The cruel live export trade
Australia is the world’s largest exporter of animals for slaughter. Each year, millions of animals are transported by road and then by sea only to be slaughtered. The conditions of transport in the live export trade result in the death of tens of thousands of animals every year and the suffering of many more.
The export of Australian sheep to the Middle East has a long and public history of poor animal welfare highlighted by disasters such as the highly-publicised Cormo Express, which saw the deaths of 6000 sheep at sea.
The large numbers of animals involved in the Middle East sheep trade and the long distances they are forced to travel have attracted international attention and have made Australia a key focus of the Handle with Care coalition - an international alliance of animal welfare organisations (led by the World Society for the Protection of Animals) which opposes the cruelty and suffering caused to millions of animals around the world by transporting them unnecessarily long distances just to be slaughtered.
The coalition is made up of more than 10 leading animal welfare organisations worldwide, all with a common goal – to stop the long distance transport of animals for slaughter.
What is the Handle with Care Coalition calling for in Australia?
The Handle with Care coalition is asking the Australian Government to ban live exports, most urgently the live export of sheep to the Middle East, and to replace this cruel and unnecessary trade with a trade in chilled and frozen meat from animals that have been humanely transported and slaughtered in Australia.
The Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) have been developed to protect animals from the point of leaving the farm gate in Australia to arriving at the port of the importing country. These standards however are not only inadequate, they are logistically impossible to enforce, particularly as animals destined for slaughter will often cross one or more state boundaries, and therefore enforcement jurisdictions, during their road journey. In addition, breaches of ASEL that do occur are not being prosecuted.
During each stage of the livestock export process, animals die for reasons relating to their transport conditions. However mortality rates recorded during the live export of animals provide only a crude measurement of suffering. The millions of animals that survive the journey each year do not do so without serious cost to their welfare.
In the case of live exports of sheep to the Middle East, the ASEL permit a 2% mortality rate before reporting is required. This equates to up to 2000 sheep on any single voyage. In most cases, these deaths are caused by inanition (failure to eat), and salmonellosis caused by stress, overcrowding and increased excretion.
Australian animals in the Middle East
Upon arrival in the Middle East, Australia has no control over how animals are transported, handled and slaughtered. Despite the Australian Government and live export industry’s efforts to train animal handlers and slaughtermen in importing countries, video evidence collected over many years, and most recently in December 2007, clearly shows that in many cases transport, handling and slaughter continues to occur under the most appalling conditions.
Most Middle East countries that import Australian animals do not have animal welfare legislation nor do they abide by internationally accepted guidelines for the handling and slaughter of animals. Australia’s willingness to send animals into these conditions, conditions that are illegal in Australia, sends the message that we approve of the treatment they receive.
A humane alternative
The Middle East market for chilled meat has grown dramatically and Australia currently exports chilled or frozen meat to every country it currently sends live animals to.
Australia has Halal-certified abattoirs that are providing high quality meat for these markets. Replacing live export with a more developed trade in chilled meat to existing and new markets will benefit both animals and the Australian economy through the potential to value-add in Australia. Ending live exports and developing domestic processing capacity will help ensure animals are handled, transported and slaughtered more humanely.
- Religious Slaughter in the UK.
In Britain today, millions of farmed animals face having their throats cut while fully conscious – and it’s perfectly legal. The law states that animals must be stunned before they are killed in the abattoir but animals which are killed by Jewish and Moslem religious slaughter are exempt from that rule. Scientific evidence shows that these animals face severe pain and distress. The Government’s own advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, has recently called for the banning of religious slaughter. Viva! has opposed religious slaughter for many years.
Slaughter Without Prestunning
Although stunning before slaughter is often ineffective, slaughter without it is an excruciating and terrifying experience faced by millions of animals every year. At present the law exempts animals killed to provide Jewish shechita and Moslem halal meat from the requirement to be stunned: Viva! believes that law must be repealed as a matter of urgency.
Last year, the Farm Animal Welfare Council published its report on the welfare of animals at slaughter. This April, the Government has announced that it will not adopt the report’s recommendation that the practice of slaughter without prior stunning be banned completely. At present the practice is still permitted if animals are slaughtered to provide meat for the Jewish kosher and Muslim halal markets. Viva! condemns the failure of the Government to ban religious slaughter without prestunning.
