Yesterday, a small group of animal advocates opposed to live exports stood shoulder to shoulder with a larger group of people who have always been well at odds with us.
Stop Live Exports called for members and supporters to join us in presenting a message to Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Community Cabinet and Public Forum at Thornlie Senior High School, in the form of a well-signed and placarded group in front of the school gates.
There were less than 50 of us and although hard to accurately count, probably over 100 live export supporters.
There was one area for us to gather, and no way that the police were going to expend the energy and effort to separate us, so we mixed… we mingled… we stood in front of each other and competed to get our signs in front, but ultimately, we talked… and we listened.
There was some goading, there were some heated discussions, but for the most part, there was open and honest dialogue, the dispelling of some misconceptions, the exchange of business cards and even the exchange of a few jokes.
Pro-LE meet Stop LE at Thornlie. Photo: perthnow.com.au
I hope that some of the producers that I and some Stop Live Export members and supporters talked with felt heard and appreciated. We are not and have never been trying to ruin our primary producers – our farmers, pastoralists, graziers, growers… call them what you will – if they don’t exist, we don’t exist – I appreciate that they grow all the food I nourish my body with.
It became more evident to me yesterday than it has ever been, that they are just people trying to make a living doing what they love to do. I spent much of my childhood on my Uncle Ron’s sheep and wheat farm in Grenfell NSW – he was a crusty old bugger, but he had a heart of gold and I hate to think of him being in the situation now that many WA sheep farmers find themselves and wonder, were he still alive and living in WA instead of NSW, what would he do?
We are and always will be, passionately and vehemently opposed to exporting live animals, but there is and always will be in our lifetime, a demand for animal products; what we want to see is, the animals that are raised and slaughtered to provide those products treated as humanely as is humanly possible, and that does not include putting them on ships for three… four… five weeks to countries where we realistically have no control over their handling or slaughter.
Myself and Vanessa Williams, a long-time SLE member and live export opponent were registered for the public forum and Vanessa was able to ask her question of the Prime Minister. View the question and PM Julia Gillard's answer here.
We were very disappointed that the only mention of any animal welfare issues by the PM, were the ones exposed in Animals Australia & Four Corners’s exposé of the treatment of Australian cattle in several randomly selected Indonesian abattoirs. There was no mention of the nine serious animal welfare issues and/or ESCAS/ASEL breaches in Indonesia, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Israel, Pakistan or the plight of pregnant cows sent for slaughter in Mauritius.
I would urge everyone who feels strongly about the live export of animals, no matter which angle you are coming from, to stick to your guns, research the facts, speak only truth and listen also to the other side – we have a lot more in common than you may think. There has been initial contact between live export supporters and live export opponents, and several suggestions of coming together, joining forces and trying to address the concerns of both “sides” and lobby the government as one – create the best possible outcome for the animals and those who produce them.
We can’t eliminate cruelty, but I’m sure we can minimise it if we fight for what’s right and what’s required, rather than fighting each other.
Coordinator, Stop Live Exports