And here we are again. Debating at what price do we accept the astonishing cruelty to and the torture of Australian animals.
When the ABC’s 4 Corners exposed the incredibly brutal treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs last year, the footage was incredibly distressing. There was a massive public outcry. How could this be allowed to happen? Following intense pressure from the community, from animal rights industry and from the media, the Government was forced to take action.
A temporary ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia was put in place, until the Government could make arrangements for stricter rules and regulation to govern the treatment of our livestock being shipped to Indonesia for slaughter.
Perhaps naively, many of us presumed the issue had been ‘fixed’. We presumed that Australian livestock would now be slaughtered humanely and with dignity in Indonesia and in other countries to where our animals were exported.
We were so wrong.
A 4 Corners follow up, which aired last night investigated the events surrounding the absolutely horrific culling of 21,000 sheep in Pakistan. Video footage showed hundreds of sheep having their throats sawed crudely and mercilessly and then tossed into deep pits – many of them still alive.
The graphic images leave no doubt that those animals endured a terrifying ordeal and slow and agonising deaths. You can view the 4 Corners program in full here. Please be warned that the video is extremely distressing and you will never forget the images of those poor animals being tortured.
The story of how thousands of Australian sheep came to be in Pakistan in the first place (a country with whom Australia does not have a pre-existing live export relationship) and how the Government was unable to prevent their slaughter, is a complex one.
The shipment of Australian sheep was originally destined for Bahrain. When the country rejected them, claiming they were diseased, the animals were stranded in the Persian Gulf. Eventually, a home for the sheep was found in Pakistan, but that’s where the problems started.
The local government in Karachi wanted to know why it wasn’t told the sheep had been previously rejected in Bahrain. Thousands of the sheep were culled, before a legal challenge temporarily stopped it.
But even after a series of scientific tests showed the sheep were healthy, and after high-level government, industry and diplomatic involvement, the flock remaining was eventually brutally slaughtered.
Government officials and the Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig spoke to 4 Corners last night but were unable to provide the guarantee the Australian public so desperately wants – that something will be done to stop this ever happening again.
JOE LUDWIG: This industry was completely deregulated. We wouldn’t have even understood some of the circumstances that occurred in this particular market.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Yeah but we’re talking about now.
JOE LUDWIG: Absolutely. What we have put in place is a supply chain that ensures animal welfare at the heart.
KERRY O’BRIEN: But it didn’t. It didn’t.
JOE LUDWIG: What I’ve always said, what I’ve always said, what I’ve always said right at the start of this is that there would always be circumstances, there would be mistakes, there would be slips.
A study into the temporary live export ban in June 2011 revealed that it cost ore than 300 Australian jobs and had a ‘negative financial impact on 58 per cent of affected farmers’. Dynamic Export reports: