Passions high at export rallies

Jane Rickard and Phoebe WearneCountryman

Fed-up with the constant attacks on the live export trade, pastoralists, farming families and others reliant on the trade flocked to Fremantle on Sunday to make their voices heard.

They were there to counter a protest against the trade by Stop Live Exports - an annual event that this year saw about 1000 people line the Stirling Bridge calling for the trade to be banned.

Traffic was brought to a halt as cars honked horns and yelled in support of both sides.

Despite simmering tensions and several young supporters of the live trade industry running across the bridge to rev up the crowd, police made no arrests. Two move-on notices were issued.

A convoy of road trains covered in pro-live export banners travelled slowly across the bridge during the hour-long rally, sparking anger and verbal threats from the Stop Live Exports crowd, which had been promised sole occupancy of the bridge for their protest.

Stop Live Exports rally organiser Katrina Love said the protesters on the bridge were "fired up", particularly because of the counter-rally.

"We have to show that we are the majority who are opposed to the cruelty of live exports," Ms Love said.

For Walkaway farmer and pro-live export rally co-organiser Michael Trant, what began as an email to industry colleagues and friends about standing up to the animal welfare activists turned into an unprecedented groundswell of support.

Mr Trant said he was stunned by the thousands who turned up in support of the industry at relatively short notice - and during the busy harvest period.

"The first email went out three weeks ago just on the quiet and the response was that big," he said. "This isn't what farmers do; we don't do this sort of thing, ever.

"I hope this is the start of something - this isn't where it ends, this is where it starts."

Many young protesters turned out for both sides yesterday.

Cloverdale teenager Ainsley Palmer, 17, took part in the stop live export rally.

"I'm vegetarian and really love animals," she said. "It was good seeing all the support. I wasn't expecting this many people."

Ben Mills, 22, is the third generation of his family to run Warrawagine station near Marble Bar and made the 1500km trip to Perth with his partner, Caitlin Uren, to show their support for live trade.

The station exports between 4000 and 6000 head of cattle each year and relies on the trade for up to 90 per cent of its income.

"We thought we were a quiet voice but as you can see, we're a force to be reckoned with," Mr Mills said.

"Everything outside the Perth CBD is farming country. I think people underestimate how many of us there are out there.

"We don't like animal cruelty. We are animal lovers."

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