THERE is something ridiculous and hypocritical about the unrelenting campaign to end Australia’s export of live animals. It incorporates a strong dose of xenophobia, quite a lot of ignorance, and a whiff of racism.
A host of organisations, all left-wing and some openly anti-capitalist, insist animals would be better off if the government banned live exports. They rejoiced when the previous government blocked the export of cattle to Indonesia in 2011 and complained long and loud when it resumed.
Among them are the Greens, who are engaged in a witch hunt to find evidence of malfeasance by one of the major exporters, Livestock Shipping Services. Apparently this company has been targeted based on claimed failures to fully comply with ESCAS, the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. This requires exporters to guarantee the welfare of animals within the countries that import them from Australia.
In a previous article I described the hypocrisy of Animal Australia which, with the connivance of the ABC, finds it outrageous that importing countries do not share our values in relation to animal welfare but remains silent about their human rights failures including the ill treatment of women and persecution of Christians.
But at least in the case of Animals Australia we know what its agenda is – an end to the utilisation of animals by humans. It wants to force us all to become vegetarians, preferably vegans. What is not clear, and indeed makes no sense, is the involvement of non-vegetarians, especially non-vegetarians who are not authoritarian. What on earth do they think they are doing?
There is certainly an assumption that ending live exports will improve the welfare of animals and that exporters, because they are in business to make a profit, must be inherently likely to tolerate cruelty.
There is also an assumption, at least amongst those who do not reject the merits of trade, that there would be no loss to Australia if live exports ceased because we could simply slaughter the animals here and export the same quantity of meat. Some even argue that it would generate additional meat processing jobs.
Fairly obviously, these assumptions are false. Live export conditions are humane and to the extent that exported animals encounter hot, humid or other less than optimum conditions, they are no worse than found on most farms. Australia is capable of dishing up more torrid conditions than anything encountered on an export ship, including starvation, blowflies, ticks and worms.
And because they are paid for the delivery of live animals, exporters actually have an incentive to look after the animals in their care. Commercialism works in the animals’ favour.
The claim that live exports can be replaced by meat exports is not only profoundly ignorant but reflects a condescending attitude towards people in other countries. The message it conveys is, we don’t care about your culture or traditions, we’ll tell you brown people how to obtain your meat. And of course it completely ignores the fact that many people in importing countries have little or no refrigeration facilities.
The signs that such thinking is unacceptable are already apparent, with some countries rejecting the ESCAS protocol on the grounds that Australia has no right to dictate how the animals it sells to them are treated or to poke its nose into their affairs.
But it is on animal welfare, supposedly the core issue on which opposition to live exports is based, that the weakest argument is found. Even if the live export process led to a worse welfare outcome than keeping them here, how would stopping it improve the welfare of animals overall?
The countries that import our sheep and cattle are not about to turn into vegetarians, or even eat less meat, simply because they cannot buy them from Australia. They have thousands of years of dietary culture behind them and won’t be dictated to by Australians with a mere couple of hundred years to their credit. Fairly obviously, they will buy the animals from other countries, inevitably where animal welfare values differ from ours.
There will be no winners from this, but the list of losers is long. They include Australian farmers, exporters, consumers in the importing countries (due to higher prices), along with the animals that are purchased to replace those no longer buy from Australia.
As a former veterinarian, I know a bit about animal welfare. Perhaps that’s why I do not understand why the anti-live export lobby considers the welfare of Australian animals to be so much more important than the welfare of animals in other countries. If it was genuinely concerned about animals, it would be looking to maximise welfare outcomes globally.
The ESCAS program amounts to modern day cultural imperialism and shows scant respect for the values of our export customers. But it is nothing compared to the vanity and ignorance of those campaigning to end live exports.