Rally to support live exports

Rebecca TriggerCountryman
Camera IconCredit: Lara Ladyman/Countryman

People must rally to support live exports or risk the WA sheepmeat market becoming a "boutique industry", station holder Michael Trant says.

Mr Trant, who runs about 12,000 ewes on Gabyon Station, has made an impassioned plea for all involved in the industry to show their support at a major rally in Fremantle this Sunday.

"The numbers will just keep declining, we'll become a boutique industry instead of a main one," he told the _Countryman _.

"You have to keep the numbers to keep the economies of scale so the processors and exporters have enough sheep."

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Mr Trant said he was forced to sell two properties earlier this year after markets were decimated by new regulations under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme.

Sheep breeders may be forced to shoot excess stock again this year as demand plummets.

Mr Trant said ESCAS was here to stay but it needed to be refined.

The station holder said he had heard horror stories of abattoirs being audited every 10 days because every supplier had to be accredited.

Red tape was strangling what was left of the market.

"It's probably had to happen but the way it was put in was effectively overnight," Mr Trant said.

"There wasn't enough homework done on the impact on exporters."

Stud Merino Breeders WA Kevin Keatley said ESCAS needed to be kept in place but time was needed to allow it to be tweaked.

"The fundamental welfare issues and the gains that it has made are very important," he said.

"If we're going to continue to trade in these ways, we need to be able to keep the momentum rolling in animal welfare."

Mr Keatley said global demand for meat was large and if markets could be freed up, the sheepmeat industry would remain strong.

Industry groups had approached the Federal Government to reform areas of duplication and red tape, he said.

But Stop Live Export campaign co-ordinator Katrina Love said recent reports of animals slaughtered outside the ESCAS chain showed anti-export moves could not afford to be weakened.

But she sympathised with the plight of farmers unable to find a market for their product.

Ms Love said local abattoirs were needed to provide an alternative to a trade she described as "inherently cruel".

"I know they all say it's impossible, the abattoirs have closed down, but we used to do it, we've only effectively been live exporting for 40 years," she said.

"We're not there demonstrating against farmers or pastoralists or graziers or primary producers or farming, we're there representing the widespread community opposition to this trade and the ongoing cruelty and abuse that is evident and is not being fixed by ESCAS."

This Sunday will be the second year Fremantle will host tandem rallies for and against live export.

Mr Trant has asked supporters to gather at 9am at Merv Cowan Park in East Fremantle.

Anti-live export protestors will gather along Stirling Bridge.

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