Tuesday 20th Nov, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Live animal trade is barbaric and can be stopped

Photo: Ingram Publishing
Photo: Ingram Publishing


Despite recent breast-beating and some modifications, the barbaric trade of live animal exports has been given the green light to continue.

Following the McCarthy review into the live animal trade, agriculture minister David Littleproud announced there would be no ban, just modifications.

Fear of losing economic gains is driving the continuation, while we as a nation are sacrificing our moral values – much like the situation with Adani.

I don’t believe we will lose the export market if we impose a welfare ban on this outdated trade. Rather, it could be strategically morphed from live export to chilled/frozen meat export.

Farmers will still have their livelihood, communities will not suffer, animals will not suffer, and we will create growth in a new domestic industry.

We had a long history of convicts and corporal and capital punishment, but we evolved from that past, just as we must evolve from a history of live animal export.

Nothing short of a complete ban will stop the suffering of these animals.

The Australian Veterinary Association recommended an end to live sheep exports to the Middle East between May and October, saying there was no way to eliminate the risk of sheep dying from or suffering heat stress during those months.

The AVA makes some very good points and recommendations in their recent review, but it is still up to the government to action them.

The AVA makes a particularly clear point that animal suffering cannot be measured by death rates alone. The industry is very much based on the self-regulation model, with guidelines that appear to be loosely controlled, such as the Australian Standards for Export of Livestock/Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme.

The few occasions when the industry has come under examination, with resultant shocks to the nation, have been due to a third party’s secret videos and similar revelations. Yet it is most likely a regular occurrence.

For the live sheep export business, reports to authorities are required only when mortality rates exceed 2%, so most of the death and suffering goes unreported, and even when it is reported, little or no action is taken.

Self-regulation of any industry driven by profit is bound to fail. Of over 100 reports of breaches of practice, only one exporter has had a licence suspended, as at July 2016.

Given that export abattoirs can be halal certified, why do we not simply export all meat in processed form? Why not ban live export, and at the same time create jobs and industry here in Australia?

Humane slaughter is essential, and this can be achieved using minimal handling and transport, with abattoirs located as near as possible to the farms.

Control of humane slaughter in the Middle East and Indonesia is grossly lacking. Many of these countries do not see animals as sentient beings.

I encourage my fellow veterinarians to voice their concerns by sharing their knowledge.

Given vets are required on all live sheep export vessels, we do have the power to put a stop to this practice.

As a profession, we can just say ‘no’. And vets are the legal and moral voice of the silent animals in this country. Australia’s peak veterinary association, veterinarians around the nation, members of the federal opposition, members of the WA government, and animal welfare organisations are all saying the same thing – stop the barbarism now. This is the 21st century, not the middle ages.

Dr Bruce Syme,
Castlemaine, VIC

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