Exporting kids and cows

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On Tuesday the Federal Government 'suspended' transport of Australian live cattle to Indonesia for 'up to six months'. This was not, as some claim, a ban. It was a grudging response to domestic political outrage over the proven — seen, heard, admitted — cruelty to our cows being slaughtered within shambolic Indonesian abattoirs.

Clearly some abattoir workers couldn't be fagged to sharpen their knives. Equally, although Indonesian laws prohibit cruel treatment, those laws are unenforced and unenforceable.

For most people, especially those who live in cities and towns, our closest contact with animals (other than domestic pets) is on a plate. We don't much question our right to eat them, and usually prefer not to see how they are raised, and how they are killed.

But our fastidious evasion of the reality of the end of lives of gentle, vegetarian, domestic beasts is not shared by the meat industry in Australia which has known about these practices for more than a decade, nor for the owners and operators of slaughterhouses throughout this secular Islamic nation.

Somehow, because we have not witnessed it directly, the notion of protecting doomed animals from fear, pain and horror is an exotic notion. There are even some folk who believe that beating an animal before slaughter improves the final result: tenderised, adrenalised, and tastier.

Between the Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig's initial, pallid response to the Four Corners report  calling for an 'investigation' (there are now seven), and Julia Gillard's current 'ban', there was a torrent of outrage, tears and hypocrisy about the program's depictions.

Personally I was a little off-put by Bob Katter's remarkable assurances that slicing a bellowing Brahman more than 40 times with a blunt machete was a 'religious practice' we would, at our peril, disrespect. In fact the notion that the practices we saw were halal was publicly refuted by spokesmen for Islam, within and outside Australia.

The Australian live animal export industry has long been aware that standards of humane treatment in Indonesia, and elsewhere, have been abysmal. So have the RSPCA and a large number of not for profit animal welfare industries. What is truly embarrassing is that at least some of the exporters can set aside the callous torture and terrorising of captive animals because of the value of the trade.

It may seem peculiar even to contemplate the 'welfare' of an animal designed for our plate, but even a market based on unexamined, long-accepted omnivorous eating preferences should aim for some kind of efficiency.

What is truly surprising is the failure of policy-makers, producers and consumers to address the very basis of the agreement to ship live animals overseas in the first place: the claim that a primarily Muslim market cannot and will not tolerate the preparation of the meat except in accordance with very precise religious practices that demand particular means of slaughtering.

This temporary suspension of the trade is not, as animal activists prefer to believe, a ban, nor even, as The Age trumpeted, a triumph of people power. It is a pause, a hiatus, in the profitable trade of vulnerable, sentient beings by ship, for the profit of third parties.

Does anybody see, other than myself, the dreadful hypocrisy of demanding and obtaining real, inconvenient and expensive interruption to the export of live cattle, and the complete lack of outrage and demand for action to ensure the humane treatment of asylum-seeking, unaccompanied children, and a ban on their being transported to work in the sex trade or enslaved pauperism in Malaysia?

Such disparity in public outrage, such blindness to the sinful (for once, a proper adjective) lack of compassion for those who have no power and no voice, and such incredible hypocrisy about the likely improvement in the attitudes and practices in both of these countries to whom we have given the discretion to exercise our own moral responsibilities, leaves this writer a little short of breath.

Surely, the moral argument for a ban is relevant not only because of our responsibilities under international human rights instruments (such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child) and  international trading conventions and treaties.

We cannot export our ethical duties to third parties. Our justification for the export of our own animals, and of children seeking our care, does not hold up under the light. We can act humanely, reliably, only within our own national boundaries.

Stop. The. Bloody. Boats.


Moira RaynerMoira Rayner is a barrister and writer. She is a member of the executive of Lawyers for Animals and has been a vegetarian for nearly 35 years. 

Topic tags: Moira Rayner, live exports, four corners, indonesia

 

 

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Existing comments

Amen
Brendan Toohey | 09 June 2011


Thanks Moira these points were discussed at our community meal last night. Can all who read this please contact Chris Bowen today and demand an immediate stop to the appaling plans for people being exchanged - send him a copy of this article too!
Anne Ryan | 09 June 2011


No, Moira, you are not alone in seeing the dreadful hypocrisy in our varying political stances to shipping animals for slaughter and shipping people (especially vulnerable chldren) for incarceration. We still cringe at images of Jews herded like cattle onto trains during WWII yet are blind to the similarities with boat refugees.
Elizabeth | 09 June 2011


Banning the sale of cattle will not make Indonesian abattoir workers any less cruel. A more rational approach would be to offer inducements to abattoir owners to improve their procedures. But in the end we have to accept that we live in a multicultural world and cannot and in many cases should not impose our values on others.
Jim Williams | 09 June 2011


Yes Moira, I am appalled at the hypocrisy of our politicians and others in their reaction to the cattle issues compared to their inaction when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers. That the PM can act so quickly when threatened with a Caucus revolt over the treatment of cattle but is prepared to ship human beings to a country that does not recognise the UN Charter on Human Rights and treats refugees as criminals immaterial of their age, gender, religious beliefs or political situation beggars belief. Yes Anne I will lobby Chris Bowen as you suggested.
Frank Stuart, | 09 June 2011


