It's unsurprising to me to see the rising swell of Australian's jumping on board the BAN LIVE SHEEP EXPORTS ship despite their conflicted goodwill towards our farmers.
I'm one of those people who feel sorry for the farmer and their family whose livelihood is wrapped up in the live sheep export business but then, on the other hand, feel angry that, once again, animals are being mistreated on such a huge scale.
Just one case of cruelty to animals is shocking. Indeed, one case of a tortured kitten or dog in backyard suburbia creates headline news and great condemnation – rightly so. However, thousands of sheep dying and gasping for air knee deep in their own shit is incomprehensible and can NOT be dismissed as "we need to do better next time."
The backstory of the live sheep export controversy
For those international readers or others who may not have heard about this horrible controversy here in Oz, what happened was back in July last year (2017) a ship filled with about 69,000 live sheep traveled from Fremantle in Western Australia to the Middle East.
Media reports have stated that on this single trip over 2,000 sheep perished due to heat stress and general neglect. The year before (2016) the same thing happened whereby over 3000 sheep died on the same sea journey of death.
About a month ago (as at the writing of this article) horrifying video footage obtained by animal welfare activists emerged on primetime TV showing dead and dying sheep struggling to breathe in overcrowded conditions. The video was verified to be from the most recent voyage (last July) and predictably caused a public outcry of epic proportion and even bigger than the last time…
As a consequence, the Department of Agriculture was tasked by the Government to investigate the live trade export industry – again – to ensure further animal welfare conditions were met on future trips to the Middle East.
Sheep are shipped over to Middle Eastern countries alive because of two main reasons: A – the people in these countries prefer to slaughter their own animals by methods according to religious beliefs (usually by means of cutting the throat without pre-stunning); B – apparently the lack of refrigeration in these countries means that pre-packaged meats are not a viable method of export.
Over the past few weeks, the Labor Party has vowed to cease the live export trade of sheep to the Middle East under a 10-year phase out plan developed by the current Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon. This stance on banning live sheep export has been condemned by livestock farmers and the current Coalition Government as rash and livelihood destroying for farmers specialising in mutton as there are limited alternative markets. However, with the likelihood of Labor winning the next election it might be prudent for some farmers to start considering a sea change now rather than be forced out of the live export industry in the near future.
Today, the the Government announced new rules for exporting live sheep, primarily, reducing the number of sheep allowed to be transported according to the expected climatic conditions, a mortality rate of more than 1% triggers an investigation, and mandating independent observers onboard the ship who will monitor the livestock and report back to the mainland daily on their condition/welfare. Also, tough new penalties have been introduced to deal with export companies, employees, and directors who are found guilty of breaking these rules such as lengthy jail terms and large fines.
Celebrate or commiserate the slow death of the live sheep export trade?
I understand the economics and investment involved in the Australian live sheep export market but, why weren't they onto this already?! How could the "system" let this happen over and over again until almost by accident a whistleblower captured footage that when shown publically shocked and sickened most Australians? Then the whole story finally comes out amid the outrage and we start hearing the truth.
Look, in my opinion, this behaviour is classic corporate arrogance typical of most large businesses these days. The banks; energy companies; big agriculture; big pharma; big supermarkets; big telecommunications, big healthcare insurance, big mainstream media, and even the big public service (deep state) are all way to BIG for their boots… There has to be more accountability for directors of these huge corporations and regulators must be given more power to advocate and protect the average consumer or in this case… sheep. It's too easy for these companies to say, oops… sorry about that, when they finally get caught out and then it's business as usual once the hype has died down. Nope, that culture needs to change quick smart.
Having said that (and just because I do have some sympathy for the farmer) doesn't mean I don't consider them partly responsible because I think they are – maybe I'm ignorant – but to lay the blame solely on the exporter and completely exonerate the producer as a victim seems a little generous. I mean, when we purchased our Russian Blue pet cat we had to prove to the seller that he was going to a good home so what does the farmer do to ensure the livestock they raised are treated fairly once they leave the farm gate?
If farmer Bumpkin Blindeye really knows what's good for his livelihood he should be ensuring whoever he sells his livestock to cares about them as much as he did!
And there's another issue that grinds on me. It's controversial, however, I still want to publically state it. Personally, I've worked and lived over in these Middle Eastern/Arabic countries and from my experiences, the way people routinely treat animals over there would get them prosecuted under animal cruelty laws here in Australia. That's just stating a fact… I've seen it with my own eyes.
I get that there are some rare circumstances whereby an animal must be slaughtered by a swift cut to the throat, but in the modern world, facilities or tools to stun the animal first are usually easy to obtain. This notion that due to religious beliefs animals should be killed slowly without stunning otherwise "the meat is not pure" is totally barbaric and only barbarians as thick as a brick with cruel black hearts would consider this practice remotely acceptable. What God would affirm such horrendous suffering wilfully inflicted on his own creatures in his name?
The whole business model of sending livestock overseas to these types of countries stinks of blood money and greed from the breeding of the sheep to the voyage of death right through to the dragging off the ship in the desert to being shoved in the boot of a dusty Toyota Corolla only to be slaughtered with a rusty kitchen knife outside in the street gutter of some strange Arab's home.
Yes indeed, this is Australia's livestock export trade's LAST chance and if they stuff this up, be assured the limited sympathy left in the community for livestock farmers will quickly become none… Australia's watching.
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