Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Lee Rhiannon Show

Lee Rhiannon gets more than she bargains for when she attempts to debate an informed farmer on the live export issue.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another Bloody Hatchet Job

A good friend of mine send me the preview for Monday's upcoming Four corners episode "Another Bloody Business"  and I'm not impressed to say the least.

The video begins with some footage of a steer being tripped out of a Mk 1 restraining box (the type that are banned and no longer used)  and hitting the floor with an accompanying sound effect and the typical spooky/sad music playing in the background to pull at your heartstrings. 

They then pat themselves on the back for creating outrage.

Now I'll return to that in a minute because I want to cover the outrage thing but the words that really got to me was when the story was promoted as the story "they don't want you to see"?

Now I take exception to that.

The live export industry is required by law to disclose things like how many animals die in transit and to report things like when a ship is turned away from a port  because of disease concerns.The Australian Government was kept in the loop the entire time this saga was playing out and Wellards have even posted a statement on You Tube.

Now if this is the story "they didn't want you to see, why are they showing it to you themselves?

ABC TV seems to go to great lengths to paint live export in a negative light by pouncing on every negative story about the live trade they can find and seem to totally ignore any positive stories about the trade with the only exception being Landline. Which very few people in the cities watch anyway. The ABC even see's fit to publish polls with leading questions such as this one.

 Now four corners want to pat themselves on the back for creating outrage.

Now I do acknowledge that animal welfare has come forward in Indonesia by leaps and bounds (even if they won't) but is outrage really something to be proud of?

Is the ABC proud of driving a wedge between Rural Australia and the big cities?

Are they proud of the snap live export ban that sent many farmers close to financial ruin?

Is it right the ABC continues to pat themselves on the back while the northern property market is depressed to the point that some farmers are in debt more than their properties are worth?

Is the ABC proud of creating an all time low in relations with one of our nearest and biggest trading partners?

The people that bore the brunt of this "outrage" were our northern cattlemen and women, real people with families and simple dreams that just want to make a living from running cattle in the outback. These people had their dreams shattered but did they really deserve that? 

Did Lyn White get any footage of an Australian farmer anywhere in those hell hole abattoirs in Indonesia?

Did Australian farmers commit those horrible acts of cruelty?


Then why is the ABC so proud of punishing them for it? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Just answer the question Coles!

This week I've been setting the cat amongst the pidgins on the Coles Facebook page, with some help from some very concerned Australians.

I've been asking Coles to detail how they audit and track their overseas supply chains to ensure no factory farmed pork finds it's way into those products they so misleadingly label "Made in Australia from local and imported produce"

Coles refuses to answer my question directly and have even slyly removed it from their page meaning it can only be accessed through this link

I think it is grossly unfair of Coles to throw Australian farmers under a bus while they soak up the glory from Animals Australia's recent campaign against factory farming when they cannot give a public guaranteetheir imported produce does not come from factory farms.

It really is hypocritical of Coles to expect one standard from Australian farmers while allowing a different standard for their cheaper imported produce especially when Australian farmers have already agreed to phase out sow stalls by 2017 at their own cost while competing with this cheaper produce.

Australian farmers will be the first in the world to completely phase out sow stalls while they are still legal in every country that supplies Coles with pork.

I don't hear Animals Australia pulling Coles up on this either, I wonder how much Coles has donated  to their recent campaign? Food for thought.  

Is this the kind of food system we really want in our country?

If we demand a certain standard from Aussie farmers shouldn't we demand the same standards on the produce we import?

Sadly it seems we rarely do.

Even our frozen vegetables (also labeled "made in Australia from local and imported produce") are not held to the same standards as many would expect.

Next time your at the supermarket remember that Australian grown produce is more expensive because it is grown to higher standard by people who take pride in the way they treat their animals and grow their crops.  I think John F Kennedy said it best "The farmer is the only man in our economy that buy's everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale and pays freight both ways."



Monday, October 8, 2012

Half Time

First I'm going to make a bold call that will put some noses out of joint.

The Animals Australia's "No live export ban, No vote" rallies held across Australia this weekend were a flop.

