say that ignorance is bliss and sometimes I would say this is true. It's lovely to live in a little bubble of the idealistic world where nothing horrible ever happens and everything lives peacefully. Then this bubble is broken and you find out about things that appall you and you realise that your ideal world is not as ideal as you think it is. As a teenager finding out about live export from one of those shows on TV showing how awful it is for the animals was one of my bubble poppings.

Let's face facts, I'm originally from the city and in the city we are a *little* removed from the agricultural industry, where our food comes from and we're only taught a certain amount of agriculture in our schooling. I'm going to be honest here, there was a stage when I believed that banning live export was a very important thing for animal welfare and the ships they were being sent on was hell on earth with the treatment they recieved when they got there being akin to torture. Everything you read on these BLE pages on facebook and tweets from BLE supporters I fully believed. I thought what animal activists were fighting for was an important thing for humanity, they were very compassionate people who just wanted the best for everything in our world. I was even a vegan for a period of time after reading a book on some of the atrocities committed in the American farming industry. The book put me so far off consuming any animal products that I couldn't stomach eating it for over  a year.

But through time, education and being attacked by people supporting a ban on live export, when they wern't even sure of what my position was, I have slowly grown to change my mind on what I think about live export and the people supporting a total ban on it. I do believe there is room for improvement, just like every industry. Nothing is perfect. And before any "Ban Live Export" supporters out there start jumping up and down and saying that I only changed my mind because I'm getting rich off of animal cruelty, I'm not. My partner works full time on his families farm (seven days a week, starting at 6am and finishing sometimes after the sun goes down) and at this point in time it is more financially viable for us for me to live in the city during the week and work full time and then go to the farm on weekends and work with him and maintain our house down there. In fact, I earn three times as much working in a supermarket in a year as what he does. He doesn't even know that the amount of taxable income that I made last year was more then three times his. I don't have the heart to tell him that. And before the other argument of "Your just towing the line" comes out. You're wrong. He allows me to think freely about whatever I want, he's not here to rule over me and his family know that I am from the city and so have some funny ideas about things (like pets inside).

There has recently been a lot of commotion from both sides of the live export debate and finally something that I have said needs to happen for a long time has happened. The farmers are crawling out from their backwaters, banding together, making their voice heard, and city people are starting to join them, or if they arn't joining them, they are listening. It seems that the newest generation of agriculturalists, the ones who have moved with the times of social media and smart phones, are using these tools to their full effect. And they've learnt for free from the best.....Animals Australia. This started with a very big and loud bang last year in November in a park in Fremantle and hasn't stopped since. #hadagutful has become a nation wide tag for farmers to use that let's people know that they will no longer be treated as second class citizens because a minority want to be keyboard warriors, handcuff themselves to trucks, hide on export ships or stand on a bridge and shout, hold signs and tell them how to run their business.

Farmers arn't out to get rich off live export. Some of them diversified under guidance from governments or consultants, others have always done what they've always done and they are exporting their excess stock because it has nowhere else to go. In fact, some of the diversifications were made to come into line with what animal welfare protesters were protesting about in the form of breeds that don't require tailing and mulesing. The position that my partners family is in is that they are a wool growing operation. They put in crops but it is grown as feed with a little bit of surplus to be sold the following year, so they keep it to "value add" and they feed that to their sheep as supplementary nutrition (they can eat grass all they like but at the end of the day they need to eat whole grains and some protein as well). At the end of a five year period on the farm when the ewes have had their four lambs and the wethers have grown their 5 clips worth of wool, we need somewhere for them to go, other then a hole in the back paddock. We have three options: sell to another farmer, sell to chilled export or sell to live export. We only have so much space on the farm and we have to allow in our breeding that a certain number of sheep are going to pass away or need to be sold because they arn't going to be suitable for the program that is being run.

You can't lie to me. I know that regardless of what industry you're in if you're trying to be successful or keep your head above water you are going to take the highest price that somebody is willing to pay you for something. You will even compromise your own values. Animal rights advocates will scream blue murder and say that we're making money off of animal cruelty, however they are a very fickle bunch and I have recently learnt that for all their morals and values that they want to impose on others and have others follow they don't necessarily follow them themselves. In fact, a big thing they are against is animal testing, but when it comes down to the crunch if it proves what they are telling the general public, they will support it.

