HIGH PROFILE mining and agriculture mogul Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest has burnt some big bridges in one of his key investment industries, Australian beef, by doubling down on his attacks regarding animal welfare standards.
After taking full page advertisements in metropolitan newspapers across the country in which he issued a public challenge to rival beef exporter JBS to 'do better' in preventing pain and suffering of animals, Dr Forrest has extended his claims to the entire Australian beef processing sector.
He told ABC's Landline the whole of the beef processing industry in Australia and worldwide "really don't have great standards when it comes to the final 50 metres of an animal's life."
And he was sure 'every beef producer in our beautiful country' feels the same.
"It breaks a lot of hearts to think those animals they've kept all their life are going to be treated cruelly and have extreme stress and extreme fear," Dr Forrest said.
The law here could well fall short of what you or I would think was okay, he claimed.
Agforce cattle board president Will Wilson said those comments were 'wrong in so many ways'.
They were totally ignorant of the world-leading standard under which processing operates - the Australian Animal Welfare Certification System, Mr Wilson said.
They also risked unfairly dragging the reputation of an entire industry through the mud, he said.
Further, Dr Forrest's strategy was morally questionable, he said.
"If he is looking for brand difference in the 'no pain, no fear' concept, that's fine but it's not okay to denigrate the rest of an industry, unjustly, in the process," Mr Wilson said.
"Our animal welfare practices are global best practice, we are constantly scrutinised by customers and enormous effort and resource goes into animal welfare."
Cattle Council of Australia president Markus Rathsmann said CCA had no evidence of substandard animal welfare practices occurring in the beef supply chain.
"Producers expect high animal welfare standards are followed for the entire life of our cattle," he said.
"Producers care for our animals, and how they are treated beyond the farmgate. For that reason, CCA played a key role in developing the industry standards on how animals should be looked after right through the supply chain.
"There is a lot of rigour in those standards."
Mr Rathsmann made the further point that well cared for, unstressed animals at slaughter deliver a far better quality product.
Dr Forrest has a beef processing business, Harvey Beef in Western Australia, along with an aquaculture business Harvest Road.
He is also a part owner of Tasmanian salmon producer Huon Aquaculture, which JBS is looking to acquire.
It was this move by the world's largest protein company that initially sparked the Twiggy attack in relation to animal welfare, and many in the beef industry believe it is just part of a strategy to position Harvest Road as a better takeover candidate.
The processing sector's peak group, the Australian Meat Industry Council, said the AAWCS had been in operation for a decade, was independently audited, annually and comprehensively, and went far above minimum animal welfare standards.
It covers everything from processing staff being professionally trained in low stress handling techniques to facility and equipment design that ensures minimal interference and stress to livestock. Processing has to be carried out only in accredited humane and effective ways.
AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said its trademark was utilised in Australian supermarkets and recognised in export markets to underpin commercial brands.
The processing sector was extremely open and transparent and willing to answer any questions on how it managed animal welfare, he said.
"We exceed requirements around animal welfare held by industry, by governments and by the community," he said.
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