The pastoral scenes of cattle peacefully munching grass come to an abrupt end when livestock are loaded onto trucks. It is the first stage of their journey to feedlots and slaughterhouses. When the shipping starts in Australia and ends in Indonesia, the usual stress of transport is compounded by days at sea and lack of animal welfare legislation at their destination.
In early June Prime Minister Julia Gillard imposed a six-month ban on shipments to eleven slaughterhouses. The move was prompted by an expose shown by Australian Broadcasting Corporation on May 30. The sight of brutal mistreatment of cattle in Indonesian slaughterhouses brought on a torrent of public protest. The video, as well as interviews and transcripts, are all online.
With 60% of Australian trade in live animals dependent on Indonesian markets, cattlemen were eager to resume shipments. In what must surely be one of the fastest industry clean-ups on record, Indonesian slaughterhouses prepared to gear up again after Elders shipped 3000 head of cattle on August 10th.
Two days later Wellard, the country’s largest cattle exporter, was given approval to resume exporting live cattle. In an interview with Australia’s 9 News, the company’s managing director, Steve Meerwald, “thanked the company’s Indonesian partners, who he said had worked tirelessly to meet Australia’s new animal welfare standards.” The new standards make Australian shippers responsible for humane treatment of the animals right through slaughter in Indonesia.
One of the abattoirs filmed for the broadcast insists no abuse took place, in spite of the video evidence. Their spokesman blames the mistreatment on workers not employed by the company. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters across Australia have rallied to protest the cruelty of live exports.
While Australia has enacted standards for humane treatment of animals in transport, animal rights activists insist enforcement is inadequate. The vast country has too few inspectors to provide oversight.
Once on board ships, their trauma worsens. As Live Export Shame describes it: “Many animals routinely die because of breakdowns in ventilation systems on board the ship, bad weather and rough conditions. Suffocation, starvation, dehydration and disease, sleep deprivation, diarrhoea, heat stress, respiratory disease, trauma, pneumonia, motion sickness all take their toll and the animals who collapse, stay where they fall and die slowly and painfully.”
Still, those who die in transit are considered some of the lucky ones. “The arrival of the animals into countries with high temperatures and high humidity is the beginning of yet another ultimately shameful, unforgivable and terrifying series of events. Animals are offloaded under inhumane and uncaring circumstances. They are thrown, driven, belted and hacked to get them under control.” The graphic account by Petra Sidhom details the horrifying circumstances to which the animals are subjected.
Take Action: A vote scheduled in the Australian Parliament for August 18th (the 17th in the northern hemisphere) may end the live trade. Sign the petition below to tell the government to end this cruel trade.
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Photo from NewsOnABC video embedded here