Some supporters of the trade and myself attended the Melbourne rally with our big "Save Live Export" banner and stood across the street from the crowd of about 600 people.

A pathetic turnout considering the RSPCA live export rally we attended last year drew 3000 people from Melbourne alone. This rally did not achieve that turnout nationally. 

The Animals Australia supporters were in fine form, some of them approaching us for quiet and considered debate where both sides got to say their piece and others simply intent on being rude.

One Animals Australia supporter insisted on standing next to me so that whenever someone asked me why I believed the trade should continue she could then speak over me and preach about how defending live export is "like defending the people who make child pornography because, you know, people make a buck out of it." Several members of the meatworkers union were content to snipe at us for being "greedy farmers" without having enough guts to come and debate or defend their arguments.

Out of this hostile environment something wonderful happened, a man who was passing by decided to stand with us, saying he was a long time supporter. Another man who stopped to wish us well and express support also decided to stand beside us to hold an extra "save live export" placard I brought with me. Passers by winked at us, gave the thumbs up or quietly whispered "we're with you" as they came past . Some stopped to argue with the protesters while others stood with us if only for short while before wishing us luck and walking off to continue what they were doing.

To say the least I was surprised at the number of people walking around the CBD that day that supported farmers and live export.

I can only come to the conclusion that people are beginning to see the truth about the live export trade and maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning ever so slightly in our favor.

For the past 12 months ABC TV has run what could only be described as a campaign against live export with programs such as Lateline and The 7:30 Report pouncing on every opportunity to show a negative live export story while Australian Story and The Project have done everything they can to paint Lyn White as a national hero.

Yet with all this negative media attention people I meet are always quick to condemn what was done to farmers with the live cattle ban last year and most are curious to know the other side of the story. They do not simply dismiss the trade as cruel and they do have an open mind when we give them factual reasons the trade should continue. Most agree the trade should remain when we explain the issues properly. 

In short we do have some community support in the cities.

 What does it all mean?

We haven't won, not yet. Some how I don't think the animal rights activists will ever stop opposing live export in fact I'm sure they are probably more dangerous now than ever. With compassion fatigue setting in and donations beginning to trail off as people direct the constant stream of emails pleading for more money into the spam section of their email accounts. It is only a matter of time before someone is put on plane to find another one off cruelty incident they can paint as "standard operating procedure". 

The game is still on but it's half time. We know the oppositions strategies now, we've even copied a few of them ourselves. The next step is to capitalize on the willingness of people in the cities to hear our side of the story by putting it out there every time we can.

I said in an earlier post that "if we don't fight, we lose", at the time it seemed that our future was very dark but now there is the faintest glimmer in the distance, a light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite the millions of dollars in donations, a concerted campaign by WSPA and The Body Shop and all the friendly media attention they could ask for.  The animal rights organizations could only get a fraction of the protesters onto the street they could 12 months ago.

It's safe to say whatever we are doing to fight for this cause, it's working.

At the rally on Saturday, once the speakers were finished and the crowd began to surge toward us to pepper us with questions and insults, one thought popped into my head.

"They've got us surrounded, poor bastards."   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Meatworks Argument De-Bunked

In today's modern world it pays to be forever wary of that old saying "He who pays the piper calls the tune" and the live export debate is no exception. Have you ever noticed that the government never releases a report that contradicts their policy position unless they are absolutely forced to? Those who have followed the climate change debate closely will be able to point to reports from both sides of the debate that are laughable in their attempts to cherry pick and selectively quote data regardless of whether big oil, the government or the UN paid for the research. It happens on both sides. It seems these days our universities do a very poor job of producing seekers of the truth, rather they have become a breeding ground for academic mercenaries that can tip the scales of truth any way you want.

Provided you can pile enough money on them.

That said it will not surprise you to learn the often quoted ACIL Tasman Report was of course paid for by the WSPA, the Heilbron Report by several of Australia's biggest abattoir owners including the multinational giant: JBS Swifts.

