Sixty Minutes - 28th March 2004

Transcript: End of the line
Reporter: Richard Carleton
Producers: Howard Sacre
dead sheep
More fears over the live animal trade

INTRO — RICHARD CARLETON: After the Cormo Express fiasco, well, I thought that was it. More than 5000 sheep died on that ship, a disaster of a voyage from beginning to end. Now, it caused uproar here and overseas and prompted a government review of the whole live sheep export trade. After that, well, what more was there to say? Well, that was before I went to Kuwait, in the Persian Gulf. Now tonight, you too will have a rare opportunity to see what happens to these Australian sheep after they arrive in the Middle East. It's the end of the line, a multimillion-dollar marketplace where animal welfare isn't a high priority.

STORY — RICHARD CARLETON: On a beautiful day in Devonport, Tasmania, some of the locals are getting ugly.

PROTESTER: We're going to bring a ban to this hideous trade and as far as we're concerned...

RICHARD CARLETON: The Al Shuwaikh, capacity 85,000 head, was about to sail for Kuwait in the Middle East.

PROTESTER: It's a slow death for them and the trip across is worse than death.

RICHARD CARLETON: Those Devonport sheep arrived here in Kuwait after a 24-day voyage. Then they travelled down this desert highway to this feedlot. Now, conditions here are good, very much in line with what they call world's best practice. Australia gets about $1 billion a year from the live sheep and cattle trade. This is Kuwait, our biggest customer, and that big needle over there is what they built at the end of the first Gulf War to celebrate the expulsion of Saddam Hussein from here. It's what happens to our sheep after they leave the Kuwaiti feedlot that has the animal welfare groups upset. One such group, Animals Australia, came here late last year and filmed undercover. Their first stop was the bustling Al Rhy live animal market.

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LYN WHITE: My role in doing this is to bring back evidence, footage of what's happening to our animals overseas, and then allow our farmers to make their own decisions.

RICHARD CARLETON: After 18 years in the Adelaide police, Lyn White now gathers evidence for the welfare lobby group Animals Australia.

LYN WHITE: These animals that we're watching came off the Al Kuwait and by the time that they had reached Kuwait City, a thousand of these animals had died just during that voyage, which shows how stressful it is. And then at the end of the day they're subject to practices which are not acceptable in Australia.

RICHARD CARLETON: About two-thirds of the sheep we send here are sold to butchers and supermarkets. The rest go to the live market, where buyers come to inspect and select a live animal. As you can see here, local sheep are subject to some pretty rough handling and as you'll see later, Australian sheep are treated much the same way.

LYN WHITE: As you can see here, we've got three sheep being shoved in the back of a boot and about five attempts to get the boot shut on them.

RICHARD CARLETON: Look, I'll agree with you that it's unpleasant, but is there much difference between putting the sheep in the boot of that Chevy, I think it was, or throwing it on the back of a ute?

LYN WHITE: Well, certainly. I mean, the animals are being shut into a confined space where there's limited air and there's three of them in there, gasping away.

RICHARD CARLETON: Usually when a local buys a live sheep, he brings it to a place like this to have it slaughtered and butchered to order. Fresh, not frozen meat, is what this trade is about. So half an hour later, that sheep is in a shopping bag and on its way again. The sheep being dragged across the concrete by its back leg, frankly, I don't think that would hurt the sheep very much at all.

LYN WHITE: Well, it's unnecessary, for a start, and to the majority of people, I would suggest, that it is unacceptable to be handling animals like that. There is no way that we can ensure the standards of welfare of animals that have been born and bred in Australia when we send them overseas.

RICHARD CARLETON: So the extension of that argument is that we have a responsibility to the animals after we've sold them.

LYN WHITE: Oh, absolutely!

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RICHARD CARLETON: When we came to Kuwait to see all this for ourselves, the Information Ministry banned us from filming at the markets. But we did shoot some pictures and then showed everything to an independent expert on animal handling.

TEMPLE GRANDIN: Shoving sheep in a boot of a car is not an acceptable way to handle sheep and tying up their legs with wire is not acceptable.

RICHARD CARLETON: American Temple Grandin has been responsible for a revolution in the worldwide management of food animals.

TEMPLE GRANDIN: Now I want to talk about some basic animal behaviour principles.

RICHARD CARLETON: As a veterinary scientist, she's paid to advise and even lecture big food companies such as McDonald's.

TEMPLE GRANDIN: And one of the things you never, never want to do with sheep is pick them up by the wool.

RICHARD CARLETON: Dr Grandin says there's a major difference between our sheep, bred on large stations, and local sheep, that have much more contact with humans.

TEMPLE GRANDIN: The stress that you get from an animal that's not used to people can be really tremendous, because it's just fear stress, okay, I've talked about all the stress, it's fear stress, and those Australian sheep, they're going to get scared a lot more easily than a local sheep that's used to people.

RICHARD CARLETON: Now Kuwait is tiny, about a quarter of the size of Tasmania. But it has a huge appetite for our lamb. This is the Kuwaiti equivalent of a Sunday roast.

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What's good about Australian lamb?

KUWAITI WOMAN: The smell is different, the colour is different.

RICHARD CARLETON: Different better or different worse?

KUWAITI WOMAN: No, Australian's the best.

RICHARD CARLETON: Lamb is a basic staple here and the government fixes the price, the equivalent of $3.50 a kilo. At that price the livestock transport and trading company says it's losing money, but it's a government-owned business, so the state wears the losses. Mr J K Ire is the manager.

