MLA aims for ‘positive engagement’

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Live export was a hot topic at the WAFarmers meat section conference last week.

Some of the reasons and outcomes of last year's suspension were discussed by the RSCPA and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) leaders who, more or less, agreed to disagree.

RSPCA national president Lynne Bradshaw said the suspension of trade to Indonesia was due to public and political backlash after upsetting images of cattle being mistreated was aired on television. It was under this pressure that Mrs Bradshaw said that she backed the Government's decision to suspend trade.

She told the conference that the Four Corners program was the first time that the public identified with cruelty to individual animals.

Mrs Bradshaw said the organisation she represented was not trying to put livestock producers out of business, nor take food away from tables.

"We should be considered as police, looking after the welfare of all animals," she said. "We represent the mainstream viewpoint, not that of vegetarians or militants."

She argued that the RSPCA worked on a scientific basis.

Stating that WA exports 80 per cent of its cattle into the live export trade, Mrs Bradshaw said the State should lead the way by obtaining better outcomes for animals across the supply chain.

But, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) managing director Scott Hansen, the RSPCA remains opposed to the export of live food animals for immediate slaughter, or further fattening, and advocated the adoption of chilled and frozen meat only.

He said that together with industry, MLA would continue to attempt to positively engage with the RSCPA and work toward the shared goal of improving the welfare of all livestock raised, handled, transported and processed in Australia.

Mr Hansen told conference delegates that after the Australian live cattle trade to Indonesia was suspended for six weeks in June, action by MLA was taken to minimise the risks on the industry.

He said producers and exporters and others in the supply chain needed to be better equipped so they could be their own advocates in these matters.

"The strongest message that best resonates with the community are from those producers and exporters with 'skin in the game'," Mr Hansen said. He said MLA would continue to invest in expertise to assist livestock exporters to secure their market access around the globe.

"MLA has also worked to clarify industry roles of government, commercial supply chains, industry and service companies such as MLA," Mr Hansen said.

He said MLA's core business was to make investments in marketing, research and development (R&D) that created opportunities for livestock producers and added value to their business.

He said from 2000 to 2009, MLA invested about $173 million, which delivered returns to industry conservatively valued at $815 to $994 million. Mr Hansen said 20 per cent of beef producers in WA were now registered for MSA, and supplied eight processors.

"The MSA program continues to grow, with estimates of over 1.6 million cattle and 2 million lambs to be graded this financial year (2011-2012) - up from 1.42 million cattle and 870,500 sheep last year," Mr Hansen said.

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