These two reports form the core evidence for the argument that live exports can be replaced by a frozen meat trade. An argument often made by Lyn White, The RSPCA and The WSPA. They might feel uneasy about staking their reputations on these reports when people begin to read them closely.  

The first and most obvious claim that doesn't add up is the massive amount of GDP we can supposedly create by having Australian meatworks kill the cattle and sheep right here. This won't create anywhere near as many "Australian" jobs as the reports claim, nor will they create as much GDP. The ACIL Tasman report cheekily concedes on page 51 that a cessation of live export would require "some skilled abattoir workers from abroad".

Australian meatworks can't get enough Australians to work for them right now, a large percentage of the current workforce are overseas workers on 457 visas who, as most people would expect, send a large proportion of their wages to their families back in their home countries. This renders the claims for increases in Australian jobs and GDB dubious at best.

Even the much anticipated Darwin abattoir will have an international flavor.

The ACIL Tasman report makes a limp attempt at analyzing foreign markets and makes the assumption that our boxed sheepmeat will be mostly lamb, targeting the emerging and wealthier middle class in some of the counties we live export too. This completely overlooks the fact that  live export is often centered around older animals that represent an invaluable source of affordable protein to the poor people of those nations.  ACIL Tasman fails to take into account the high processing costs in Australia would effectively price us out of that market.

This Beef Central article explains why it costs twice as much to process an animal here than it does in the USA, let alone anywhere else. 

The Heilbron Report does a better job than ACIL Tasman at finding a home for the thousands of tons of extra boxed meat we could produce if we only phased out live export. They didn't even bother to analyze if foreign markets would still buy our more expensive boxed beef but instead make the assumption we can sell that meat meat fairies?   

ACIL Tasman's solutions for increasing sheepmeat exports boil down to asking the EU nicely to lift their tariffs (good luck with that), a massive promotional campaign and increasing competitiveness. The money spent by New Zealand on promotional campaigns sound like a good investment until ACIL Tasman concedes on page 61 that even they "cannot ascertain the actual return on these marketing activities". The "Increased competitiveness" ACIL Tasman cites as necessary to make boxed meat exports viable (page 63) hinge on "lowering the cost of production" which is a carefully worded way of saying farmers have to take less money for their animals.

ACIL Tasman are dreaming if they think a return to the bad old days when farmers were paid loose change for their stock is going to be a positive outcome for our already embattled rural communities.     

Lyn White is often quoted comparing farmers to slave traders for arguing that if we cease live export we will be replaced by other countries that have lower or no animal welfare standards. This has already happened in one market, thanks in part to her handy work.

Boxed beef is streaming in to Indonesia from illegal abattoirs in India after boxed beef imports from Australia were slashed early this year. I somehow doubt that animal welfare is a high priority for these lawless backyard butchers that defy not only the laws of their country but their national religion as well. The black market beef trade makes a mockery of The Heilbron Reports sloppy assumptions that expensive Australian boxed meat can replace the live export trade at all.

Far more likely we will be (as we have repeatedly warned) replaced by countries with no regard for animal welfare.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The ABC of media bias

I have a little rule I, until now, have always stuck to on this blog and in my general dealings with the media.

Never ever attack, criticize or in any way risk offending a media organization. They are far too powerful and will simply bury you and whatever cause you stand for just for spite if you dare offend their sensitivities. 

Today I'm forced to make an exception to that rule after coming across this little gem

Now if that is not a loaded question I don't know what is.

 The very structure of the question makes it impossible to vote no and you can bet it won't get a mention on media watch either, one could only imagine the smug reaction from Jonathan Holmes if a commercial news organization tried to get away with skewing a question against climate change in this way.  

I have already written a detailed letter to the ABC pointing out where I believe they are exceeding their charter and portraying a biased picture of live export to their mainstream viewers. I received a limp wristed response from Alan Sunderland pointing out that they believed their coverage of the issue was fair and balanced and that both sides of the argument were given air time in their programs, he even cited the example of Barnaby Joyce's two or three 10 second contributions to 'Australian Story' as providing balance to that programs 30 minute lionizing of Lyn White.