J K IRE: Australian sheep, Australian meat, carries reputation and value.

RICHARD CARLETON: That it's a good product?

J K IRE: It is a good product, undoubtedly, yes.

RICHARD CARLETON: The animal welfare argument is, though, that you have a different outlook on welfare than we do in Australia.

J K IRE: Australia may have its own yardstick to measure welfare. We in the Gulf have got our own yardstick to measure welfare and I don't know where exactly the conflict comes in.

RICHARD CARLETON: The conflict is over the local method of slaughter. And to a slaughterhouse Lyn White also took her camera.

LYN WHITE: We're talking about thousands of Australian sheep being slaughtered per night by these methods and with this handling.

RICHARD CARLETON: In Australian abattoirs, sheep walk down a single file race and are stunned so they're unconscious when their throats are cut. In Kuwait, there is no stunning.

LYN WHITE: It's not acceptable to slit the throat of an animal and allow it to be conscious, even if it's done with the best possible … with both arteries cut, they're still conscious for 20 seconds. And also you can clearly see that they're watching each other die and that's terribly sad and distressing for the animals.

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RICHARD CARLETON: Now that contention is very much disputed.

TEMPLE GRANDIN: Sheep don't understand what slaughtering is. I've watched a lot of animals get slaughtered. They don't understand what's going on, provided you do not cut the sheep up in front of another sheep, like if you take the head off in front of another sheep, then I think they understand something's wrong.

RICHARD CARLETON: Here, some sheep are commonly used for ceremonial purposes. This man bought two to celebrate the opening of his new restaurant. Within half an hour, they'd been slaughtered and skinned, a practice so routine it barely rated a second glance. Lyn White followed another to the opening of a jewellery shop.

LYN WHITE: The gentleman in the dark coat is the jewellery shop owner and he's about to open his shop and he has got the abattoir worker to come with him to slaughter the animal. It appears that one of his legs breaks during that as well.

RICHARD CARLETON: What right do we have to say that they can't go on with this sort of bloody mess, if they want to, out the front of their jewellery shop?

LYN WHITE: Well, we don't have any right.

RICHARD CARLETON: Do you want to ban this?

LYN WHITE: We can't change what they have considered to be acceptable practices for a century. But these are our animals. This animal came from a farm near Bunbury in WA. He had a two-week journey to Kuwait only to be sacrificed outside a jewellery shop.

RICHARD CARLETON: This downstream welfare of the sheep we export is a very, very touchy subject. I mean, the Trade Minister Mr Vaile, he wrote to 60 Minutes and said, "it would not be appropriate", his words, "not appropriate" to even suggest changes to Kuwait. But the Minister wasn't prepared to back that position in interview. The Agriculture Minister Mr Truss was not prepared to be interviewed and nor was Mr Kevin Shiell, he's the head of LiveCorp, the body that's reported to have spent $3 million trying to improve the welfare of the animals in the export markets. But this welfare issue can cut two ways.

I mean, do you have any idea what we do to our sheep long, long, long before they get near any ship that might take them to the Middle East?

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LYN WHITE: Mulesing is another horrendous practice, but it's done for a particular purpose.

RICHARD CARLETON: Nowadays, to prevent fly strike, two-thirds of Australian sheep are mulesed. Strips of skin of the sheep's back end are sheered off and the raw flesh exposed. Over time, scar tissue forms, so wool doesn't grow there, so droppings don't catch and so flies don't strike.

Now, is not our cruelty to those sheep many times worse than what's happening to them in Kuwait?

LYN WHITE: They do it to stop their sheep becoming fly blown.

RICHARD CARLETON: That is, to make money.

LYN WHITE: At the end of the day, yes. Both practices are unacceptable.

RICHARD CARLETON: Look, don't we look just a tad hypocritical when we lecture the Kuwaitis but engage in more cruel practices here?

LYN WHITE: Where we're hypocritical is where we are moving animals to other countries where their standards and the laws that have been developed here to protect animals can't help those animals. They're totally abandoned. That's what's hypocritical.

RICHARD CARLETON: There can be no argument though about this. This is also Kuwait market footage shot by Lyn White.

TEMPLE GRANDIN: The deer, that was atrocious. Deer is an animal that panics a whole lot more than sheep do and that was hideous. They were absolutely and totally stressed out and deer should not be exported on a ship over to another country like that. That was awful.

RICHARD CARLETON: Australia exported almost 2000 deer last year, mostly to Kuwait.

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LYN WHITE: By the time this animal is caught 12 minutes later, you can see he's bleeding terribly.

RICHARD CARLETON: Yeah, he's a long way short of happy, isn't he? See with the deer, it's a somewhat easier argument, because it would cost us nothing essentially to stop deer trade if that's the way they're going to treat deer.

LYN WHITE: Well, it's still the same ethical argument though.

RICHARD CARLETON: Yes, but what price ethics? The trade is about $1 billion a year. Frozen meat is the answer, you say. Well, they say they want some fresh. If we force the issue, they could buy from South America.
How much money are you prepared to give up to impose our views, or your views, on the Kuwaitis?

LYN WHITE: I don't think you can justify profit at all when there is clear evidence of suffering of animals.

RICHARD CARLETON: Therefore we forego a billion-dollar trade?

LYN WHITE: Well, I certainly believe, having been over there and seeing what animals endure, that whether it be our farmers or the general community, if they know what our animals are going through, they wouldn't want this trade to continue.

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