My husband and I operate a small cattle station south east of Katherine in the Roper Gulf, we supply animals to live export, they are bred for people to eat. We are a family concern with very simple aims, to make enough money to support ourselves without government reliance or financial assistance, to pay debts, replace machinery as needed and provide for the basic requirements of our family, animals and property. Our intention is to live and operate our property sustainably now and for the long term.
The live export ban hit us hard, not necessarily instantaneously financially but most certainly in regards to stress and personal worries. Financially it has been a slow creep, low stock demand, low prices etc, at the time of writing these are all looking much more positive. At one stage when the ban was announced (June 2011) I wondered if we were really looking at the beginning of the end of our cattle property ownership. How long could we last on our current reserves and at what point should we walk away, what would we have left. Without live export markets our property was virtually worthless, our animals would be sold domestically but in a market flooded with many others and then what! I assumed we would have to move to urban areas and find other work, possibly in mining, who knows, our family unit would certainly be broken up!
Due to our remoteness and my need to ‘do something’ after the ban I started a campaign of letter writing to politicians and through that started to look at facebook sites and cringe at the mis-information, accusations and downright attacks against producers, at that point targeting those who live exported but latter many directed at anyone who simply produced or used animals in Agriculture.
Our industry representative group the Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association (NTCA) called a crisis meeting on June 6 2011, which we attended. That same afternoon it was announced that Joe Ludwig (then Agriculture minister) had banned outright all live export of cattle to Indonesia. The announcement was I guess to 150-200 people, it was met with a stunned silence.
We had 300 cattle in a paddock intended for live export markets our only income budgeted for that year and it looked like they weren’t going anywhere. We wanted our animals pre-stunned, the leg casting and struggling we viewed on mishandling of cattle slaughtering and at times outright cruelty wasn’t on, it was bullshit and quiet honestly we were pissed off our animals would be treated that way. We wanted; no we demanded improvements in animal welfare practices in overseas markets for our cattle. That meeting of producers was unanimous, ‘no stun no deal’. Like I said we’re small, many others had cattle in the thousands and I know 3000 cattle were sitting in at least one pre-export yard outside of Darwin, the ship was actually in the wharf. All were now in limbo. Talk was trade wasn’t going to reopen until 2012. A thing called ESCAS was being developed, 2011 was assumed a write off. Trade did resume but very late in 2011, but the damage was done. We ended up only getting a small percentage of steers to live export due to competition and we sold others for a song just to maintain cash flow.
A few weeks after the ban NTCA organised a rally in Darwin, to call producers to attend and show their support. I was scared to be honest, I didn’t think many would go; It’s damn hard to drop everything and attend a function when running a place. I needn’t have worried, many travelled even further than us.
Other members of the crowd gathered in Darwin ‘Support live export, ban animal cruelty’ rally – June 2011 It was probably then I truly began to appreciate the ramifications of a live export ban, where-as before I had only been concerned with our immediate problems. Now I realised the ripple effect went on and on and on. From producer to service providers, stock agents, truck companies, feed suppliers, even retail in the towns stopped. One cabinet maker said his phones stopped ringing the day the ban was announced. Everyone was going to pull in the belts, because we we’re shitting ourselves, The knee jerk of the Labor government to implement the ban treated those in the North like crap and quiet honestly showed they didn’t give a damn about us then and it seemed many in the urban areas didn’t care or realise our situation while others openly rejoiced in it and our assumed bankruptcy.
My anger, indignation at the mis-information, intention that if I could support better animal welfare practices I would and need to tell our story got the better of me and I started on the facebook site ‘Save Live Export’, from that site I have become friends with people like Michael Trant, organiser of the #hadagutful rally, so many others who I hope to meet face to face one day, but have never met one of them yet. Very few are friends in the Katherine area though I’ve had the chance to meet some here. There is absolutely no doubt in the early days of the ban all these people were a lifeline for me, they gave support, friendship and comradeship. That support is highly treasured and invaluable to this day. They also made me see that ‘sulking’ wasn’t going to help, I could go in and bat to fight for what I believed. That better animal welfare is possible and attainable in live export or get the hell out. So with my computer and internet overload in meltdown I have tried to get my story, views and information out there. One good thing, is I don’t watch much TV anymore. I write, read and research instead.
I continue with the blog, facebook and support of others in Agriculture now because I believe these the Agricultural people are generally good, honest, caring people, and I’m proud of their and my families achievements throughout the years.
I have come to realise I have a quirky interest in the finite details of stats and facts, to me they tell a story, I just have to find them and connect them to enable, I hope empowerment to others to use if they wish. I can’t help but wonder that if I had some of the information I have now back when the ban occurred much of the mis-information could have been stopped right then and there. Allowing for possibly a more balanced view to be seen by many, but it wasn’t. Though I am thrilled with the uptake of social media by farming/producers/agriculture since that time.
I actually don’t have a problem with people wanting to ban live export, to me it’s an opinion thing, your choice, but if you do then you better be able to tell me realistic ramifications of the ban on animals and people here and overseas because if you don’t understand those ramifications or haven’t bothered to converse with people who will be affected then I don’t think you are making an informed choice. Some say I come across as passive aggressive when challenging people on their knowledge, well tough no apologies, if your want to send me broke and destroy my family, animals and property then be sure as a night follows day I’m going to want to know if you can comprehend what live export ban consequences are.
On Sunday the #hadagutful rally is being held in Fremantle, in support of live export. I support positive animal welfare improvements, animal welfare research and development but most of all I support the people who implement those practices, the other producers, the scientists, the vets, the people involved with implementation of training and education in Indonesia and many overseas markets. I support Live animal export.
My sincere appreciation to the organisers of the rally, I know they have been through tremendously difficult times too.