OPINION: The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry recently released a series of documents for public consultation. The Federal government claims that its proposed new regulatory framework will improve ‘animal welfare outcomes’ in importing countries following the review conducted by Bill Farmer AO.
The government claims that it is implementing a number of the recommendations from the Farmer review, including ‘supply chain assurances’, intended to comply with OIE (International Organisation for Animal Health) codes. It purports to require that all animals must be traced throughout the entire live export chain, with 75% of the market to comply by next month and 99% by August 2012.
Identifying the millions of sheep sent to the Middle East is clearly unworkable, since it known that countries import them, then on-sell them to other countries, and generally, to anyone who wants them to do with as they wish including butchering them in the streets. They are handled, transported and slaughtered under unspeakable conditions, and this we have seen in multiple exposures by animal welfare groups over the last decade.
‘Supply chain assurance’ is an abstract, and thus meaningless term.
Submissions to the Farmer Review by veterinarians who had been employed in the live export trade indicated that whilst tags on animals can be traced, it is unlikely in the extreme that the animals will be. The veterinarians have said that unknown numbers of ill, injured and dying animals are simply thrown over the side or into on-board macerators (mincers) that spray the remains into the ocean. It is too easy to simply chop off the animals’ ears. Communications with DAFF about ship loading elicited the extraordinary information that DAFF does not know the precise number of animals loaded onto ships, it provided us with ‘approximate’ numbers, prompting us to question how the mortality statistics published at its website could possibly be believed.
Key to the recommendations is the compliance with OIE codes. The OIE is an organisation which focuses on health, not animal welfare, and its code for terrestrial animals is rudimentary, having been developed for third world countries, not countries like Australia. Yet Australia itself cannot even comply with the fundamental principles of the code, and the live export industry cannot comply with even its own standards (the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock V2.3)
The OIE code clearly states that electric goads should never be used on sheep (or goats), and this is supported by animal handling specialist Professor Temple Grandin. Yet there is a substantial body of evidence (photographs and film footage) indicating systemic use of these painful shock devices on the faces and ano-genital areas of sheep who have nowhere to move to at live export loadings. The ASEL clearly states that sheep with Keratoconjunctivitis (pink eye), blindness or cancer eye must not be presented for export, yet a similarly broad body of evidence taken at random ship loadings at Fremantle arguably shows sheep with serious eye problems. The video and photographic evidence can be seen at the home page of www.liveexportshame.com.
Formal complaints to DAFF about these issues have so far elected no response.
In announcing its ‘consultation period’ for its new regulatory framework, only a very few days notice was given, and requests for an extension of time to prepare submissions had the time extended by just four days.
Emanuel Exports representative Graham Daws has now stated that the live sheep trade will close down ‘on March 1’ as a result of the new regulations, and the requirement of compliance next month. Emanuel Exports and Mr Daws are no strangers to Australian courts on animal cruelty charges (the Al Kuwait case). He makes reference to the tired and irrelevant notion that these countries will source animals elsewhere.
The question that Australian taxpayers should be asking refers to the millions of dollars of taxpayer funding that has been provided to this industry over decades, represented as being to ‘improve animal welfare outcomes’. What has this industry done with all this money, that we are confronted by expose after expose, year in, year out, in all importing destinations. Even the slaughter box so graphically demonstrated in the Four Corners program ‘A Bloody Business’ was financed on a large scale by Australia, and the Chief Veterinarian later described it as ‘non-compliant with OIE standards’. MLA and LiveCorp has known all this for decades, and at least the last decade about Indonesia, to the extent that they had developed a media strategy in the event that the Australian community found out about it.
Just as the Farmer Review and the Senate enquiry focused almost entirely on the wealthy farmers and exporters and substantially ignored the grief and outrage of the Australian community, so will this consultation. 40,000 meat processing jobs were lost, and regional centres where meat processing was the only, or the major employer, were all but closed down, yet no taxpayer largesse was provided to them. In stark contrast, the Gillard government moved to pay millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to compensate those affected by the all to short ban on the export of cattle to Indonesia. The result of that ban is that exporters are sending cattle (and sheep) on far longer journeys to other countries such as Turkey, where they have admitted to not knowing how they are handled and slaughtered. The voyage to Turkey, on the third world flag of convenience ships that ply the trade from Australia, can take up to 41 days, and evidence from Turkey showed animals shacked and hoisted by one leg, and stabbed to death. Footage from Israel showed Australian cattle on trucks, covered in filth and excrement, being beaten with poles with nail spikes in them, when they had nowhere to move to.
Please let your local Federal Member of Parliament know where you stand on the export of live animals. Our submission to this current ‘consultation’ has been provided for your information, and we thank Lindsay and Tasmanian Times for publishing it.