Interesting to note Gleys Oogjes' admission on that program "With that first footage we didn’t think taking it to the government would be effective. We thought that exposing it to the community was the first thing to do"
The Four Corners program 'A Bloody Business' has a lot to answer for in terms of bias. The program briefly skimmed over the multi-million dollar abattoir owned by Elders in Indonesia that had been using stunning long before the filming. They also neglected to mention that four other abattoirs were already using stunning with another two in the process of converting. Some twenty five Indonesian abattoirs, accounting for 45% of all the Australian cattle slaughtered in Indonesia were either at or close to OIE standards at the time Four Corners went to air and these abattoirs formed the basis of the closed loop supply chain once the ban was lifted.

None of these facts were given any significant air time next to the constant emotive sad music and the heart breaking footage of animals being tortured in the dingy little backyard kill floors that were portrayed as the norm across the entire country.

Four Corners, it seems, did not want balance to stand in the way of a good Walkley.  

For all the supposed "balance" on ABC TV I do not recall seeing one positive story about live export in the last 15 months. I have however noticed the ABC takes every opportunity to present a negative live export story, Lateline (Hosted by Sarah Ferguson's husband: Tony Jones) seeming to be particularly generous with air time on any story that portrays live export as cruel and wrong. 

The only exception to this behavior being the excellent Landline program which Mr Sunderland also cited as  an example of the ABC's "balance".

Mr Sunderland the majority of Australian voters live in the cities.

City people do not watch Landline, or read ABC Rural or listen to the ABC's regional radio stations that have offered a robust coverage of both sides of the issue.

City people watch the ABC news, the 7:30 Report and Lateline. They have not been shown the human cost of the live cattle ban, the tears of the children whose parents were losing their livelihoods or given any opportunity to understand the many reasons the Live Export trade is necessary to both farmers and animal welfare. They have been fed story after story telling them this industry is cruel and inhumane and that is dangerous in a world where the sensitivities of people in inner city Melbourne matter more to decision makers than the livelihoods of communities in Northern Australia 

I want to ask ABC TV

Is it too much to ask for the positive side of live export to be shown in your prime time programs?

Is it too much to ask you to show the suffering you have helped to cause in Rural Australia to your city audience?

Are you afraid of giving informed industry representatives the chance to properly explain the animal welfare benefits of live export and the reasons the trade can never be replaced with a frozen meat trade?

Or would these actions provide too much "balance". 



Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Stockmans Re-View- Courtney Smiths Freedom Trader Intensive

Few people know this about me but I'm a forex trading tragic!

Forex is short for foreign exchange which I define as the insane act of trying to make money by swapping lots of borrowed money from one country for money from another country. Then you swap it back when the original pile of money is worth more.

It is a fact that 95% of the people who attempt this usually lose money and then give up, usually after being tricked by a slick salesman into thinking that forex is the worlds easiest 'get rich quick'. 

Many lose their entire account by breaking the golden rule of forex trading, never risk more than 1% of your capital. 

Forex is not a way to get rich quick, it is a method of making money that is limited first by your lack of dedication, knowledge and discipline and then by the effectiveness of the system you employ, not the other way round. Many people, (myself included in the past)struggle to come to terms with the fact that THEY are the reason they are not successful not the system they trade.

I am not going to paint myself as a guru here.

Overall I have lost money so far but that is swiftly turning around and I intend to be back at break even very soon. The last few months have been a steep learning curve for me but I'm back trading with real money every night and quickly replacing my losses.  My automatic trading account has yielded double digit returns so far this year and I expect it to go much further now the summer break is over in Europe.

It is my goal in life to own my own farm. It's a big goal and I'm fully aware that I need $1,000,000 plus before I can even contemplate buying a horse paddock given the current land prices.

Given the scope of my dreams, low risk/ low return investments are simply not an option. If I'm going to achieve the goals I have in mind  I have to double or even triple my money every year for the next 10 years.

In the current landscape you have to be a millionaire before you become a farmer.

