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.