Moira, I completely disagree with your thoughts. Can you tell me how many refugee children are or will be exported to work in the sex trade or enslaved pauperism in Malaysia? No? The numbers of God's creatures exported to inhumane facilities in Indonesia is known. The cruelty is quantifiable right now. Ban all live exports of Australian sheep and cattle NOW.
Lynette Murphy | 09 June 2011


Now we hear the words, keeping them in a holding centre, putting tags on them so they won't be caned.........and who will really know or care - out of sight - out of mind. The UNHCR have very few staff on the ground. This is all about sacrificing a few for the greater good. But they dare not say it, except MP Melissa Parkes from Fremantle who said the children will be sacrificial lambs. History shows we do the same things over and over. Promise 'Oranges and Sunshine'(see at cinemas now) and give them the strap and degrade the most vulnerable.
Julie McNeill | 09 June 2011


No Moira you are not alone in seeing this dreadful hypocrisy. Thank you for stating these facts so clearly. it is the disparity in public outrage that I too find so appalling.
Julie | 09 June 2011


Sadly,as with the cruel treatment of asylum seekers, this is yet another example of a government lacking the courageous leadership needed to stand up for what is right.
David | 09 June 2011


I thought a representative of the Australian meat industry hit the nail on the head yesterday when he accused us all of hypocrisy, criticising people in a Muslim country for cruelty when we rejoice at fish dangling in agony on a hook at the end of the fisher's line! It is possible to kill an animal without cruelty, but it does not happen often, and perhaps happens most often amongst people who do home-kills with a skillful butcher. For myself, the solution for decades has been to not eat meat of any kind. You can do this and live a very healthy life. As for the Malaysian solution, it is totally cynical and has nothing to do with any kind of concern for asylum seekers and refugees. I will write to Chris Bowen now. Thanks for the article Moira.
Janet | 09 June 2011


I am angry that our P.M. and our government should entertain the idea of sending any children back to Indonesia let alone those who are unaccompanied. I agree with a ban on live cattle yes but children are sacred and certainly should not be even behind bars in our own country. That experience can scar them for life. Love them care for them and we will have wonderful Australians. Treat them like cattle and we are asking for trouble. And we will be responsible wherever that trouble occurs.
PMR | 09 June 2011


Yes the hyprocisy of the bleeding hearts is as disgusting as the cruelty inflicted on the Australian cattle which up till then enjoyed the excellent husbandry of our cattle breeders .

Why are they not directing their energy & emotions towards violations against humans in Indonesia such as practice of their hospital authorities holding new born babies as ransom until the parents can pay the midwifery fees .Only contact allowed is twice daily visit for the mother to feed the baby .

Could we suggest the bleeding hearts contribute to a fund to be used for these ransoms.

Further I need ask again ,when are they going to campaign against remote aboriginals hunting with traditional weapons ,which I assure you produces an equally cruel death to the hunted food source ?
John Kersh | 09 June 2011


Moira,
Thank you for seeing the disparity. Our problem is that one passionate person with photos can have so much influence on so many. Where are those who can photograph the trauma of boat people and their children?
jean Sietzema-Dickson | 09 June 2011


Although references to the sex-trade and pauperism may (I hope) be over-stating it, yes, the hypocrisy is breath-taking. We are told that the community demands what has happened with live cattle export. So they should. But, as a community we have some pretty serious soul-searching to do when it comes to our willingness to tolerate the way this and other governments are, in our name, prepared to treat 'these people' who we regard, frankly, as being not 'like us'. But why are we only worried about the children? What about the women and the men? Sorry. They all matter. Any suggestion that this Malaysia solution idea is 'necessary' to combat people smuggling is a ruse. The reality is that human movement, especially forced migration, is an inherently messy business. No Malaysia, Pacific, or any other 'solution' is going to change that. Instead, measures like these just shatter lives. Time to do some serious rethinking of what it means to be a sovereign nation that upholds the rule of law.
Evie | 09 June 2011


Talking about hypocrisy, have you noticed that our Prime Minister and others talk about torture of Australian cattle. It's almost as if they were saying, 'We're not worried about what you do to animals bred in other countries, but don't be cruel to animals bred and raised in Australia.
Is it the same with the children. We wouldn't dream of shipping our own home-bred kids to Malaysia, but if they were bred and raised somewhere else that's a different matter.
Gavan | 09 June 2011


Although references to the sex-trade and pauperism may (I hope) be over-stating it, yes, the hypocrisy is breath-taking. We are told that the community demands what has happened with live cattle export. So they should. But, as a community we have some pretty serious soul-searching to do when it comes to our willingness to tolerate the way this and other governments are, in our name, prepared to treat 'these people' who we regard, frankly, as being not 'like us'.

