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Animal Welfare and Live Export issues – An appeal from a NT Cattle Station


Like many Australians, we have been deeply upset about the cruelty inflicted on animals in some abattoirs. However, we feel there are many issues surrounding the ban on live export that are not well understood, including the animal welfare crisis currently unfolding as a result of the sudden ban. In the media at the moment we have either shocking images of animals being tortured or warm images of sweet lambs with their mothers in lush green fields. While I abhor the torture of animals as seen in some Indonesian abattoirs, I think many people are not aware of what happens in abattoirs here – even ‘good’ ones. Pictures of children feeding and cuddling farm animals is one aspect of farming – but it is not the whole picture. We have become separated from the realities of animal production, including breeding, feeding, slaughter and the supply of meat. This is perhaps one of the key factors in misrepresentations of and misunderstandings about farming, agriculture and food production. It is important to understand the processes of providing and eating meat, and the way people around the world feed themselves – including people in our neighbouring country that require live stock. Due to animal welfare advocacy and a prosperous trade, we have Australian animals going to other countries under very good care. All the boats going to Indonesia and many of the feedlots in Indonesia are exceptionally well designed and managed in order to provide good care and nutrition for the animals. The question now is: can Australia ensure the slaughter of these fine, well-cared-for animals in Indonesia in a way that is acceptable to both Australians and Indonesians, and complies with the international standards of slaughter? With the new massive wave of animal welfare awareness, urgency and resources, the answer is YES. Twenty-five slaughterhouses in Indonesia already comply with these international standards. Some of these are better than abattoirs in Australia. As Indonesia is the largest recipient of Australian foreign aid (580 million dollars) annually we are in a unique position to make major improvements for animals at their point of slaughter. Banning Australian live export will terminate this mission. We can help all animals killed in Indonesia. Do we only care about animals that are raised in Australia? In addition to these questions, there are numerous complex issues that need to be considered, including animal welfare issues that are now urgent because of the sudden ban. In Australia right now, what will happen to the 800, 000 head of cattle that will not go to Indonesia this year because of this ban? Because of Indonesian weight requirements, these cattle are too light to be killed for Australian boxed beef markets. Northern properties don’t have enough grass to keep these cattle until they are ready for slaughter, because breeder cattle and younger cattle need all the grass that can be provided. No one has planned for this crisis; no one could have planned for it and this year many cattle will starve. There will simply be too many cattle and not enough grass as a result of this current ban. If these cattle were to travel south, they would be in a truck for at least 3,000 kilometres, standing up, with perhaps one stop to rest. During this travel time they cannot sit down – if they do, physical trauma and death may occur. They will get fatigued and thirsty. The high standard of live export shipping used now is safer, more comfortable and enables their food and water needs to be met. In addition, the southern abattoirs and feedlots are already committed and may not be able to accept the 800,000 head of extra cattle which aren’t suitable for their markets. So, if they don’t starve what will happen to these cattle? This is an animal welfare crisis. In the long term we face disease and contamination issues. Indonesia is currently free of Foot and Mouth Disease – primarily because it imports live stock from Australia. This is incredibly important to the future of Australian animal welfare and agriculture. This will change if Indonesia imports live stock or boxed beef that is infected with Foot and Mouth Disease – for example stock from Brazil and India. Is this ban really a better solution? Is this ban really the best victory for animals and their welfare? Is this ban good for well-managed and regulated agriculture? On a personal note, I grew up in the outskirts of Melbourne and was an ‘animal lover’. I honestly loved them more than I loved people. I brought home any stray animals and puppies dumped in bags. I cared for each dog, horse, cat, pig, sheep and cow that my family owned. I loved them and cared for them – but being from a self-sufficient family that raised our own meat, I saw them die from illness or old age, and even saw some of them slaughtered and eaten. Now, my children and I hydrate frogs back to life that we have found around our home. We nurse back to consciousness every bird that happens to accidentally fly into a window. And we have spent years feeding and doting on every abandoned calf until it is fit enough to grow into an adult that will later go on a boat to Indonesia for slaughter. We live on a cattle station in the Northern Territory. These complex welfare issues facing cattle and my love of animals underpin my concerns. I urge animal welfare groups and supporting members of the public to reverse the call for a total and permanent ban on live export. I ask this on behalf of each animal that has died in a horrendous manner in the past. Do it for the millions of animals that will suffer right now in the whole of the Top End of Australia – because no one can afford to take care of them the way they are used to. Do it for the animals that will die in a torturous manner in Indonesia in the future, because this rare opportunity to make a real and sustainable difference to animal slaughter will close. We, the Australian people and the Government can achieve so much more for animal welfare and agriculture globally if we have some control of it. Don’t let this rare opportunity go to waste. A ban is a small time victory for Australians who would rather remain ignorant and detached from the realities of farming and agriculture – including how this industry is one of the most basic and important ones to human society, keeping people around the world occupied, self reliant and fed. It is a clear case where more harm than good will result from a total and permanent ban on live exports and we must consider that. Maree Molinaro (mother of two, teacher and farmer)

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