BY TRAUDY GLASENCNIK
In an industry deemed by Welfare Groups such as Animals Australia and the RSPCA to be the cruellest and unnecessary form of animal suffering imaginable, the global markets view seems more casual: it’s bloody business as usual.
An ongoing war of reason between farmers, politicians the public and animal welfare groups rages on, with an end to live export nowhere in sight.
Figures for the January – May 2014 quarter rose by 30,000 from the previous year. The increase is a result of the demand for larger and heavier Australian cattle for the Indonesian market. In March 2014, the government confirmed that live export to Egypt would resume under the guidance of the Exporters Supply Chain Assurance System(ESCAS), despite Egypt having a history of systemic animal cruelty which led to its suspension from the live trade in 2004 and 2008. Although it is already an established world leader in live exports, Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said Australia was seeking to open new markets. Australia’s meat industry is estimated at AUD$16 billion a year, with live exports making up a relatively small amount of the overall figure, bringing in approximately $800-$1 billion a year. Most farmers do not, or choose not to, export their animals alive. Domestic consumption and chilled meat exports contribute to the bulk of the industry.
The May 2011 the Four Corners expose on Indonesia, A Bloody Business, shocked and sickened the nation. Animals Australia had obtained live footage of the horrendous treatment and senseless cruelty inflicted on Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs. So overwhelming was the reaction from the Australian public for these doomed and defenseless animals the Gillard government was forced to act. All live trade to Indonesia was suspended pending an investigation into the undeniable horror. The turning point to reform within the live export trade and ESCAS was established.
Since the new reform system has been in place, little has changed for the treatment and safety of the animals exported live. Animals Australia continues to be a charity-sponsored watchdog, holding exporters accountable for breaches of the regulatory system by reporting its investigative evidence to the Minister for Agriculture. ESCAS remains a self-regulated system, placing the responsibility of the animals into the hands of their exporters. This allows exporters to push the envelope as far as they can in order to maximize returns, leaving the animals vulnerable and unprotected.
Many live sheep and cattle are still exported to unapproved ESCAS countries and facilities. Damning reports and video footage of unspeakable cruelty continue to be uncovered. The fight for these sentient creatures goes on.