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Farmers, activists rally over live exports
Mid-West farmer Michael Trant. Picture: Claire Tyrrell/Countryman

The debate over live exports will reach flashpoint on Sunday when farmers and animal welfare campaigners stage rival rallies in Fremantle.

Police have urged the groups to remain calm amid fears of violent clashes.

Farmers have targeted the Stop Live Exports rally as debate rages over the future of the industry after the brutal slaughter in Pakistan of more than 20,000 sheep from WA.

Walkaway sheep farmer Michael Trant organised the rival rally to draw attention to the plight of farmers who fear for their livelihoods from a ban on live exports.

Mr Trant, whose family has been involved in the live export trade for three generations, said interest in the rally had "exploded" yesterday.

"I've heard of buses being organised from Northampton, Morawa, Three Springs and Bunbury, plus everyone seems to know someone who is coming," he said in an email to supporters.

"The police have been in contact and are concerned. They will be very quick to act should things turn ugly.

"If you are planning on turning up looking for a stoush, don't bother."

Stop Live Exports supporters will dress in black and form a human chain across Stirling Bridge walkway.

The farmers will gather at Merv Cowan Park before forming their own line along the Swan River foreshore, east of the bridge.

Stop Live Exports co-ordinator Katrina Love said the group decided not to call off the rally after assurances the farmers would not go on to the bridge.

“Everyone has the right to protest but they seem to be protesting about our right to protest,” Ms Love said.

Ms Love said about 370 people attended last year’s rally and she expected the crowd to double on the back of a social media campaign supported by Animals Australia and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

She said the aim of Stop Live Exports was to reduce animal cruelty. It did not want an overnight ban on the industry but a process put in place to phase it out.

Mr Trant said Australia led the world in improving the treatment of animals sent overseas for slaughter.

Last month, export company Wellard complained to police about death threats made to staff. One email read: “Every single one of your staff had better watch their backs! I’m coming for you!”

Police made one arrest but the person was released without charge.

Ms Love said she would be contacting police about threats left on the Stop Live Exports website.