Enter Mr Courtney Smith,

I read Courtney's book Trading Foreign Exchange early in the year and loved the strategies he presented, they are simple, elegant, easy to use and profitable. Courtney's explanation of the fixed fractional system for limiting risk has changed my trading for the better.

Initially I struggled to implement Courtney's strategies properly, more through my own poor dicipline rather than any problem with the system. Courtney's systems are easily traded in 15-30 minutes a day but the system only works if you work it!

Recently I've tidied up my act and attended Courtney's 'Freedom Trader Intensive' (FTI) seminar last weekend to further my learning.

The FTI focus's more on share trading but forex traders will not be disapointed. Courtney's stock picking method is superior to anything I have ever seen, I traded shares for four years and read 4 different books on the subject and I never came close to finding the common sense techniques I learned at FTI.

Courtney's fundamental analysis methods take every publicly listed company in the world and thins them down to a useable shortlist of around twenty to fifty "best of the best" international stocks. He then shows you how to cull your shortlist down even further to attain "the best of the best of the best".

Courtney then demonstrated how to properly time your entry into the market using proven technical (chart) analysis techniques like the famous 'Channel Breakout'.

The goal is to catch most of the metioric rise of the worlds most dynamic companies while limiting your risk and using your capital to the greatest effect by only having it invested in fast rising shares.

Courtney's portfolio for the year is up 53% so far and I think that result speaks for itself. If you need further evidence he also made several predictions.

His predictions included a sharp correction for Royal Gold (Nasdaq: RGLD) and for a "correction in the US market followed by a rally in the fall" I will be watching to see how these predictions play out.

I enjoyed the Freedom Trader Intensive and would recommend it to anyone who possesses a healthy risk appetite and desire to make money from a limited amount of capital. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My interview with ABC Rural

My interview with ABC Rural from the rural report (22/82012) set to pictures I took during the trip.

The picture featuring me shows me holding down a young bull that cut it's leg. In order to prevent the wound becoming infected we sedated the animal then washed, disinfected and dressed the wound with a bandage. He walked off the boat in Israel.

Another photo shows cattle resting contentedly on freshly laid sawdust while they chew their cud.
Don't believe everything the animal rights activists tell you, live export stockmen put a surprising amount of effort into caring for their animals and there is always two sides to every story.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Does my cat have a statistically better chance of surviving on a live export vessel than at an RSPCA shelter?

It's amazing what you find when you cut through the emotion surrounding live export and start looking at the hard figures. Live export boats are often accused of being "Death ships" and are branded "ships of shame" by one group of animal activists.

If you look at the 2011 figures for live export vessels on the DAFF website you will see that Australia exported over 3.3 Million animals that year alone. Sadly some 20,288 animals were lost but that means that 99.39% of all the animals exported arrive alive at their destination. Many of these animals do not just arrive alive, they put on weight. In some cases (Indonesia for example) the exporter is paid by the kilogram on arrival for the animals. It is therefore in the exporters interest to use the ship like a floating feedlot and to keep the animals in a contented condition so that they will continue to put on weight and be worth more money on arrival. Any animal that dies en-rout is also a big hit on profitability, hence the low mortality figures.

If you contrast the figures above with the figures provided in the RSPCA's 2010 to 2011 National Statistics the posturing about mortality's on live export vessels can appear ridiculous!

During this 12 month period the RSPCA euthanized no less that 37,177 Cats and 19,583 Dogs!

Together that's way over double the amount of animals that die on live export vessels.

Now of course some of those animals would be sick, injured, old or simply not fit to be re-homed but the devil here lays in what is not shown in the pie graphs of the statistics.

You see there is no representation here for animals that are held for too long or animals that could not be adopted in time but were otherwise healthy. The kicker is that 29% of dogs and 57.5% of cats were put to sleep while the RSPCA NSW branch alone made a whopping 12 MILLION dollar profit. How many more animals could have been saved or kept longer waiting for adoption with that money? 

Given the profits involved, the generous amount of money spent on the RSPCA's live export campaign, the RSPCA's other animals rights campaigns and the threats issued to fund political campaigns against an MP who spoke out in favor of live export it would be fair to ask if the RSPCA is doing enough to look after the animals entrusted to it's care. It is rather sad if your cat has a statistically better chance of surviving on a live export boat than at an RSPCA shelter.

