Thursday, 10 May 2018
Live Animal Exports
The community is well and truly sick to death of the inaction over live animal exports. What we saw a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes was just another episode of many episodes. It was not an isolated incident. That shocking footage of the Awassi Express, a vessel on which over 2,000 sheep died on one voyage alone, was dreadful in itself, but it was not an isolated incident. In fact, when you add it to a whole lot of other incidents over many, many years, you see that we have a systemic problem here. We've seen exposes and we've heard reports from vessels and from destination countries as diverse as China and Vietnam and repeated exposes of animal cruelty in Indonesia. We saw that footage of Australian sheep being buried alive in Pakistan. We've had the repeated exposes out of a number of countries in the Middle East, including Israel and up in Turkey. We have a systemic problem, and the Awassi Express was not an isolated incident.
We need action. We do not need another inquiry, and we certainly do not need an inquiry headed by Dr Michael McCarthy, because he's an industry insider. He has worked for Emmanuel. He's worked for Wellard. He's worked for a number of the big companies and stakeholders in the live animal export trade. I'm not saying that Dr McCarthy is not a good person, but how a government could think it's appropriate to have an industry insider head an inquiry beggars belief. We do not need a tinkering with the current arrangements, a tinkering with the regulations—a bit more oversight; slightly reduce the number of sheep on any one vessel. The fact is that the cruelty and the problems are so systemic, that the only way to end the cruelty is to end the trade. That's what the community is looking for. The community is looking to this government to finally be the government that will put an end to the live animal export trade and in particular to the trade in live sheep to the Middle East, most of whom go across the equator and go into the Middle East at the height of a northern summer.
That's what the community's looking for: to end the trade. And we want to put an end to these ridiculous excuses we hear—this excuse that people in the Middle East will buy only live sheep. What nonsense! The Middle East market already buys over $600 million of processed sheepmeat a year from Australia—frozen and chilled meat—compared with only $250 million of live sheep. They already buy processed meat. They will buy more processed meat if we stop the export of live sheep. And what about this nonsense that people in the Middle East don't have refrigerators? What a racist comment. Of course they've got refrigerators. Where do we think they're putting the $600 million of frozen and chilled meat that we're sending already?
And there is this excuse that their religion requires them to have live sheep from Australia. What nonsense! So many of our abattoirs in Australia are already halal certified, and they're the abattoirs that are already supplying that over $600 million a year of processed sheep meat. Then there is the nonsense that we need to do this to supply protein to the world's disadvantaged. What rot! This is not a humanitarian operation; this is business. The only reason we're shipping hundreds of thousands of sheep to the Middle East and other animals to other parts of the world is to make money. It's not about supplying protein. It's not a humanitarian mission. It's about money. What about the nonsense that if we don't send sheep to the Middle East, someone else will? That's the old drug dealer's defence. We have a moral responsibility to do the right thing and what some people do in other countries is their business. It's nonsense that we don't have enough abattoirs. We have a huge surge capacity in existing Australian abattoirs, and any sort of transition period over maybe a couple of years to wind the trade up would provide more than enough time for existing abattoirs to expand and even new abattoirs to be built.
Then there is the nonsense that we can't shut down the trade because people will be out of work. The fact is that a darn sight more people have been forced out of work in recent years because of the expansion of the live animal export trade and the fact that it's taken work from Australian abattoirs.
The fact is that the live animal export trade, in particular the export of live sheep to the Middle East, is systemically cruel. It's not in Australia's economic self-interest and it doesn't have popular support. The only way to end the cruelty and meet the expectations of the community is to shut down the trade.