Live Export

Here is a piece I wrote five weeks ago before the election and Tony Abbott became prime minister. This week he apologised to the Indonesian government for the 2011 ban on live export the then Labor government placed following footage revealed on ABC’s Four Corners program.

I am one in a million. One million who want to see an end to the live export of millions of innocent cows, sheep, goats and other animals each year. Since 2011, when Animals Australia and ABC’s Four Corners program brought to our attention the atrocities taking place in abattoirs in Indonesia and the Middle East, many Australians have taken a stand and called for the banning of live exports.

Since then, little has been done. The government at the time suspended the trade to Indonesia for less than a month, but then it was business as usual. Unlike politicians, I and many other Australians have not forgotten the images that continue to haunt us and break our hearts. Following the ban, Indonesian abattoirs were encouraged to stun animals before they were slaughtered, but it was not enforced. Has little really changed? Animals Australia continues to investigate abattoirs that receive Australian animals. It is not just the horror that awaits then when the animals reach their destination, but what they suffer along the way on the ship over. According to Livestock Australia, 99% of animals arrive “fit and healthy”. But with up to tens of thousands on-board each ship, that equates to about 35,000 deaths each year. The causes of these deaths include starvation, crushing each other because they are packed so tightly and respiratory problems.

Recently I received an email from my local ALP minister stating there had been changes made to ensure animal welfare. Some included animals being handled and processed under supply chains in accordance with internationally accepted standards of welfare, and the ability to track animals.  But there are concerns this is not enough, and for many animals it is too little, too late.

I will not go into too much detail the cruelty animals go through to become food for humans, especially in countries where there are few or no laws in place to protect them. But here are a few examples, last year Pakistani workers clubbed and buried Australian sheep alive. The 2011 footage captured by Animals Australia featured cows slipping in blood as workers stabbed at them with blunt knives.  Just use your imagination for what else goes on, and your almost half way there. It seems the issue of live exports has been non-existent in discussion for the upcoming federal election. Tony Abbott stated in 2011 he would apologise to Indonesia on behalf of Australians for the ban if he becomes prime minister. The Greens want the live export trade banned and to be replaced with the chilled meat trade, which is already a thriving industry.

If sheep were slaughtered in Western Australia, where they are raised for live export, it would be worth more than 20% to the state’s economy. The Australian Meat Workers Union believe up to 70% of abattoir closures and the loss of about 12,000 jobs are directly linked to the live export trade. Reasons for the closures include inadequate supplies of sheep and cattle, higher prices due to competition with live industry buyers, which makes local slaughter uncompetitive. This not just affects the workers, but rural and regional towns, as people are forced to look for jobs elsewhere. Most countries Australia exports to are Muslim, and need their meat to be Halal. The largest sheep processor in Australia is Fletcher International, which slaughter animals in accordance with Halal principles and already sell to the Middle East. Therefore, there is no reason the chilled meat industry cannot provide to Muslim countries.

A recent Galaxy poll found 79% of Australians want live exports phased out. We cannot leave it up to politicians to act on this issue, so far they have done nothing. It is our responsibility to make it clear we want the practise banned for good. We must exercise our democratic right and be a voice for the animals. The issue must be put back on the political agenda. There are many things Australians can do to have their voices heard. Write to your local minister, sign the petition to ban live exports, write to your local paper and attend protests. We can all help in a small way to demand attention to the government that we will not turn a blind eye to the abuse and cruelty forced upon animals born and raised in Australia.

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