The RSPCA's recent lurching into animal rights really comes up in the national figures with this little pie chart.

You see the RSPCA received some 54,398 cruelty complaints, choosing to prosecute only 275 and nearly half of those are livestock.  The RSPCA has an interest in prosecuting farmers wherever possible, farmers have land which they can be forced sell to pay fines and the RSPCA has recently been very happy to hop into bed with anti-farmer groups like Animal Liberation and Animals Australia.  Every cruelty case the RSPCA can publicize is a gift to the vegan lobby groups that happily portray one off incidents as common practice and farmers as cruel and ruthless industrialists.   

Lets not forget that the RSPCA is often consulted by government on ever tightening farm animal welfare standards in fact  few non government organizations have so much input into laws they are then entrusted to enforce. Farmers who abuse their animals deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law however it is worrying governments put so much trust into an organization that targeted farmers so heavily during the live export campaign last year.  
The RSPCA is a large organization with a vast reserve of money and political pulling power that will continue to target Australian farmers along with other fringe animal rights groups as long as we allow them too. You can make a difference everyday by donating to local shelters instead of RSPCA owned shelters, sharing this blog or others like it and spreading the word with friends.

If we don't fight, we lose.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

My First Journey As A Live Export Stockman - A Response For The Haters

First off let me say this. I was not paid any money or commissioned in any way, shape or form to write my article that appeared in Beef Central. I was paid the same wage as the other Australian stockmen aboard the boat representative of my previous experience as an outback stockman. I approached Wellard Rural Exports myself so I could see first hand what happened on a live export vessel.

Like I mentioned in my article I had been told terrible things happened aboard live export vessels by a high ranking member of Animals Australia.

My experience showed that person had no idea about the conditions aboard live export boats, perhaps because she had never done a journey on one in her life. 

I will leave the practice of paying bribes for stories up to the people on the other side of the argument. I can prove I wasn't paid but I would like to ask the animal justice fund how much this guy got paid. Thirty thousand dollars is a lot of money to buy the testimony of a disgruntled employee from a live export company or abattoir and I will leave it up to the reader to decide if such payments could actually encourage animal cruelty to be committed or exaggerated in pursuit of such a lucrative prize.

My article is frank and factual and it really is a shame animal rights activists see their cause as noble enough to make the truth irrelevant. 

Check out the live export moralities claimed by WSPA on the right hand side of this page (40,000) and compare them to the figure under fact number 2 here. (28,000!)

The actual figures are available on the D.A.F.F website and of course the WSPA is lying through their back teeth about how many animals died on live export vessels last year.

In fact I could spot several errors of fact on the WSPA page, the biggest porky pie being the ease with which we can replace live export with boxed meat exports. These reports are flawed with the laughable assumption that the rest of the world will pay current prices for boxed meat if we stop live exports.

Recent experience with Indonesia proves otherwise. Since the live export ban last year Indonesia has slashed boxed beef imports  along with reduced live export quotas. They are now sourcing illegally killed beef from India to make up the shortfall.

This means that instead of cattle being exported from Australia and killed in supply chain accredited abattoirs to OIE standards they are being hacked up by lawless backyard butchers in the back blocks of India and sold by criminals into our market.

The footage shown on Four Corners 'A Bloody Business' story was sickening and horrific. Thanks to the work of Lyn White, the exaggerations of the WSPA and the arrogance and ineptitude of Joe Ludwig those scenes no longer play out in four small abattoirs in Indonesia they play out every night in every backyard abattoir in India to every animal that takes the place of an ethically killed Australian animal.

It is a cold and uncomfortable fact that when we allow animal rights activists to interfere with industries they know nothing about the biggest losers are the animals.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thoughts on losing the farm

I suppose it's ok to put this up on the net now that it's common knowledge across the district. Scaddens Run, my families property for four generations, and my home, has been sold.  New owners will take over next year and I'll have to find a new place to live. 

