Host: BMC Consulting
Written by – Blythe Calnan, Consultant, BMC Consulting.
Well Friday has arrived quicker than I expected, so welcome to my last blog for Central Station. Today I shall share with you the most important thing I have learnt in my work in the Middle East. Ironically, my work is not really about the animals, they are not the problem and they are not the solution. The most important thing, that determines success and failure, good days and bad is the people and the relationships I have with them.
People often ask how I go working as a woman in the Middle East, and mostly its not a problem. Often the people I work with have left their mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters at home in countries far, far away. Women bring a different perspective and attitude to situations and with a sense of humour, swag of courage, and a smile, it’s amazing how welcoming the world is. They are not used to working with women, their women generally play a different role in society, but not always the downtrodden, maltreated role that stereotypes would have us believe. Mostly I am initially a novelty, but treated with uttermost respect and appreciation for being there and helping out. Things can get heated, and tough, but we work through it and the Arabic hospitality is second to none.
In many of the markets I visit my weight, marriage, and child/less status is now topic for open conversation. ‘Miss Blythe you are nearly 30, soon your face will have crevasse, and no one will want to marry you’, luckily I must leave a fat (phat?!) memory, for the constant complement on my return is ‘Miss Blythe you were very fat before, now you are so thin’ despite being the same jean size for four years. Even those without a word of English will have a five minute conversation enquiring about how many babies I have and reciprocating with how many babies they have in Egypt, Bangladesh, or India. Thick skin and sense of humour a necessity. I have even been requested in market once, as ‘women caring for the sheep looks so compassionate’!
As in any business, relationships are important. In the Middle East particularly so. Long term change cannot happen without willing partners, and trust plays a big part in people willing to change. The cups of tea, walks around the feedlot and interest in who they are, what they do and how things effect them are essential in developing relationships that can develop change, and you can’t fake caring. At an abattoir where my predecessor was chased out of with a butchering knife when she first started visiting, we are now welcomed with open arms and treated as old friends.
Whilst working in the Middle East I have run into cattle from home, Yarrie Station, as well as some of my nearest and dearest friends. To be able to report back to them that their cattle are happy, healthy, and chewing their cud in a feedlot thousands of kilometres away from where they waved them off lifts me more than you can believe.
I consider it to be the Australian producer who I work for. I am multi skilled, exporters have adapted, but Australian producers are very limited to how much they can adapt to market changes. It is my job to help ensure Australian Producers have a market for their animals which meets Industry and Government expectations and give the Australian public assurance that we are taking animal welfare seriously.
I know people can find it strange that some animal lovers work with those destined for slaughter, but for me it’s not a hard call. There’s a world to feed, and our animals have been bred to provide nutritious, delicious protein. Just as animals have for the vast history of human existence. I’ll continue my work to ensure they have a content life and a death without suffering, and along the way share our skills with the world and improve global animal welfare.
Thank you to Central Station for giving me the opportunity to share my story, you guys have done an amazing job in providing a platform on which all the pieces of the puzzle can share their stories. Thank you to Central Stations followers for caring, and I hope you are all telling your stories as we have so much to learn from each other. Anyhow, if you see me around pull me up, call me over and have a chat. All the best, Blythe.