The thing was that I wanted was live export BANNED. There was no middle ground, just a straight up outrage of "How could they be letting this happen? Send our animals to third world countries and abbatoirs that are substandard and kill them by slitting their throats?" I had formulated this opinion on what was being told to the people in the city about live export. All we got to see was the trucks going down to Fremantle filled with predominantly sheep, all that we smelt was an overpowering smell of sheep manure coming from the port and all that we were told about it was that it was "Baa-baa-barbaric". We are shown article after article on television about how cruel live export is, the "undercover footage" that is obtained by animal liberationists openly in abattoirs and on ships and of course, the articles in the paper every time that a shipment is turned away from a port and there is a boat load of animals "left stranded at sea". We are never told the stories of every shipment that makes it to it's destination successfully or the improvements that are made in other countries thanks to Australia's involvement in the trade or the hard work in campaigning done by the export companies. I only recently learnt of the "Ute don't boot" campaign run in some of the Middle Eastern countries to encourage them to transport the animals how they are transported here.

It's surprising that the person who made me realise how wrong my point of view of an immediate ban was, was actually the member of my family who I nickname Lyn White because of how anti-live export they are. They made the point of the fact that it would financially cripple people living rural Australia and just leave us with a bigger mess for the government to clean up, costing us, the taxpayers, a lot of money.

I have said in previous blogs that I am a Country Women's Association member and I happened to be at the annual state conference last year when Catherine Marriott spoke. She spoke about live export and how working for Wellards as an Animl Welfare Manager she saw the effect that the knee jerk reaction ban that the government placed after the Indonesia debacle had on not only the Australians in the industry, but the Indonesian families. I found it interesting. I hadn't ever really thought about that. What about the people on the other end of this ban? What about the families in Indonesia relying on the income they are recieving from the abattoirs over there? And then further to this, reading Steph Coombes agventures blog (http://stephsagventures.com) I also learnt there are feedlots in Indonesia AND Australia caring for these animals.

Now you might call me naive to not realise there were feedlots in Australia, but I am not the only one. Very recently I saw a tweet of outrage on twitter stating that they didn't know there were feedlots in Australia and how could they find out more about them. I think they were assuming that the feedlots that were in Australia were those ones that PETA and Animals Australia trot out pictures of from time to time showing cattle in little crowded pens with no space to move in the sun and dust and heat. However the feedlots in Australia are simply used to finish off an animal before they are sold to an abbatoir for local consumption or taken on a ship for live export. Although the way that animal rights groups make it sound, it's like the calf or lamb was ripped from its mother at birth and shoved in a pen and been left to be unable to move with nothing to do but have food poured down it's neck. We eat meat, which is muscle not fat. All they would get from being unable to move for their entire life is fat all over them and consumers don't like fatty meat. The feedlot it used to give it that final layer of fat that gives the meat it's wonderful flavour.

The boats were another thing that I had been mislead about. I had an image in my head of cargo ships being converted to carry animals with no windows for light or air. There was limited feed and water facilities for animals and as I have seen an Animals Australia follower point out, there is no space for the sheep and cattle to run! The statistics that I had been shown reguarly by this organisation all pointed towards most of the animals on board dying and getting there thin and in poor condition. But then a point was made to me by Farmerbf: people don't pay for dead stock, they pay for live stock. Good point. People arn't going to make any money from animals arriving there dead or being thrown overboard after they have died. Watching a show on SBS one evening they showed a purpose built ship with several very clean and open decks to shuttle cattle to Indonesia in this case. It got me thinking, were these the same ships that carried sheep to the middle east? Some further looking about the internet and it turns out in fact they were! They were these spacious multi decked ships that the air could freely move through. And as for the not having space to run on board the ship? Being on a sheep farm I quickly realised that this was another myth that is used as propaganda. I have only ever seen sheep run on the farm when they are running to something or from something. Nothing more nothing less, they don't feel the need to go jogging for exercise, they are fairly simple creatures in that sense, if you don't have to run why should you?