The passing of an era in this way is unfortunately an all too common sight these days. Farm returns are far too low for my generation to make a go of things and still give our parents or grandparents a fair price when you consider land is often worth 40 times the gross returns it can provide in a single year.

For those of us that work the land, and then lose that land, there is a sense of loss that is difficult to quantify. It's not unlike losing a friend or family member. When we work the land we put our heart, our very soul into that land and when we lose that land a very large piece of ourselves goes with it.   

Life on the farm in these circumstances takes on a different feel, your no longer working towards goals and a future or managing improvements. You focus on maintaining the status quo while the days count down and you try not to talk about what we all know is coming. The atmosphere can feel like the house full of quiet relatives in the final days of a cancer patient. 

The day to day business goes on all the same. Feeding cattle all winter. A warm bale of hay to a cow is like a warm bowl of Nana's veggie soup is to me at lunch time, especially after an 11 degree morning in the sideways rain. Grandad has never believed in tractors with cabins so the oilskin is standard equipment while the cattle wait expectantly for you at the gate, they look up and almost say "thank you" through their mouthful of hay as you pass on your way back to the shed for another bale. With a bale of hay on the tractor your the most popular bloke on the farm. 

There are positive aspects to whats going on, Grandad has worked this place since his father bought it in the early fifties and both he and Nana are entitled to a real holiday, something I doubt they have ever had. The farm was sold for a reasonable price and I am thankful for that when I think of my friends in the north who have had their land values shattered in the last 12 months by the live export ban imposed by the government for only the governments sake. I often pray for the farmers up there, many of which are possibly in nearly as much debt as their properties are now worth. They face a far harder road than I, trying to save their life's work from the bank manager.

You see when a property is lost or sold or repossessed, when a farmer is driven from the land it is nothing like a man just losing his job. His entire family loses their home, their livelihood, the business they've built and a special lifestyle that few still enjoy in this country. When you see the effects from that perspective you begin to understand why so many farmers would rather take their own lives than surrender their farm. 

Dad stops by from time to time and we sit together with Grandad around the fire. In the flickering orange light I tend to find myself looking at my Fathers and Grandfathers hands and back to my own hands, similar but slightly less weathered. Hands that can build fences and fix machines, save lives and drive tractors, hands that can do any job on a farm you care to mention. Hands that for all their strength were never enough to save the farm. Even in the presence of strong men whom I deeply respect that fact can make that lump in your throat very hard to swallow.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Live Free, Or Die

I have always believed in my bones that some Australians, particularly our meddling inner-city Melbourne "ban everything" types, need to grow up and factor an element of common sense into our workplaces and  recreational activities. This guy says it that much better than I can.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Clipping DeRose's - a reply to an article in the Australian (25/2) live export is cruel and must be banned)

I would like to ask Mr DeRose if is article (the Australian 25/2)  was intended to be dishonest or to simply betray a willful ignorance of the facts. Mr DeRose declares that Australia is undermining the work of the OIE when in fact the new live export supply chains only send their animals to accredited abattoirs that meet OIE guidelines. Far from undermining the OIE the live export industry is actually creating real change in how animals are treated overseas. If you draw a line across a map of Australia from Townsville to Perth there are no abattoirs north of that line, meaning an instant ban on live export would require animals to be trucked thousands of kilometers south, a poor animal welfare outcome. Those opposed to live export often screech about killing the animals here in Australia but they make the assumption that Indonesia and other countries would buy the expensive boxed meat, a moot point considering Indonesia's recent slashing of boxed beef imports. The fact is Australia is now exporting animal welfare in a way that no other country, not even Mr DeRose's USA can match. A ban on live exports from Australia simply clears the way for countries with inferior standards to take our place and animal abuse to flourish. Mr DeRose joins the many other public voices here in Australia foolishly crying "ban live export, regardless of the animal welfare outcomes".

