Author Topic: LIVE ANIMAL EXPORT IS UNETHICAL by Dr Peter Kerkenezov.  (Read 1370 times)

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LIVE ANIMAL EXPORT IS UNETHICAL by Dr Peter Kerkenezov.
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2014, 07:02:38 PM »
Live animal export is a story of corporate profiteering, politics, deceptive information and profound cruelty. It is also a story of division within society where the opponents of the trade are unyielding in their fight to end the prolonged horror meted out to the animals selected for export.
 
 In the Summer 2013 issue of Living Ethics, Simon Illingworth explored live animal export from the perspective of a farmer. While he conceded that there are problems with this industry, one could argue that Illingworth is not acquainted with true facts. There is a far darker side to the live export trade than the one he portrayed. In fact, there is no way that live animal export can be ethical.
 
 When it comes to live animal export, there is no ambiguity in the inherent cruelty of long hauls at sea and deplorable acts of inhumanity on foreign soil. Live animal export is reported to be 0.3% of total exports from Australia 1. Hence it could be considered of negligible significance to our economy, especially when evidence 2 exists that the alternative option of processing these animals in Australia would be more productive in terms of monetary return and employment.
 
 It is wrong to suggest banning live cattle export would destroy the beef industry. Reported to have a shelf life of four months, Australian boxed meat is an alternative that represents the most efficient means of sending meat overseas. In those countries where refrigeration is an issue, those without power usually cannot afford to eat red meat anyway.
 
 Australia is a reliable and trustworthy trading partner. However, the recipients of live animals fail to respect Australian animal welfare standards. Once the animals depart the wharf there are no guarantees of safe passage, of the persons receiving animals being benevolent, and of all animals being stunned before slaughter.
 
 Animal welfare has been well researched. Animal-based indicators obtained from veterinary examinations, such as excessive panting, coughing, cleanliness, lameness, demeanour, injuries, skin lesions, nasal discharge and diarrhoea, provide reliable signs that animal welfare on ships is severely impaired. Indicators and clinical signs of this nature, and death, are commonplace on long hauls.
 
 Illingworth’s comments about the carriage of livestock are misleading. He writes:
 ‘The boats used for cattle export today are fitted with extraction fans, food, veterinary assistance and pens that satisfactorily house the cattle. This may not have been the case years ago but improvements have been made to the live export boats.’
 
 In fact, blowers and extraction fans have always been part of a dedicated livestock ship structure. And while animals may receive feed and water, a veterinary surgeon is not always on board. Stocking density remains an issue and pen structure, including flooring, is not always satisfactory.
 
 There is a marked difference between vessels undertaking short hauls to ports close to Australia, such as in Indonesia, as opposed to long hauls to the Middle East, Russia and Africa. The majority of ships commissioned are former oil tankers, bulk carriers, container ships and vehicle transporters. Most are at least 30 years old. No livestock ship is registered in Australia but flagged out to other countries. All operate with foreign crew except for an Australian veterinarian (not always carried) and an Australian head stockman.
 
 The only Australian thing is the live cargo and sometimes a name like Ocean Swagman and Ocean Drover. The intent is to earn some public approbation. There are many instances of machinery break downs and ventilation so inadequate that heat stress is frequently a life threatening issue.
 
 Having served as a veterinarian and master on a variety of merchant ships, including dedicated livestock ships carrying horses, cattle, and sheep on both short haul and long haul voyages, I can attest to the cruelty of live animal export. Despite improvements in ship design, technology, and scientific and practical knowledge, unpreventable morbidity and mortality occurs.
 
 The veterinary services provided to export animals are frequently sub-optimal. Photographic evidence demonstrates repeat violations of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock. Pre-selection and final examinations have failed to detect and reject animals according to this code. Examples include: cases of excessive weights of cattle, fly blown dehorned cattle, excessive wool, salmonella infected carriers, cases of keratoconjunctivitis, scabby mouth, advanced pregnancies, hernias, foot rot, and inanition (failure to eat).
 
 Relying only on visual inspections to detect 'diseased' animals seems ineffective. We know sheep carrying salmonella, whilst not showing evidence of disease, walk on the ships undetected. Laboratory testing is not routinely carried out.  Extreme fear, heat stress, unpreventable disease, injury, brutality and agonising death all take place at some stage throughout long hauls at sea. Many on-board vets have had their employment terminated for submitting disapproving voyage reports.
 
 Continuing reviews into live animal export have done relatively little to improve animal welfare. The industry has been beleaguered by ongoing biological disasters since the late 1970s.
 
 In the wake of the 2011 Four Corners exposé, it became clear that regulatory bodies were not adequately reviewing performance or initiating corrective action when required. While Illingworth writes, ‘A handful of rogue slaughtermen captured on film should not have stopped a billion dollar industry that supplies food’, ongoing exposés provide continuing evidence of widespread corruption and systemic animal welfare issues.
 
 Australians do not owe other countries sustenance in the form of live animals to be sadistically slaughtered after being tormented to the extreme. Exported animals are traditionally killed by having their throats cut. Slaughter without stunning is highly controversial. Cattle can have prolonged periods of sensibility lasting up to 6.42 minutes after having both their carotid arteries severed. In cattle, the anatomy of the brain is somewhat different in that they have vertebral arteries that are usually not severed by the slaughter technique (Kosher or Halal). These vertebral arteries continue to supply oxygenated blood to the brain.
 
 As key players in live animal export debate, farmers need to know the facts. They also need to consider the equally profitable and more humane alternatives. Farmers like Illingsworth can take a leadership role in ensuring that ethics remain at the forefront of their decision making, but they first need to get their facts straight. They must look at the evidence that consistently points to high levels of cruelty and ongoing corruption. Farmers also have a choice at sale yards. They can stipulate that the sale of their animals is for ‘meat only’, not live export.
 
 Veterinary surgeons also play a fundamental role in live export. Increasing numbers of veterinarians and veterinary nurses have registered opposition by becoming members of Vets Against Live Export Inc (VALE). The association specifically aims to focus on veterinary and scientific concerns and expose corrupt practices. VALE is determined to challenge government policies relating to the ongoing acts of cruelty against millions of innocent animals until the practice is stopped.
 
 
Dr Peter Kerkenezov graduated from the University of Queensland Veterinary School and the Australian Maritime College at University of Tasmania. He is an equine veterinarian at Balliwood Stables Equine Veterinary Hospital and a director of Portside Marine Pacific. Find out about Vets Against Live Export (VALE) at vale.org.au
 
 References

 
  •   ABS (2013) International trade in goods and services, Australia
  •   ACIL Tasman, September 2009
http://www.ethics.org.au/articles/killing-the-sacred-cow-%281%29

4 April 2014