The ship has well and truly sailed on live sheep export
Each time live sheep exporters are subject to criticism (which is usually), We see the same response.
“But we’ve changed!”
They say that we’ve changed. The industry isn’t what they were in the past. They’ve stepped up their game and have begun to take animal welfare seriously. The gloomy days of animal welfare catastrophes aboard live export vessels are over. Give us a second chance, they tell us and see what improvements we can make.
It sounds great.
I’m sorry to say that it’s not.
We’ve heard “we’ve changed” for decades.
The truth is that the situation has not changed much except for the tactics used to promote it.
We’ve witnessed carefully planned “open house” tours aboard a stationary vessel located in Fremantle Harbour (before it started the long trip … ).
We’ve seen just one journalist on board, allowing him to take part in an extremely well-executed journey in the most beautiful season of the season … as well, to the uninitiated, even that was a disaster.
We’ve seen a growing number of false claims, scaremongering, and confusion.
We’ve seen it fail to do little to convince Australians that it’s a good idea, as new independent polls published this week that confirms 7 out of 10 West Australians, including in the rural and regional regions, remain in support of live sheep exports to stop.
That’s seven out of 10, which is 7 in West Australians, even in rural and rural regions, who would like live sheep export to stop.
Maybe they are more aware than anybody else that these issues aren’t being addressed or even addressed. More important, they’re not repaired.
Live export lobbyists are doing all they can to draw off the blinders of Australians and convince them that the animal welfare issues of the past are now fixed.
However, they aren’t fixable.
Live sheep exports can cause inseparable welfare concerns throughout the chain. There are many welfare concerns that all exacerbate one another, and many of them are inevitable on these long trips.
Heat stress. Poor conditions. Overcrowded stocking densities. Access to water and food. People who are not familiar with the area. Sheep in their urine and feces. Unfamiliar environments. Variable ventilation. High humidity. Many times, brutal slaughter at the place of slaughter.
Even if they can completely deal with one or a few of these problems (which, in fact, hasn’t occurred), the overall issues are too numerous to be worth the effort.
It’s not often we demand the practice to be stopped completely. The RSPCA is reputable and proud to collaborate with various industries of agriculture to improve the welfare of animals.
If we could accomplish it using live sheep exports, we would.
But we won’t. The problem is too fundamental to the industry. It’s unfixable.
If the issue was fixable, it could be fixed at this point.
We frequently hear from living exporters who say that the present controversy is a response to the Awassi Express tragedy in 2018, when thousands of sheep perished due to extreme heat stress during journeys towards the Middle East.
Let’s consider the (untrue) claim on its face for a moment and imagine that we’re in an alternate reality in which the Awassi did not happen.
How do they then justify all the other catastrophes that have occurred on live export vessels? (so many that we have to put them all together in the timeline … )
If this is simply an attempt to repress the Awassi, How do they explain the long-standing and deep concerns over the welfare of animals within the sheep live export industry that have been echoing for decades?
If the export of live sheep has any benefit for animals, Why is it so strongly decried by all legitimate animal welfare groups in Australia and across the globe?
There’s a Senate document from the year 1985 that found that if a decision was to be taken on the future of exports of live sheep on the basis of animal welfare, there was enough evidence to end the trade.
That was in 1985. It was clear enough that the deal had been stopped at that time, and it’s getting more evidence now.
“We’ve changed!” declared the exporters. “Mortality rates have dropped!”
Let’s consider what this could mean for the welfare of animals.
The truth is that sheep are enjoying great welfare due to us not cooking as much of them as we could.
That is, it’s true that the sheep aren’t dying, which is supposed to indicate the welfare of the sheep. This doesn’t include the thousands of people who suffer tremendously and yet somehow manage to survive.
Are we willing to accept such a statement when we talk about animals in other contexts? We talk about our pets, the animals at the farm, or the animals we collaborate with in sports or entertainment.
It’s laughable were it not so tragic.
In the face of such an incredibly dark and tumultuous history and a bleak outlook, it’s no wonder that live export lobbyists are begging not to discuss the past. Let’s discuss the future.
The future lies in Australia, which has moved away from exporting live sheep.
It’s not a dream. It’s the real and practicality of the policy that is in place at the moment. The Federal Government has announced and repeatedly adhered to from the time of the 2022 election and even for a few years prior to this.
This is the mission that the panel of independent experts was given – to examine the best way to transition away from exports of live sheep but not if we decide to do so.
“We’ve changed,” say exporters. However, they’re not. If they’d changed the way they conduct business, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
The best thing the industry can do is to accept this. Join the independent panel’s method and join forces to ensure a safe and smooth shift away from the export of live sheep.
Since there’s no possibility to change the rules, the ship is gone.
There’s nothing more to be gained from an industry that’s had many chances, but we’ve never been able to in the past.
For exporters, we’ll say this: If you’re trying to convince the Australian community that you’ve made a change and you’re ready to admit that this kind of trade cannot be sustained in modern Australia. It’s the time to help producers in a transition away from the live sheep trade.
Let us know how you’ve transformed your life by making a significant change.