But why are we only worried about the children? What about the women and the men? Sorry. They all matter. Any suggestion that this Malaysia solution idea is 'necessary' to combat people smuggling is a ruse. The reality is that human movement, especially forced migration, is an inherently messy business. No Malaysia, Pacific, or any other 'solution' is going to change that. Instead, measures like these just shatter lives. Time to do some serious rethinking of what it means to be a sovereign nation that upholds the rule of law.

Evie | 09 June 2011


I would have thought that we would havea Government Trade department who should have been able to step in on this. Besides refugee children don't we tolerate the painful destruction of the unborn through abortion and also tolerate nations bombing countries who are having political unrest. e.g. Libya. How many humans are killed in these raids.
Enid Mulcare | 09 June 2011


It's all hypocrisy unless we admit that the only solution is to become vegans or vegetarians. I eat meat but I acknowledge the fact that even the animals slaughtered in Australia suffer so that I can be nourished. We are just talking about degrees of cruelty. To eat meat and avoid hypocrisy, maybe we should follow the example of our Hindu brothers who require that the person wanting to consume meat carry out the slaughter themselves rather than dumping the burden onto a faceless butcher in an abbattoir. My Hindu friends tell me the task of slaughter often becomes so burdensome that they usually revert back to a vegetarian or at least seafood diet.
SAM | 09 June 2011


In our obscene rush to avoid accepting asylum seekers into mainland Australia and allowing them to progress their claims for refugee status under the full protection of Australian law, we forget some relevant points. 1. The 4,000 refugees to come to Australia for every 800 new asylum seekers sent to Malaysia are currently trapped in Malaysia with little hope of leaving to a new country of refuge. 2. Many of the large and welcome influx of Indo-Chinese refugees under Malcolm Fraser's prime ministership came from "holding camps" in Malaysia. 3. For all the potential problems, the net effect of the government's current policy is that refugees (approved by UNHCR as genuine for those who doubt it) will receive residency in Australia. On cattle slaughtering (and don't forget slaughtering of sheep in the Gulf countries) when will we wake up to the fact that we export Australian work when we sell live stock? Rarely do we look to New Zealand for leadership, but they export a value added product - meat, not live animals. And we export unrefined metal ores instead of smelted and refined metal. Don't we want work for Australians or an optimum return for our resources?
Ian Fraser | 09 June 2011


Moira, I could not agree more with your analysis about "exporting" children. At our Sunday evening meal with our young adult children and partners this inconsistency of animals vs unwanted people who have arrived by boat (as opposed by air) was a hot topic. Two of them who work in the media noted how animal stories tug at emotional heartstrings with many people more than people stories. We live in a strange society when it comes to consistency in the application of values
Damien F Brennan | 10 June 2011


I'm absolutely opposed to the animal cruelty shown in these abattoirs. And I'm absolutely opposed to the very possible but not yet extant mistreatment of refugee children (and women and men) in Malaysian camps. For the very same reasons, but a higher order altogether, I'm implacably and even more energetically opposed to the actual slaughter of some 80,000 unborn children in Australia every year in our "aborttoirs". Plus the actual creeping practice of euthanasia. Shouldn't these latter be the preeminent focus of our outrage? Or have I got things totally out of whack?
HH | 11 June 2011


Well of course the simple thing would to have simply increased the humanitarian intake without sacrificing 800 completely random innocent people who asked for help.

The notion that we can ever trade humans is bizarre, don't we ever learn anything.

Last year we cared so much about those in Malaysia we accepted only 1059 applications and approved only 340 to come here.

Why not take more from Pakistan or Syria when they are people who have fled wars we started?

Most of the Burmese in Malaysia blend in, the Afghans and Iranians Australia has had arrested at the border don't.

Refugees are allowed to travel to any place they can without our self righteous whining.
Marilyn Shepherd | 11 June 2011


Compassion is not, as some would have us believe, a finite resource - we can be simultaneously concerned with the welfare and well-being of the human and nonhuman animal.

I suggest that it would be just as hypocritical to be outraged about the treatment of refugees, but to remain silent about the treatment of our fellow creatures.


THOMAS RYAN | 11 June 2011


Children's rights don't get a guernsey in Australia. UN Commissioner for HR vistiing here last month was very eloquent about the plight of asylum seekers - detention, silencing etc. Many children in the Family Law process are detained and silenced. Their lives have been ruined because the Law which is supposed to protect them is giving them to abusers. Depriving children of their loving protective parent is also abuse. Suppression laws ensure the public doesn't know about this reality. Must there be another Darcey Freeman? After children are removed from their primary carer, there is no follow up to see they are safe in their new home. Children can be and are denied (by the court), the right to counselling after separation or forced into counselling to make them accept the unacceptable which contravenes United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNROC) to which Australia is a signatory. Protection services (DoCS, schools, health,police) usually refuse to help these children. Children awarded to unsuitable and abusive parents are in detention. Why are Australians so unwilling to stand up for these children’s rights? Would 4 Corners and international attention to Australia’s secret shame of court-sanctioned child abuse make a difference?
Ariel | 13 June 2011


I suspect Australia will not stand up for the rights of kids because they don't vote.
Marilyn Shepherd | 13 June 2011


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