Anger over Fitzgibbon sheep slur

Zach RelphCountryman
Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon.
Camera IconFederal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon. Credit: Danella Bevis

Sheep producers have lashed Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon following “highly offensive” comments saying the live cattle trade puts more importance on animal welfare than their sheep counterparts.

Mr Fitzgibbon told ABC it was in cattle producers’ interests “that those cattle arrive at their destination in very good shape”, but it had “clearly not been the expectation of producers or others” along the live sheep supply chain.

WA’s agriculture sector was quick to fire back at the controversial comments, with lobby group The Sheep Collective saying that, since November, the last eight live sheep voyages had had less than 0.5 per cent mortality rates.

Corrigin sheep producer and Claypans Poll Stud co-principal Steven Bolt labelled it a personal attack on the nation’s sheep industry.

“It is extremely disappointing for a shadow agriculture minister to claim sheep producers don’t have high animal welfare standards,” he said.

“I find it highly offensive because Australia is a world leader in animal husbandry welfare.

“As sheep producers, we all strive to have the best animal welfare standards.”

WAFarmers livestock president David Slade noted ongoing work with government departments to promote the live trade’s transparency.

Mr Slade said shipping changes after last year’s Awassi Express drama reiterated the industry’s bid to improve welfare.

“The industry has welcomed independent observers on live export vessels, administered lower stocking densities, improved ventilation systems, and adopted the voluntary suspension during the summer months,” he said.

Mr Fitzgibbon did not respond to Countryman’s request for comment before Tuesday’s deadline.

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