ANIMAL welfare issues have taken centre stage at a meeting of Australian lotfeeders in Toowoomba today.
The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) Beefworks conference has heard from a host of speakers urging members to “get on the front foot” in telling the positive stories about their industry.
MLA’s manager of communications on animal welfare issues, Yvette Farrell, told delegates the activity and influence of animal activist groups was growing in Australia.
She said the feedlot industry should act quickly to thwart the growing threat from extremists, especially as their activities accelerate in the wake of the live export crisis in June.
Ms Farrell said activities involved in livestock production such as dehorning and castration, as well as lotfeeding were next on the hit list of groups determined to shut down the production of animals for food.
“It’s only a matter of time before we are under more scrutiny and we need to be ready,” she said.
Ms Farrell said lotfeeders also have an important role to play in changing negative community perceptions of the industry.
“The Australian community has traditionally had a strong affinity with farmers and maintains a healthy respect for farmers today,” she said.
“Recent research found that 93 percent of Australians believe farmers are ethical and trustworthy and 78pc believe Australian farmers are good caretakers of the land.
“It makes sense that Australian farmers and others who work in the livestock and agricultural industries are the most credible messengers of industry information.”
MLA has begun a series of workshops educating lot feeders and producers on strategies to better use social media, as a way to match the savvy PR arsenal employed by a growing band of animal liberationist organisations.
Ms Farrell said the beef industry in general was still lagging behind in the area of using new technology to communicate and shape public attitudes.
In conjunction with ALFA, MLA has produced several videos profiling the Australian grain fed beef industry and its commitment to the environment and animal welfare, which will be launched on a new ALFA YouTube channel.
These videos showcase feedlot operations with commentary and personal insight from industry members, vets and nutritionists highlighting the critical elements of feedlot operations and covers induction, animal health, the role of pen riders, nutrition, shade and the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme.
Today’s conference proceedings opened with a presentation from former Environmentalist of the Year, Arron Wood, who provided a snapshot of where the global economy and business was headed in a carbon constrained world.
Mr Wood, who earlier this week toured Kerwee Feedlot on the Darling Downs with ALFA president Jim Cudmore, said the standard at most Australian feedlots was so high that the time could be right to launch a coordinated advertising campaign promoting the industry’s benefits and the important role it plays in food production.
“One of the most important things for any industry to do is set long term visions and aspirational targets,” he said.
“As long as you can back up your claims then don’t ever discount the value of a well-executed advertising campaign. Coca-Cola didn’t become a household name through holding public meetings.”
The conference, which is held every two years to update lot feeders on the latest industry trends, continues today and tomorrow.