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fighting for our future - why I am an agvocate

A person whom I had never met face to face, a friend I had met through the 'save live export' facebook group called me just before the big RSPCA protest in Melbourne. She was having second thoughts about coming with my partner and I to counter protest at the rally and I could hear in her voice that she was very intimidated by the idea of being out-numbered a thousand to one at a very emotionally charged protest. (I don't blame her either)

"I just don't see how we're going to do anything worth while, there's so many of them, so few of us and they never listen anyway." She said.

Those of us who have fought this battle over the last eight months or so have often  asked ourselves why we bother. I've often wished for the days when we were allowed to farm without having to justify our existence to a group of people that would never take the time to walk a mile in our shoes for fear having to challenge their moral vanity "live export is wrong, I am right, end of story".

Often, when cornered by hard evidence like government reports that clearly prove the massive negative animal welfare outcomes of the changes these people push for or the non-viability of abattoirs replacing live export (Indonesia recently slashed boxed beef imports) they turn to abuse or twisting previous statements all out of context, forcing the argument over old ground and into a vicious circle of repetitive venomous argument.

The disturbing thing about this strange tactic is that it constantly exposes the fatal flaw in the arguments these people use. They don't care what happens to the cattle, the sheep or the farmer for that matter. To put it in the words of one protester "farmers should just sell all their farms and get real jobs"

Vegan lobbyist's only care about being right. Negative animal welfare outcomes resulting from vegan lobbyists pushing for changes in industries they don't understand are simply blamed on the farmer and I have no doubt that any sort of concession or compromise will only be rewarded with further demands. This has nothing to do with animal welfare, kindness or climate change. This fight is about the slow, deliberate crushing of an iconic Australian industry by slowly destroying markets and increasing our costs to gradually kill us off farmer by farmer.

My friend did come with us that day, she stood shoulder to shoulder with my partner and myself against roughly two thousand protesters, she kept her temper and gave a good account of herself arguing the issues back and forth with both the good and the ignorant people that were present on that warm August day. When she asked me the night before "what difference will it make" my reply was this.

Someday, and I hope that day never comes, your children may ask you "how did it get so bad?"
You can look away, maybe pretend you didn't hear the question or say "I don't know" or you can look them in the eye and say in all honesty "I did everything in my power to stop it, we fought them all the way."

One thing is certain, if we don't fight we lose.



Friday, February 17, 2012

Farmers - Stewards of the environment

It's that time of year again, the warm days and wet weather brings good times, fat cattle and weeds! Weeds are a serious curse down here in Victoria, one or two may look harmless but every thistle or ragwort that is left standing can spew forth thousands of airborne seeds over a wide area, seeds that are capable of surviving in the ground many years while they wait for favorable conditions to strike and multiply.

As a farmer you don't really think about how your management practices are perceived outside your local community but the recent live export debacle has shown me the increasing hostility that some city people are willing to show toward their country cousins.

So there I was bouncing the two wheel drive quad bike through the bush and I had to wish that maybe someone in the city would take the time to appreciate what I was doing. We've preserved close to a hundred acres of bushland on our property, bushland that is home to wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, echidnas and many other native marsupials. Some might say this land represents lost production, another fifty or a hundred head of cattle we could be running, another hundred acres of peas or potatoes. That hundred acres of bush also represents a cost, a hiding place for weeds and introduced animals like foxes, cats and rabbits that must be kept in check at our own cost.

To us that hundred acres of bushland is a cost we gladly bear.

Trees bring rain and help with retaining moisture, they are an important part of the ecosystem of our farm. Native shelter strips for our cattle also provide corridors for native wildlife to move about. One of the great perks of living in the country is waking up to find the wallabies mowing your lawn for you.

City environmentalists have managed to convince many of our city cousins that farmers are raping the land for all its worth, that livestock production and irrigation on the Murray-Darling can never be sustainable. These lies are taught in our schools and universities like they are cold fact and common knowledge.

I don't want a medal for spending my day wrestling this old bike through the scrub and spraying a few weeds. I want people to recognise that the modern farmer works in harmony with nature, if we don't nature will take us out. Without the work of farmers this land would be over-run with introduced weeds and pests and our regional towns would wither and die. As a farmer I'm proud to say I am a steward of my environment.