|Issue No. 245
|05 November 2004
What�s In a Name?
Interview: The Reich Stuff
Economics: Crime and Punishment
Environment: Beyond The Wedge
International: The End Of The Lucky Country
Safety: Tests Fail Tests
Politics: Labo(u)r Day
Human Rights: Arabian Lights
History: Labour's Titan
Review: Foxy Fiasco
Poetry: Then I Saw The Light
The Locker Room
Let's Start A New Party
Shearers Brush Woolly Mammoths
AWU state president and long-time shearer, Mick Madden, issued the advice as the National Farmers Federation dug in its heels against calls to have rams, as big as 170kg, sedated for shearing.
"This is an OHS issue and a serious one," Madden said. "Shearers should assess the rams they are confronted with and where they are big and dangerous, insist on sedation, or refuse to shear them on health and safety grounds.
"Selective breeding means some of these animals are 50 percent bigger than they were 20 years ago but shearers haven't been put through the same program.
"All this is compounded by the ageing of the shearing population. Farmers will pay for fitter, healthier animals but they won't pay the wages needed to attract younger people into the industry.
"Shearing is a dangerous industry, by its nature, and some of these rams multiply that problem."
The AWU says specifically-bred super rams are now twice as heavy as many shearers. On the basis that the average sheep run carries 20 - 50 rams, the union estimates farmers could sedate for a top figure of $25 a session.
Sedation, prior to shearing, has been carried out safely on sheep properties in WA and New Zealand. The AWU says reports from those users suggest injections affect animals for about an hour and have no side effects.
Last week, however, National Farmers Federation officials were doing the rounds of bush media outlets, railing against the prospect of sedation.
Madden, who was once knocked out by a ram in a NSW holding pen, says that response highlights the need for shearers to protect their own health and livelihoods.
"The Farmers Federation are whingers, it's what they do best," Madden says.
"Every time there is a move to attract younger people to the industry, they argue incapacity to pay, then spend the rest of their time complaining that youngsters don't want to shear their sheep.
"Now we have the NSW Farmers Federation arguing that shearers should live in tents.
"Shearers should take this matter into their own hands. They can't afford to be injured, their families can't afford it and, despite what the Farmers Federation might think, wool growers can't afford to lose them either."
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