Another of the really big things that I always had a problem with was the trucks they were carried in. They were all smooshed in there and they smelt terrible and sometimes you saw a little sheep stick their head out of the rails and you thought how terrible it was that they were that desperate for space that they were doing that. However, since actually talking to somebody who is involved in the industry (Farmerbf) things have become a lot clearer on why they are transported like that. Have too much room in the truck and they lay down and can be trampled by other sheep, not enough space and it's like a child in a car not wearing a seatbelt. When the truck has to suddenly stop they all get thrown forward and can get injured. According to Farmerbf if you put them in there so they have about a one inch gap between them in a pen, it's perfect. They can stand up and support each other and not run the risk of injury if the truck gets cut off by another vehicle and suddenly has to stop. And as for them looking out the side of the trucks? Well, let's face facts, when you're in the back seat of the car you don't just stare at the head rest in front of you, you want to have a look around. That's what these sheep are doing, having a bit of a look around and having a little sniff of the air outside, just like your dog would do in the back seat of the car.

And then we get to slitting their throats. When you put it like that it sounds rather grotesque really, so we will put it as it's correct terminology; "Halal slaughter". Now, the Qur'an states that animals must be killed for food with a well sharpened knife making a swift, deep incision to the neck severing both main arteries and wind pipe in the neck. Not being hacked to death with a blunt knife which is what animal activists like to tell us is what happens. If they do that it makes it Haraam (illegal to eat). Animal activists would like to have you believe that this method of killing is only practised in Islamic countries, but they would be wrong in saying this. Where do they think the Muslims in Australia get their meat from? It isn't imported and they don't suddenly become vegetarian when they reach our shores. Most of the abattoirs in Australia kill in this method to make the most out of the markets they can sell to. Let me repeat this, most of the abattoirs in Australia kill in the Halal method to make the most out of the markets they can sell to. And surprisingly I learnt this fact from talking to my friendly local neighbourhood butcher. Another interesting person to talk to about this was a very good friend of mine that I work with, he is a Muslim, his wife is a Muslim and their daughter is a Muslim. In fact, his wife comes from Pakistan, that country that those sheep got sent to during the latest live export debacle.

When the Ocean Drover got sent there, Muslim friend and I had a conversation about what a great thing this was. The people in that country need food. He has been there reguarly since he was a child, his father, as part of the Eid celebrations, gives money to charities over there. The poor in that country don't have access to the ample supply of food that the rich do and this possible new market for Australian sheep was going to be fantastic for everybody involved. It was going to open a new market for Australians that had a lesser travel time for the animals on board the boats, force the price of meat down in Pakistan and the poorer people were going to be able to afford to eat it. Both of us were shocked and appalled at what happened when that ship went to Pakistan. Keeping in mind he is a muslim, from that country, and he was shocked and appalled. His wife was also shocked and appalled, she is an extremely well educated woman from that country, not only in general schooling but also in Islamic texts. She speaks fluent Arabic and is passionate about the Qu'ran. She was shocked and appalled because the Qu'ran says that they should care for and respect animals, and this went against what she believed and had been taught.

After that happened live export was once again thrown into the spotlight and we had people on facebook and twitter calling for an immediate ban on live export. They were also saying all sorts of things about greedy farmers and all the rest of it. At this point in time I was dating Farmerbf and we had many conversations about these things. He refuses to go on social media and take part in these conversations because he is scared what some of these activists would do if they found out where we live and what our entire operation entails, but every now and again I would go on there and attempt to correct some of the things they were saying, keeping in mind I wanted the industry changed to be all onshore processing here and then fly frozen carcasses out to these countries for sale, but I wanted it phased in over years so as the producers could prepare for this. I was verbally attacked reguarly by these animal rights advocates who had no idea what my point of view was on live export. In fact what their official party line was, was in fact what I believed; they want it phased out to be only chilled exports. What I was doing was explaining to these people why we couldn't grant their wish immediately.

