New evidence demonstrates that a phase out of the cruel live sheep export trade is possible; and that replacing it with chilled meat exports would have positive long-term impacts on the Australian economy.
So why does the live export industry continue to maintain that the trade is essential to Australia?
Time and again those in favour of live exports fail to address the undeniable cruelty of the trade. Australia is the largest exporter of animals for slaughter in the world and exports four million sheep to the Middle East annually. During the four week journey, heat stress and diseases such as scabby mouth, pink eye and salmonellosis are common. Tens of thousands of sheep die every year.
For sheep that survive the trip, a terrible fate awaits them in the hands of countries that have no, or unenforced, animal welfare laws. They are handled and slaughtered in ways that are simply not legal in Australia.
We have recently received evidence of such horrendous treatment of Australian animals, in seven different abattoirs in three Middle Eastern countries. Yet the industry continues to maintain that it is working to ensure animal protection and that its existence prevents worse cruel treatment from other potential suppliers. Why is this something for Australia to be proud of?
The ACIL Tasman research
shows there is currently an uneven playing field between live exports and meat exports from Australia. If this bias were removed, the meat trade could actually be of greater benefit to the economy and to the WA job market. An even playing field would help ensure a switch to Australian meat (rather than a switch to live animals from another country) if combined with investment in marketing for the meat industry.
The pro-live export argument often focuses on religion as the reason for demand for live animals in the Middle East. But the research found that consumer preferences are already beginning to shift. Younger, more urbanised populations are leading a move away from freshly slaughtered meat and towards supermarkets and their products. And Australia already has over 40 halal accredited abbatoirs ready to increase their sales via this new market.
85% of the Australian public agree that live sheep exports are cruel. For us, this cruelty is enough in itself to want to end the trade. So far, however, the Government has failed to listen to the public’s concerns. Now the evidence exists that there is a viable alternative that will benefit the Australian economy and Australian animals. Isn’t it time the Government took action?