A senate hearing on live cattle exports highlighted the need to address the city-country divide, Nationals Senator Fiona Nash said.
The hearing in Darwin was part of the Rural Affairs and Transport senate committee inquiry into animal welfare standards in Australia’s live export markets.
It heard the Gillard government’s suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia has had far reaching impacts on farmers, the industry, businesses and communities.
“The Gillard government was more interested in appeasing city based critics and animal welfare groups for political reasons, than sensibly addressing welfare concerns,” Senator Nash said.
“There are big concerns about jobs losses and the ability to rebuild the workforce once the industry recovers. We were told this could take years.
“Stress, anxiety and depression levels are also very high. We heard there are many families who have no income to pay bills and are hanging on financially through the goodwill of banks. Some are being harassed by debt collectors.”
Senator Nash called for a campaign to educate city people about agriculture, its significance to the economy, and where their produce comes from.
“There is no doubt that there is a simplistic view without thought of the ramifications,” she said.
“Lobbying to shut down the live cattle industry is an example. It’s putting people’s livelihoods at risk and threatens the welfare of cattle as farmers struggle to afford the cost of feeding and watering them. I’d like to know if the RSPCA, Animals Australia and their members have offered to help,” she said.
“There needs to be greater respect for farmers. Where else does fresh produce come from? Certainly not the supermarkets.
“Something must be done to seriously address the disconnect between city and country people.”
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