Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Rant.

I'm ranting - again.

Australia has been in uproar for the last week or so since Four Corners, a highly respected investigative news programme, showed appalling footage of cattle exported from Australia to Indonesia as part of the live export trade being treated brutally and tortured in some Indonesian abattoirs. It was sickening and disgusting and the outrage is certainly appropriate. In response to this the Federal Government has stopped all exports of live cattle to Indonesia temporally while they work out a long term policy. This is where things get messy.

Before we go any further I should say that I am a vegetarian. This is because I decided some time ago that if I wasn't prepared to kill an animal for food - and I'm not - I shouldn't eat a creature killed by anyone else. It smacked of hypocrisy. I have no problems with those who eat meat. Others in my household do and you will find meat in my freezer for them. My decision was a personal one and my eating choices have nothing to do with my views on the live animal export trade.

I have long been opposed to live animal export trade because I believe it to be inhumane. This belief came from seeing sheep crammed into trucks and moved for long distances. I have seen them with legs stuck through the slats making up the truck cage, being trampled by their fellows or crushed so tightly that they can't move. I believe the farmers and truckers who say this is not deliberate - that no-one sets out to damage a valuable 'product'. That they do not work out better ways of transport though shows a degree of callousness that is still disturbing. Even more disturbing was the succession of live sheep transports on which large numbers of sheep destined for the Middle East died in appalling conditions. While some steps have been taken to mitigate this mistreatment it is not enough. Sheep are still being transported in inappropriate ways. That was - until now - the extent of the live animal trade as far as I knew. The discovery that there was alive cattle trade came as a complete surprise.

I have no problem with exporting meat. Most people eat meat and they should be able to continue doing so if they choose. What I do have a problem with is exporting live animals. It is inevitable that herd and flock animals crammed into tiny spaces are going to receive injuries. It's made worse when we export them to countries that don't have a culture or commitment to treating animals humanely - and anyone who has visited the countries to which we export live animals knows that the cultures there do not generally treat animals as we do in Australia.

This brings me back to the present ban on live exports. Do I want to see the live export trade stopped? Yes. Should urgent action be taken? Definitely. Do I think an instant and blanket ban on all such exports is the solution? No.

In my opinion we should certainly ban any cattle or other animals going to the abattoirs where we know abuse has taken place and we should work out a way to ensure that all the other abattoirs to which Australian animals are sent are subject to random inspections. While this happening we should be doing what we should have been doing years ago - sourcing markets for meat instead of live exports. All an instant blanket ban does is hurt a lot of people who have been involved in a legal business - even if they have had their eyes firmly closed as to what actually happens to the 'product' from that business. Of course, calling animals products is a deliberate attempt to disguise the fact that this business deals in live animals - but that is a side issue.

What we need to do is work out a solution that doesn't destroy the livelihoods of the meat producers and treats the animals humanely. This means the Federal Government must compensate all those affected both financially and by aiding them to diversify. It's not going to be easy and it will be costly because we have allowed this pernicious trade to go on for far too long but we can and should do it.

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