Author Topic: Humanising animals, civilising humans - culling live animal exports 9.10.2012  (Read 702 times)

WA Export News

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 National sovereignty and disregard of animal interests guarantee that the appalling treatment of Australian sheep in Pakistan will continue to reoccur. The only humane response to live animal exports is a complete cessation.

Australia is one of the world's largest exporters of live cattle and sheep. Most of these animals are exported to the Middle East or Indonesia, where animal welfare standards are non-existent. The now well-publicised brutality that many of these animals are subjected to during slaughter is merely the sharp end of a pitiable path to the killing yard.

Each year tens of thousands of animals die cruel deaths in the transportation process. The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries statistics show that more than half a million animals died during the sea voyage from Australia to overseas ports between 2000 and 2010. This comprised of 496,162 sheep, 12,417 cattle, 4,518 goats and 122 buffalo.

The cause of death varied, but most involved animals suffering slow and painful deaths. The six most recent investigations by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) reveal that the most common reasons for the deaths were heat stress, pneumonia and exhaustion/starvation. Not a single case of old age.

Most of these deaths are foreseeable and preventable. The problem is that no one cares. The animal export industry is manifestly accepting of cruelty. It is so harsh that the industry builds in high numbers of painful deaths as the cost of doing business.

It is only voyages that have more than 2% deaths of sheep and goats or 1% of cattle deaths that even come under scrutiny from the Australia Quarantine and Inspection Service - we should be grateful that our airlines are not run on a similar basis.

The live export industry generates more than one billion dollars annually for Australian and is credited with 'underpinning' 10,000 jobs in the rural and regional area. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also states that the live export industry cannot be replaced by chilled meat because of the lack of refrigeration facilities and a 'strong cultural preference for freshly slaughtered meat in the importing countries.

Neither argument is tenable. People in the Muslim countries are willing to accept chilled/frozen meat which has been killed in a manner consistent with their cultural requirements. There are dozens of halal certified export abattoirs in Australia. It is possible to export halal meat (animals killed in accordance with Muslim requirements) that is prepared in Australia, where nearly all animals are stunned and render unconscious animals prior to slaughter. This was a view shared by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. In fact, the chilled meat trade to the Middle-East in fact already exceeds the live export trade.

Moreover, there seems to be no labor imperative for the trade. The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union in 2007 opposed the live export trade, and estimated it cost 12,000 meatworkers' jobs and continues to undermine the sustainability of the abattoir industry. The West Australian AMIEU secretary called it an 'obnoxious trade'.
In the technology age, the view that lack of refrigeration justifies cruelty is nonsense. This has been addressed by Animals Australia which has noted that many of the importers of our meat are wealthy oil-rich nations and during previous bans of live exports to those countries, there was a 3-fold increase in exports of frozen mutton and lamb to that market.

There is no question that economically the live export industry is considerable, but it is tiny compared to the frozen meat export industry. Cessation of live exports will in all likelihood lead to a commensurate growth in the frozen meat industry and a higher number of Australian jobs (given the labour involved in killing and packing animals).
Of course, cruelty is not species specific and Australians who derive their livelihood from the live export industry should not be left to starve. The cessation of live exports should be gradual and involve compensation to those affected and assistance in helping them transition to the chilled meat industry.

In any event, ultimately, some forms of barbarity are so depraved that they are beyond economic salvation. It demeans Australians to continue to turn a blind eye to the shame that is live animal export.

Animals hurt in the same way as humans. There are not different types of suffering, only different degrees and intensities. The physiological process by which pain is generated and felt is the same in humans and animals.

The intensity with which animals feel pain or distress is no less than in humans. Anyone who has seen the cowering of a dog in response to a raised fist can be left in no doubt of that.

The fact that an entity can experience suffering terminates all questions regarding its moral standing. The only commonality shared by humans, who command our concern and respect, is that they can hurt. The capacity to sense pain gives humans, no matter how marginalised, or behaviourally maladaptive, moral status. Animals command our moral standing for exactly the same reason.

The inability of animals to use words to communicate to us about their level of suffering is no excuse for ignoring their terrified screams. To the contrary, this places a higher burden on supposedly morally enlightened communities to hear their screams and redress them.

It's time that as a community we stepped up and repudiated preventable suffering in all its guises banning live exports is an important non-negotiable step in this direction.

 By Mirko Bagaric, 9 October 2012

About the Author

Mirko Bagaric, BA LLB(Hons) LLM PhD (Monash), is a Croatian born Australian based author and lawyer who writes on law and moral and political philosophy. He is the author of 20 books and over 100 refereed scholarly articles. He is not connected with any political party or other interest group. He is the author of Australian Human Rights Law (forthcoming). Mirko is the author of Being Happy and Dealing with Moral Dilemmas.