Groups mingle on day of action

Lauren Celenza and AAPCountryman

Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of Parliament House on Saturday as the for and against live export rallies mingled in the rain.

Farmers wearing Akubras and under umbrellas outnumbered the activists 600 to 80, as the crowd listened to WA politicians and cattle industry officials speak about lifting the Federal Government’s ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia.

WAFarmers had organised the counter rally in Perth to coincide with A National Day of Action, co-ordinated by those who oppose the trade.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said the strong turnout in support of the trade was indicative of the importance of live exports to WA’s agricultural sector.

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As part of A National Day of Action, several thousand animal welfare supporters across Australia attended rallies to call for the Federal Government to end all forms of live export.

At the rally in Perth, as speakers for the trade addressed the crowd, animal rights protesters chanted ‘Ban live exports’, sparking a counter-chant of ‘Support our farmers’.

WA Liberal MP Barry Haase said the situation had become a battle between “informed active producers” and the “ignorant populations of suburban Australia”.

“We have to teach a basic lesson that you can’t eat red meat without killing it first,” he said.

Mr Haase urged farmers and their families to bombard Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig with emails detailing their support for the trade.

He added that cattle should be stunned before slaughter in Indonesian abattoirs and the Federal Government had decided that electronic tagging was needed for all cattle exported live.

Saturday’s rally took place as WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman flew to Indonesia to discuss the re-opening of the live cattle trade with government and industry leaders.

“The WA Government has no tolerance for animal cruelty,” he said.

“But we also have no tolerance for Government decisions that needlessly disrupt food supply to valued customers, while also damaging Australian businesses and bringing hardship to Australian families.”

WA Nationals MLC Philip Gardiner said the ban could be rectified quickly and simply by using bar-coded ear tags on all Australian cattle.

“Once 100 per cent of cattle have tags we have full traceability, which can go through the Indonesian system,” he said.

“The Australian Government has contractual obligations (by approving intent to export notices) and needs to right this wrong.

“It has already agreed through the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) to the process of getting these cattle ready for export.

“The decision can be made today, and consultation should only take three days, and that’s as long as it should take, because everyone else is ready to act.”

Mr Gardiner said if compensation was deserved, it should be paid by the Federal Government.

“The Government through AQIS has approved the notice of intent to export, the management plans and the permission to leave and load, so each time it approves these things, commercial consequences incur and banning exports is against those contracts,” he said.

Live animal export opponent Sheila Morrison, of Perth, said she believed Government officials knew animal cruelty had been going on in Indonesian abattoirs but had not done enough to prevent it.

She said the only answer was a total ban on live animal exports: “If New Zealand can do it, why can’t Australia?”

Mippy Valentine, of Fremantle, said she wanted live animal exports to be limited to places where the care of animals could be controlled.

“Indonesian places don’t have animal rights; if they keep the animals here, it can be made sure that the animals die in a humane way,” she said.

Shelly Bentley, of Perth, said the footage shown on Four Corners was “upsetting and beast-like”.

“I don’t think that we should be part of animals suffering like that,” she said.

“It seems it is too hard to keep track of the animals, so the whole trade should be banned.”

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