Donna Laframboise sights two recent articles, the first by Christopher Booker the veteran, well known journalist for the UK newspaper The Telegraph called, How climate change has gotWorldwide Fund for Nature bamboozled. Very kindly the second article recommended was by myself and called, Can producers trustWWF to be accountable?
Christopher Booker writes about how far WWF has come from its formation in 1961 “for the admirable purpose of campaigning to save species endangered by human activity, it has morphed in the last 20 years into something very different, more akin to a multinational corporation.”WWF now, Booker writes, “is the largest, richest and most influential environmental lobbying organisation in the world.” WWF is gaining increasing revenues from partnerships with governments; using its iconic panda logo undertakes commercial activities and by emotional appeals to the public for funds to solve dire environmental problems as Booker says the “most fashionable and lucrative of environmental causes, the “battle to halt climate change”.
The opinion article, Can producers trust WWF to beaccountable, was published just days before Beef Expo 2012 in Rockhampton during which the Sustainable Beef roundtable seminar was held chaired by Guy Fitzhardinge, who also as a WWF Australia Governor is charged to “use their expertise, influence and networks to enhance WWF’s ability to achieve its programs in Australia and the region.” Those attending the seminar made it clear that there was little trust by beef producers of WWF’s involvement in the proposed formation of the Australia Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (ARSB). There was also the admission by WWF Australia sustainability manager Rob Cairns that not all of WWF’s campaigns in the past that impacted upon Australian beef producers were science based. An Agforce representative expressed their reservations and NT Cattlemen’s Association executive director Luke Bowen made some poignant observations.
Photo sourced Beef Central of Guy Fitzhardinge
The debate over the need for an Australian roundtable for sustainable beef and should Australian beef producers accept the involvement of WWF raged for most of 2012 starting in February when WWF placed an advertisement in Rural Press’s Queensland Country Life (QCL) for the position of Sustainable beef project coordinator. There were a number of articles in Australia’s online beef production publication, Beef Central and there was only a rare week when if there wasn’t an article about this issue, there was a letter to the editor in the QCL. Property Rights Australia (PRA) was very active providing well researched information into the debate and took the strong stand of no involvement with WWF. Senator Ron Boswell, retiring next election after a 30 year “remarkable career”, made two strong speeches to the Senate and was published twice on this topic at Quadrant Online which was subsequently published at QCL. Senator Boswell’s endeavours were not missed by prominent national opinion columnist Piers Akerman who wrote [this article] fully endorsed Boswell.
All this time the national organisation that is supposed to represent the interest of Australian beef producers, Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) ignored all criticism of its unreserved engagement with WWF and did not try to answer factual information presented into the debate that clearly showed the need for great caution. The one time that CCA did consult with beef producers about its future operations with the online survey, Your say beef 2015 and beyond; the highest number of responses was to the question about engagement with WWF with the overwhelming majority saying no.
In February 2013 Senator Ron Boswell wrote,
“primary producers and their peak organisations needed to take a united stand against plans by environmental non-government organisations (ENGOs) to influence their production methods.
"If environmental activists get their way, farmers will be paying thousands of dollars a year to get a 'green tick' just so they can continue marketing their products," he said.
"Groups like WWF and Greenpeace want to force all our primary producers into expensive certification schemes.
"They have started with timber and seafood and are moving into beef, sugar, cotton and other commodities as well. Grassroots producers and their representative organisations must fight these schemes or they will cripple primary industry."
"One of the ENGOs' most successful tactics has been to pressure companies occupying strategic positions in the supply chain, such as dominant buyers," he said. "For example, WWF is sitting at the head of the table in talks with the likes of McDonald's, our largest single buyer of Australian beef, and JBS, our largest meat processor, at the so-called Australian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. WWF convenes roundtables, such as that for design standards, which are ultimately certified by an independent third party. The participants then have to publicly commit to producing, buying and selling within these standards, to be part of the commodity roundtable, forming what WWF calls 'a chain of sustainability'.
"For farmers, it adds up to a lot of money. These are schemes that cost individual producers thousands of dollars for the initial certification process and then regular, ongoing costs for auditing.
"It's completely unnecessary because our primary industries already work sustainably, but it produces a river of gold for the ENGOs and their mates doing farm inspections and auditing.”
Central Qld cattle producer and PRA board member, Ashley McKay, in the March 7th issue of the QCL had a letter to the editor, featured as, Issue of the week. Ashley McKay congratulates Senator Ron Boswell’s “excellent and accurate denunciation of the WWF’s sustainability schemes” and gives examples of the multiple times WWF have been proven to have made grossly exaggerated, emotionalised claims in what Booker called the “most fashionable and lucrative of environmental causes, the “battle to halt climate change”. Donna Laframboise wrote that the world is waking up to the WWF but it appears not Australian farming industry bodies; Ashley continues:
“How much more evidence is needed for CCA and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to wake up and accept the Greens and WWF have promoted policies and actions damaging the cattle industry for some 20 years and cost us uncountable millions of dollars in lost production and diminished asset value.”
On the same day Ashley McKay’s letter has been published both CCA and ARSB chair and WWF Australia Governor, Guy Fitzhardinge issued separate media releases. They can be read in [this article] at Beef Central. Turns out to be a good news, bad news scenario; plans for the Australia roundtable for sustainable beef has been scrapped. This could be seen as a small victory for beef producers. However CCA are now joining the Global roundtable for sustainable beef.
If Cattle Council of Australia are awake they certainly aren’t listening. Why? Well you tell me and you can do so by commenting below. I have a theory but that will have to wait to the next installment.