National Farmers' Federation

Statement on Independent Panel on live sheep export

Comments attributable to Tony Mahar, Chief Executive Officer, National Farmers’ Federation

The National Farmers’ Federation notes the Minister’s announcement that an Independent Panel will be established to advise on the proposed phase out of live sheep export.

The NFF stands with 24 other peak agricultural bodies and farmers across Australia in opposing the ban on live sheep export, and does not support any process which aims to phase out the trade.

Cancelling an entire industry based on activist demands sets a dangerous precedent. What industry will be next?

To wrench a key export market out from the Australian economy will have far reaching impacts on jobs and livelihoods in Western Australia, as well as our economy, agricultural systems and trade relationships.

Our customers in the Middle East rely on the live sheep trade – and a range of other products – to put food on the table. We saw in 2011 the damage it can do to a bilateral relationship when you pull the pin on a country’s food supply. It risks compromising Australia’s reputation as a reliable supplier of high quality food and fibre.

We are an export orientated industry – if Government starts cancelling export markets this send a seriously bad message to farmers.

The policy is based on an outdated campaign by welfare activists that ignores the significant animal welfare improvements made through heavy investment in new infrastructure and practices. The industry has been open and transparent about the reforms it has made.

We need to be clear headed about what this actually means for animal welfare outcomes. If Australia steps back as a global leader in this trade, others with lower standards stand ready to take our place. A phase out would be a serious retrograde step for animal welfare.

We stand by our principles that wiping out an entire industry is not the answer and will not engage with the newly announced panel whose ultimate goal is to shut down live sheep export.

We’re not interested in discussing a phase out with the government. We’re ready to talk about the facts of the industry’s positive welfare improvements, and the immense downsides for the economy, animal welfare, and our trading relationships if this activist-led agenda becomes a reality.