Then that wonderful day in November 2012, the official Year of the Farmer happened. The #hadagutful rally in Fremantle. Leading up to this day farmerbf and I debated going, I wasn't going to go purely because of the fact that I didn't believe that we should continue sending animals live. Filit told Farmerbf he was going to represent their family whether he liked it or not. The fact that Farmerbf kept stating we were "Going to Fremantle to crack some greenies skulls" didn't help the situation for me. I'm not a confrontational person, I will yell and sream at somebody, but I don't really have an interest in participating in fisty cuffs. When we got to the park we realised this thing was bigger then Ben Hur. There were people as far as the eye could see and they looked just like the animal activists, they were all wearing signs, but they were also sporting a variety of akubras, jeans and work shirts topped with a thin line of a mouth telling everybody "we've had enough of being walked on and being treated this way."

When we got there I walked up to the park with him to say hi to a couple of friends of ours that were also attending the rally (one is a grain farmer, the other is the daughter and sister of a mixed farming operation). As we were standing there having a chat Farmerbf saw several people he knew one of which was a grain farmer with not a single animal on his property, "Why are you here", he asked, "You don't have any stock." "Well", says the grain farmer, "Who do you think buys all my shitty grain when I have a bad season? It goes down the necks of your animals. It's in my best interests to be here." It was that point in time that I realised that banning live export and the stock numbers around the state severely crashing did not just affect farmers with livestock, it affected every single farmer in the state. Again at this rally I had the privilage of listening to Catherine Marriott speak about live export and why it is so important for animal welfare for Australians to continue live exporting to these third world countries with no animal welfare laws or even standards. By placing our product in that market we have the power to influence what happens to it and how it is treated. It left me with a little food for though as I left Farmerbf there for the day.

As I drove across the bridge in Farmerbf's ute, kitted out with a CB radio listening to the truckies talk about the "greenies on the bridge", I noticed the majority of people standing on that bridge were young impressionable university age females, who didn't yet have children. The type of people who feel the need to biologically mother something, yet don't have a child to do so with, mixed in with this are the hard core activists who have been around since the days of protesting about trees being cut down and women's liberation. It got me thinking, the people in my mothers generation had "indigenous" or "black" equality and my grandmothers generation had "female" equality, maybe the latest equality for the over educated in this generation would be animal equality? And at what point does this equality end?

That day driving in the red ute back to the farm Farmerbf and I talked about the rally and what it would mean for rural Australia. We had come out of our backwaters and told the animal activists we were here and we were going to be heard whether they liked it or not. As we watched the news that night there were Ban Live Export supporters on it saying that they had eggs thrown at them while they protested. Farmerbf piped up and said "Is that all? I got spat on today! They spat on me as I walked under that bridge!" I was revolted. How can a somebody that is so loving and so compassionate do that to a fellow human being? It was yet another step in the break down of the facade that is the "animal activist" in my mind.

Then there were two photos from the Live export rallies that really drove it home for me; (photo not published)

These people wern't preaching the love of all species, they were attacking the people who were there feeding them, the primary producers of this country. They were using the farmers as scapegoats because they are not in people's faces every day. It was at this moment I started using the phrase "Animal Extremist". To me an Animal Extremist is a person who will do anything or say anything for what they perceive to be the welfare of an animal over the welfare of human beings. Something that highlighted this to me was the report of a mother dragging her eight year old child out in front of the convoy of trucks that crossed the bridge. A long nose truck can have a blindspot of a few metres in front of them, right where their bullbar is. This compromised the welfare of HER OWN CHILD to make a point that she loved animals. Does she value the welfare of animals that she has never owned, cared for or had anything to do with over the welfare of her child that she gave birth to and has apparently cared for from the day they were born? There was a video posted on youtube by a "Jacinta", a full time university student and an animal rights activist, accusing the police of corruption by letting trucks that are legally permitted to drive across a bridge do so and dragging people who decided to jump in front of them off the bridge to keep them, as members of the public, safe. Is this police corruption or they just doing their job? Is this the type of people we want influencing our agricultural industries?

