Author Topic: Live exports and what we do to animals here  (Read 1311 times)

Export News Tasmania

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Live exports and what we do to animals here
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2012, 01:41:48 PM »
It is intriguing that we make such a fuss over the inhumane treatment of our livestock overseas while continuing to ignore the inhumane treatment of our livestock here at home.

Since the Four Corners report A Bloody Business aired early last week, many Australians have been focussed on the cruelty inflicted on cattle exported to the slaughterhouses of Indonesia.

The ensuing debates, outcry and lobbying against such inhumane practices has culminated in the Federal Government suspending live cattle exports to Indonesia until the welfare of Australian beasts can be safeguarded. But is our temporary ban really going to have an impact on the beef market and stop the inhumane treatment of cattle in Indonesia? And more so, why are we so obsessed with the inhumane treatment of livestock overseas when we willingly turn a blind eye to the inhumane treatment of livestock here at home?

According to the Jakarta Post, the Indonesian Trade Ministry has already eased concerns over a potential shortage of beef in the country.

"For now there's no need to be worried about a beef shortage in the lead up to the fasting month ... Concerns are unnecessary because the domestic stocks will be more than enough," Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said.

"There's no threat of price volatility. We have enough [cattle]."

So if there's no threat to the the supply of beef then one could safely argue that Australia's ban is not going to force the questionable Indonesian abattoirs out of business. Surely these slaughterhouses will source their produce from other willing suppliers and the inhumane treatment of cattle will continue. The only difference will be that it won't be the inhumane treatment of Australian cattle - and it won't be plastered across our television screens for us to righteously condemn.

So why did we make such a fuss over it? All that's really been achieved out of this ban is we've temporarily crippled one of northern Australia's oldest industries. Sure we might be taking a moral stance and we'll feel good about it for a while, but at the end of the day, when the suspension is finally lifted, the Australian cattle that were originally destined for foreign dinner plates will still end up on foreign dinner plates.

What's more intriguing is that we've made such a fuss over the inhumane treatment of our livestock overseas while continuing to ignore the inhumane treatment of our livestock here at home.

A few years back I spent some time on a large sheep station in far-western Queensland. Much to my surprise, my visit coincided with the mulesing, de-horning, de-balling and tagging of that season's lambs. The couple I was staying with were in desperate need of assistance, so for four gruelling days I reluctantly helped with what can only be described as a cruel, inhumane task.

The mulesing involved strapping the lambs upside down into cradles and cutting off the wool-bearing skin from around their buttocks. There was no anaesthetic used and the lambs were clearly in distress throughout the procedure. The first time I witnessed this it almost made me sick, but I quickly realised it was part of the production process. I no longer saw the lambs as cute, little creatures in pain, but part of an assembly line that ended with a chop on the barbie or a succulent curry.

If I thought that was bad the de-horning was even worse. While the lambs were still strapped in the cradles, their horns were also being cut off with a pair of common garden loppers. It was often difficult to miss arteries as the horns were so small. As a result, the lambs were regularly left with blood rhythmically squirting from the stumps that remained atop their heads. Once again, they were clearly in distress during this procedure. The constant bleating in that holding yard is one sound I won't easily forget.

So where's the uproar over these procedures that seasonally take place on farms right around the country? I mean, if we are so quick to judge our neighbours over the inhumane treatment of livestock, why not judge ourselves?

The harsh truth is that the production of any form of livestock is always going to contain inhumane elements. One could argue that there is never going to be anything humane about preparing an animal for slaughter. Don't get me wrong, what we saw taking place in the Indonesian abattoirs was particularly barbaric and in no way do I condone it. But at the end of the day, no matter how these beasts are killed, they're still beasts being killed for human consumption. We're still making them suffer so we can satisfy our own insatiable hunger for meat.

As a beef-loving, lamb-loving omnivore, I've come to accept that. The question is do you?

It truly is a bloody business.

Note: While mulesing was originally flagged to be phased out by the end of 2010, the Australian Wool Industry abandoned its pledge to stop the procedure in mid-2009.

Gavin Meakin has been an online producer with the ABC since early 2008. He has worked for ABC News Online and The Drum.