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Crean highlights red meat industry’s shared social challenges

AUSTRALIAN Livestock Exporters’ Council chairman, The Hon Simon Crean, has challenged all members of Australia’s livestock and red meat supply chains to share a proactive and transparent response to ongoing social licence challenges.
Mr Crean, a guest speaker at the Australian Meat Processor Corporation’s inaugural conference in Sydney last week, said processors and livestock exporters shared key imperatives around community support and that there was great scope for further collaboration across different supply chains in Australia’s red meat sector.
“Livestock exports form part of total off-farm value of Australia’s red meat industry worth almost $18 billion annually to our economy, according to ABARES. The red meat industry is now Australia’s largest value-added manufacturing activity,” Mr Crean said.
“And livestock exports are approaching $2 billion in annual worth ($1.782 billion in FY15-16), making the live trade one of Australia’s top 10 agricultural exports.”
Mr Crean said independent analysis by EY of Australia’s livestock export industry indicated the livestock export sector generates employment for up to 10,000 Australians per year, the majority of which was in regional and rural Australia.
“The economics behind Australian livestock exports and its role within the red meat industry supply chain are strong, but it is important to accept that Australia’s livestock export industry relies as much on the right social settings, as it does on its economic drivers,” Mr Crean said.
“But this doesn’t just apply to the live trade. For the major banks, the issue of social licence must be acknowledged and incorporated into how it deals with its issues across customer, community, regulator and government interface.
“And what the greyhound industry has experienced recently with regard to its social licence was defined through a perceived lack of community support which translated into political over-reaction.”
Mr Crean said such examples provided lessons for the livestock and red meat sectors of how social licence needed to be incorporated into industry operations.
“Social licence isn’t just something you instantly create. Like anything of value, it’s an asset that is built, defended and protected,” he said.
“With this in mind, the Meat Industry Strategic Plan 2020 identifies animal welfare as the biggest ongoing and future challenge facing Australia’s red meat industry, and seeks to address the associated risks head-on.”
“A crucial element to this is building a new trust with the community, and incorporating into that trust a renewed social licence.”
Mr Crean said that the steps to help build trust that have been taken by Australian livestock exporters were applicable to the broader livestock and red meat industry.
“Our commitments to identifying and controlling risks in the supply chain and embedding greater transparency and traceability throughout the trade, including via the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), has been vital,” Mr Crean said.
“Building integrity has been pivotal, because whenever exporters proactively report supply chain breaches and work with the regulator and in-market partners to take corrective actions or apply sanctions, it shows our commitment to accountability and our support for ESCAS.
“The third pillar in building community trust is a willingness to engage with key stakeholders, including activist groups and other organisations generally critical of the live trade. This shows that even if we disagree on some points, we are genuinely interested in what they have to say and committed to ongoing, meaningful dialogue.
“None of this has been an easy path for the industry given commercial imperatives and past relationship experiences, but it is a path we are committed to.”
Mr Crean said that such steps had enabled the livestock export industry to become better communicators, with compelling, evidence-based stories highlighting progress in the trade.
“In our communications efforts, we’ve got to be transparent about our dilemmas or short-comings, but also proud of our efforts to transform international welfare standards and practices, and our commitment to continuous improvement,” Mr Crean said.
“We need to publicly reinforce our commitment to a ‘no fear, no pain’ objective in the management of animals in our supply chains.
“And we need to continue to communicate what we are doing in our role as a reformer in modernising the global livestock trade and the obligations that come with being recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as the world leader in animal welfare practices in the livestock export trade.”
Mr Crean said that despite the progress made in Australia’s livestock trade in recent years, the industry recognised there was still significant improvements to be made.
“Since the implementation of ESCAS in 2011, the industry’s in-market programs have delivered training to 11,000 participants across our international markets,” he said.
“This is helping to deliver the ongoing improvements we’ve prioritised and confirms that we’re not just trading livestock as a commodity to our overseas customers – we’re also exporting animal welfare services, infrastructure and skills, which is something we are rightfully very proud of.”

Media Contact: Tom Dawkins (0476 844 886 or media@livexcouncil.com.au)