IN THE NEWS: On MAY 19, 2017
ANIMAL cruelty is abhorrent to the majority of Australians, so why does the government continue to fuss and fuddle over standing up against it?
Budget case in point 1: In the lead-up to the Federal election, the Coalition vowed to ban sale of cosmetics tested on animals from July this year.
But last week’s Budget papers show that has been pushed out until at least 2019, and for the imported products, it only applies to ingredients used exclusively for cosmetics and relies on voluntary codes of practice.
While animal testing of Australian cosmetics ceased about three decades ago, many beauty products still sold here have had very ugly beginnings.
Delaying and then watering down the restrictions is no longer a ban.
Budget case in point 2: The commitment of $8 million over four years to implement the Livestock Global Assurance Program for the live animal export industry, to replace the Export Supply Chain Assurance System.
The change amounts to dressing up the wolf in different sheep’s clothing.
The new regime would move monitoring and auditing to a new commercial entity and welfare responsibility to individual facilities.
Foxes are put in charge of hen houses and get to report on themselves: it is madness to rubberstamp that as desirable.
Sadly, the moment animals are loaded on ships welfare standards take a hit, and that is completely acceptable to the legislators and policy makers.
The results of a University of Queensland study revealed last month that sheep became very stressed when kept under conditions deemed fine for live export. The lack of space and the motion of the ocean made their heart rates climb and their aggression kick in.
It was revealed last June that a longstanding live export vet was removed from the Department of Agriculture staff after revealing appalling conditions on board vessels in a damning report she had been asked to provide to a steering committee which was reviewing Australia’s live export standards.
Animals suffocating from overcrowding, drowning in faeces and becoming dreadfully injured due to the crush were standards on any voyage, Dr Lynn Simpson revealed. The department accidentally published her internal report on its website and then sacked her, telling her the live animal traders could no longer work with her.
Australia’s trade in live sheep and cattle, primarily to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, is the largest in the world. Last month alone, official figures show 260,301 animals were exported live from Australia. Last year, 3.04 million animals were sent over the waters to foreign lands.
Repeated claims that torture and maltreatment are ancient history and that there has never been a better time to be an animal exported for slaughter are hollow: it takes brave people to repeatedly show it is not.
It was only last year that we were shown footage of a trembling Australian cow in a Vietnamese slaughterhouse being beaten about the head with a sledgehammer until it dropped and then whacked some more until it died.
Must we continue to rely on ninja-acquired footage or advocacy groups who are written off as noisy axe-grinders until the public is yet again smacked between the eyes with irrefutable proof of abuse and poor practices?
We abhor animal cruelty: take the outrage expressed over a greyhound trainer who used live piglets and possums escaping jail or the charging of five people over the filmed stomping death of a wallaby.
In February, the first shipload of cattle was sent to China, with 1200 head of living Aussie cows travelling over sea for the Chinese to fatten, slaughter and consume in whatever way they choose. China has a long history of animal abuse and there are areas of the nation utterly bereft of animal welfare laws.
For the informed public, good business these days must be economically and environmentally sustainable and it should also have sounds legal and ethical practices.
Only in Australia can animal welfare standards be set and monitored: only in Australia can we decided how these creatures live and die. And while our system is by no means utterly humane, it is a darned sight better than in the Middle East or Asia.
Politicians take note: the public does not want shampoo that has been put in a rabbit’s eyes.
And we don’t want millions of our farm animals shipped off in unacceptable conditions to face an uncertain death in countries where animals are viewed as things and animal cruelty isn’t a thing at all.