Livestock producers are calling for more input on animal welfare legislation as uncertainty looms over the agriculture sector’s future path.
Australian Stud Merino Breeders Association vice-president Jock Macrae said the current voluntary Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines are adding extra pressures to primary producers and forcing them out of the industry.
“The main concern we have is that it actually might put us in a position where we’re less competitive with our international market,” he said.
“It’ll actually drive producers off their farms or away from agriculture.
“We’ve got an average age of about 57 now and people are wondering about the future and if you put too much of a regulatory environment in there, people say it’s too hard and they’ll walk away.”
Mr Macrae said imposing regulations without the proper industry consultation would compromise the longer-term state of animal welfare.
“It’ll leave the people that do stay behind with a less competitive approach,” he said.
“It will fill our market with products of lesser animal welfare standards and we just don’t see that there’s any great outcome for either producers, for the nation, and particularly the animals.”
Mr Macrae said while “there’s no question” the National Farmers’ Federation provided representation during the consultation phase of the proposed guidelines, there’s a clear need for a more broad representation of industry.
“Anyone that’s been around in agripolitics for some time would realise you can’t rely on one organisation to bring the story to the table,” he said.
“There are a myriad of organisations out there and if you can get them together, and get some strategic direction you’re far better off than trying to push forward with an agenda while the rest of us are that busy trying to run our farms that it sort of washes over us.”
Mr Macrae said education is an important tool in bridging the “generational rift” between rural and urban communities.