There was an article posted on facebook about a farmer up in Geraldton having to cull his sheep this week. When I read it almost broke my heart. This man was going to lose everything he had worked so hard for. Farmerbf and I have talked about this before, about the fact that if live export shuts down the very real fact for us is that we are going to have to cull a large number of sheep that would have gone live export. On the Save Live exports page there was a number of people saying about how awful it was and then there was one person who asked if we had seen what was being said on the BLE page. Out of morbid curiosity of course I looked. There was some of the worst displays of humanity and compassion I have ever seen in my life. People saying that he deserved it and that he should lose everything.

Social Media Posting

It got to one point where the extreme ignorance of one of the people commenting on there got to me. She was saying that all he had to do was hang in there, one more month and there would be green pasture again! I asked what magical land this was and where could other farmers get this green feed that was meant to magically pop up on the first of February amongst other things. I did my usual thing of explaining why what they wanted wasn't going to happen anytime soon and I got asked if I wanted a medal for supporting the most brutal industry in the world. Farmersway ( http://farmerswayoflife.blogspot.com.au ) said it fantastically in his blog post (Slow hand clap please...) yesterday when he made the statement "At what point does animal welfare over-ride people welfare?" I agree. Where does it end?

To be honest, I was pretty much already there with my belief that live export should continue. Not only because it is good for Australian farmers, but also it is good for the animals going to those countries in the long run. How can we as a nation influence animal welfare in overseas markets if we are not participating in the market? We can't, and if we tried to we would be told to go and mind our own business. I don't believe that some of the treatment our animals have been  subjected to in the past is right, in fact some of it is very wrong, but how can we expect countries that only have minimal human rights to have any animal rights? Is this notion of animal rights just a first world problem?

My mind was finally changed when I saw the hypocritical attitude of the BLE supporters. I didn't want to believe that they were busy attacking people for making their living. It's easy to attack somebody that you can't see on a daily basis. They claim that we are getting rich from sending animals overseas to be murdered, but the reality is that we are not. We are supplying a market that is demanding a product. I had a conversation with a very well educated friend of mine at work. He's busy studying a double degree at university whilst working at the same time. His point of view on live export? (this is a direct quote) "I don't have a problem with it. If we don't send them somebody else will and who's to say that they are going to treat the animals any better? At least if we're sending them we have some say of what they do with them." Keeping in mind that he is not from the country and he has lived in the metropolitan area his whole life. In fact he lives right near Leach Highway so he sees the trucks with the animals going down to the port on a regular basis. He isn't a "country hick" as is often implied that farmers are, he is an educated member of society.

An important question to ask is why don't those people standing on the bridge waving signs go and do it outside the Pakistani embassy or the Indonesian embassy or evern the Bahrain embassy? The answer: because it's easier to attack the primary producer that isn't in the face of people in the city every day. They will gain more attanetion by standing on a bridge in people's faces then standing outside an embassy and attacking the people who represent the countries who are committing these acts.

Although they spit out statistics and figures stating that four out of every five Australians want live export banned I think these figures are grossly misrepresented. Anybody who has done any studying throughout their lives knows that statistics can be manipulated to suit whatever people want them to say. As more people take the time to step back and look into Live Export and actually speak to people within the industries with an open mind we will find that they will come around and realise that maybe the people within the industry who are being painted as money hungry, cruel individuals are in fact just trying to make their livng or they are trying to improve Animal Welfare around the world through education which is no celebrated or recognised by the loud minority. Although the BLE movement gains numbers, it also loses them through nothing but their own brand of religious extremism, also know as "One day the world will be Vegan and all sentient beings will live peacefully." As more people realise this they will turn away from what the lies and misrepresented facts that these people are telling them, just like I did.

I know that when I stepped back, opened my mind and actually learnt what live export entailed and what the improvements they were making within the industry as quiet achievers are, I felt more comfortable believing what they were doing was better for Animal Welfare then the people standing on the bridge and calling the primary producers who feed and clothe them "scum", without offering any financially viable suggestions of ways to improve the industry. With any hope more people continue to do this.

Let's keep in mind that although I may choose to live in the country, I was a born and bred city girl. If my mind has evolved, others are too.

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