Farmers draw short straw - again
Story Added : 09th June 2011
The Federal Government’s decision to suspend live exports to Indonesia this week will cost farmers big bucks and the fallout - understandably - has started.
According to Marble Bar producer Lang Coppin, who runs cattle in Western Australia’s north, farmers were given no warning and are being economically punished for something they cannot control.
Mr Coppin’s cattle are currently sitting in a depot in Port Hedland along with thousands of other animals, with nowhere to go.
“I think it was pretty rough the way they just shut us down over night,” he said.
“They’re penalising the Australian farmer for something they haven’t done wrong.”
Mr Coppin said there are facilities in Indonesia that are operating at acceptable animal welfare standards and they are punished as well.
“Where our cattle were headed were Elders’ yards and abattoirs, which are accepted and well and truly approved,” he said.
Animal welfare groups said farmers and Meat and Livestock Australia have known for a while about the cruelty inflicted on some animals at some Indonesian abattoirs.
Mr Coppin vehemently denied this claim, saying if he knew about it he would have done something about it.
“We’ve been led to believe that the restraining boxes have been making it all better,” he said.
“We would have just said, well stuff it, we’re not going to send them there.”
Mr Coppin’s frustration is not just directed at government, he is also angered by Animals Australia and its handling of the situation.
“We had no warning. If they were fair dinkum about wanting to work with farmers they could have showed the footage to some of the groups and said, look if you blokes don’t sort this out this is what’s going to go to air,” he said.
“They raced straight to the air with it and we saw it at the same time as everyone else in Australia saw it.”
Mr Coppin said domestic beef markets will not pick up the slack left by the ban on Indonesia because the beef grown specifically for this market will not meet Australian meat quality standards.
“That’s the market that we’ve catered for, those cattle we can’t sell anywhere else. So, the long-term is that our income is going to be reduced big time,” Mr Coppin said.
WA Labor MP Melissa Parke said the situation isn’t as severe as what producers are saying.
“The Australian meat processors are saying they can absorb the animals that would otherwise have been exported live to be processed domestically,” Ms Parke said.
The MP’s electorate is Fremantle, which is Western Australia’s major port and exports about 80 per cent of the country’s live sheep and 25 per cent of live cattle.
She said the Government’s decision isn’t about punishing farmers it’s about ensuring the animals are treated appropriately.
“There’s no economic argument that can justify torture.”
Ms Parke called for independent supervision and monitoring of the live export trade and said there should be some assistance package for producers who are really affected.