All food animals in Britain are killed by having their throats cut but the law requires that they are first rendered unconscious. However, animals killed for Muslim halal and Jewish kosher meats, can be slaughtered by throat cutting without prestunning. Research shows that it can take a cow 60 seconds to lose consciousness – a calf twice this time. The Government has, in fact, accepted FAWC’s conclusion that animals slaughtered without prestunning are likely to experience “very significant pain and distress …” before they become unconscious. Approximately 10 million animals per year are killed in this way – around eight million for the halal market and over two million for the kosher market.
It is important to note that the exemption from stunning for religious slaughter is based upon the principle that “unnecessary suffering” should not be caused, however animals are slaughtered. The recognition that “very significant pain and distress” is “likely” to be caused by slaughter without prestunning thus calls into question the entire legal basis of the existing exemption and the Government has so far failed to address it.
The Government’s detailed position is established in their “Draft Response” to the FAWC report, published on April 1st. Considering their welcome – if long overdue - acceptance of FAWC’s conclusion that this is a serious welfare problem, their unwillingness to take any positive action seems particularly unjustifiable. The Government has refused to take action on the grounds that to ban slaughter without prestunning would impose on religious freedom and would also lead to importation of meat from animals slaughtered in this way, thus “exporting” the problem.
Viva! of course, supports the principle of multiculturalism and deplores racism absolutely but we also believe that this kind of suffering should not be tolerated for any reason. Since publication of the FAWC report last year, Viva! has led the campaign against slaughter without prestunning, a campaign which has included publishing an opinion poll revealing that over 70 per cent of the British population want to see an end to it; tabling a Parliamentary Early Day Motion (No 104) which has been signed by 80 MPs; and producing a detailed report on the subject. Viva! rejects the Government’s arguments for the following reasons:
1. Other practices which may be undertaken for religious reasons – such as polygamy or the stoning of adulterers – are not permitted in the UK. Religious freedom does not override other moral considerations and the suffering caused by this form of slaughter is so severe that it cannot be allowed to prevent action being taken.
2. Over 90 per cent of animals slaughtered for halal meat in the UK are already stunned before slaughter, demonstrating widespread acceptance of the practice within the Muslim community. Similarly, many people within the Jewish community do not support slaughter without prestunning. Many Muslims and Jews are also vegetarian, indicating that the consumption of meat slaughtered in any particular fashion is not central to their religious beliefs. Banning slaughter without prestunning would not stop people from following the religious faiths of their choosing.
3. Bearing in mind the widespread acceptance of prestunning among Muslims and Jews, the banning of slaughter without prestunning in this country will not automatically lead to an equivalent amount of traditionally-slaughtered meat being imported: instead it is likely to encourage many people who currently eat meat from animals slaughtered in this way to change their dietary habits.
The Government has said only that it will seek certain small changes in practice on a voluntary basis. Viva! considers this a grossly inadequate response. At present, the Government is engaged in a consultation process which will last until July. After this process is complete, they will announce their final position. Viva! will take part in this consultation process and will attempt to obtain the best possible welfare outcome for animals. In the interim, we urge you to contact the Government to demand that they reverse their policy and introduce a ban. For contact details and specimen letters, click here.
Viva! opposes all slaughter and we promote vegetarianism as the only truly effective way to prevent animal suffering. Viva!’s investigations show that millions of animals slaughtered by conventional means are ineffectively, painfully or incompletely stunned – and the overwhelming majority of the 850 million killed each year lead lives of deprivation and suffering. To find out more about slaughter, click here. http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/slaughter/index.htm
This particular video has to be one of the cruelest and saddest pieces I have watched in regard to animals. NO ANIMAL deserves to be treated with such utter contempt and hatred. Animals are God's creatures too. And to think that a lamb often represents Our Savior Jesus Christ only makes me think of the treatment that He received from the Romanists and Pharisees. Well one day the cruel people of this world will one day have to face the other animal representative....The Lion in His den. One day the Lion will lay down with the Lamb.