May 04, 2015
Having social licence to operate requires Australian dairy to be proactive, honest and willing to change practices. Likened to building up a bank of goodwill and trust that can be drawn on from consumers, customers and the community when issues arise, social licence is what we continue to maintain and grow as an industry.
At the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria’s (UDV) Annual Conference held in Melbourne on 29 April, social licence was placed at the top of the agenda and a range of issues were discussed and debated, including animal welfare.
Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) Egg Group President and established national egg wholesaler, Brian Ahmed spoke to the conference of 100 delegates about his personal dealings with animal activism.
Mr Ahmed also spoke about the growing disconnect between rural and metropolitan communities being a reason for “big business” animal activism today, and the importance of agricultural commodities uniting together to communicate our animal husbandry and production practices directly with the community.
“These days it is very easy for city-dwellers to assume they know everything about farming through Google...the only way we’re going to get our message out there is by doing it ourselves.
“We need to start campaigning now by focussing on doing the ‘right thing’ and ‘proving it’ in order to change the perceptions of the community five to 10 years down the track,” Mr Ahmed said.
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) CEO, Alison Penfold also shared her industry’s experiences with animal activism following the fallout from the ABC Four Corners feature story, “Another Bloody Business” in 2011. Depicting disturbing animal cruelty footage captured in Indonesian abattoirs, the feature ignited public outrage and prompted the Federal Government to place a ban on live exports to Indonesia.
Ms Penfold explained when ALEC failed to face many of the industry’s emerging issues at the time, they fell short of the Australian community’s expectations and left them with the view the live export industry was uncaring towards the animals in its charge. However, since then ALEC has been working hard to earn back the community’s trust.
“The biggest challenge is taking the community along with us. Transparency can be scary at times, but it is also imperative if we are to be honest with ourselves and those around us.
“It’s so important we openly acknowledge where we are now and where we would like to be. By simply telling the positive stories, you can be accused of ‘spin doctoring’,” Ms Penfold explained.
Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) President, Noel Campbell who also presented at the conference, spoke about phasing out calving induction as an example of how the Australian dairy industry is proactively working to meet community expectations.
“As a farming community, we understand calving induction has played an important role in breeding management on our dairy farms, and that this enables us to perform more efficiently. Yet it is no secret that many consumers find induction and its consequences to be unnecessary.
“The phase out of calving induction is high on ADF’s agenda and we are committed to working with farmers to help make this transition,” Mr Campbell said.
Other aspects of social licence discussed included use of genetically modified crops and mining of coal-seam gas on productive farms, which Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF) Executive Director, Dr Peter Stahle provided the dairy processors’ perspective on.
L-R: SADA President, David Basham, VFF Egg Group President, Brian Ahmed and UDV President, Adam Jenkins enjoying breakfast at the UDV Annual Conference.
ADF President, Noel Campbell: Working to support dairy farmers in actively phasing out calving induction .
ALEC CEO, Alison Penfold: Sharing the livestock industry's experience with animal activism.