Live export ‘several steps closer to the graveside’: media guru

Zach RelphCountryman
The Awassi Express berthed at Fremantle Harbour.
Camera IconThe Awassi Express berthed at Fremantle Harbour. Credit: Seven News

The marketing strategist who dubbed Australia’s live sheep export industry “a dead man walking” has given little hope to the trade restoring its social licence, instead saying it is “several steps closer to the graveside”.

Communications specialist Toby Ralph’s blunt description of live exports being a “dead man walking” shocked the Pastoralists and Graziers Association convention in September last year.

Mr Ralph used the seminar as a platform to outline his view for the sector to improve its public image in an attempt to survive growing animal activist pleas and Federal Labor’s promise to cease the trade.

Speaking with Countryman more than three months after issuing the warning in Perth, Mr Ralph acknowledged the industry had made a concerted effort to endorse changes promoting animal welfare.

However, Mr Ralph maintained the trade’s funeral was looming.

“The live sheep export industry continues to dither its way to death,” he said.

“Yes, there have been some positive changes but aside from these being too limited, just like justice, welfare changes must not only be done, they must be seen to be done.

“And they haven’t been.”

After Mr Ralph’s comments, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council announced on December 4 the industry would endorse a three-month moratorium on voyages to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer.

The decision, seen by industry as a proactive approach to restoring public confidence in live exports, was ultimately rendered redundant less than 10 days later when a heat-stress risk assessment draft report was released on December 13.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources-backed document into sheep welfare proposed extending the northern summer definition to six months, from May to October, and banning all live sheep exports during the period.

DAWR plans to enforce its proposals this year.

Mr Ralph said the live sheep trade’s social licence could still be restored but industry figureheads and leaders had to make bold investments to ensure it happened.

“There’s still a tiny chance of repair but, frankly not if it’s unfunded by industry, and not if it’s managed by the people who’ve tried to fix it so far,” he said.

“The industry remains a dead man walking, it’s just several steps closer to the graveside since I last talked about it.”

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