The Australian Government has been criticized in the media of late, for their callous indifference to the plight of animals in the live export trade.
In June, cattle exports were halted to Indonesia after graphic and horrifying footage was released in the Indonesian abattoirs of the animals having their tails broken, eyes gouged, being whipped and beaten, and having their throats cut - up to 33 times, before their eventual deaths.
The pubic outcry was instantaneous and loud; “ban live exports!” Though the trade was suspended temporarily, it was resumed only a month later, with very few changes to the system.
More recently, the plight of yet another live export animal was made known to the Australian public, when 67,000 sheep aboard the Al Messilah (a 28 year old converted car carrier), were stranded when the ship broke down, due to mechanical failure. Though the boat had only been gone from port for 10 days, 300 sheep perished in the sub standard conditions.
Animals Australia had this to say:
On board, animals were confined in crowded pens and provided only an unnatural pellet diet — which many animals refuse to eat leading to 'inanition' (starvation). The stresses of shipping and refusal to eat pellets also increases salmonella outbreaks which is the cause of most deaths on these huge ships. Other sheep suffer from eye infections. After languishing aboard for ten days, the sheep were finally given a reprieve and were offloaded late last week.
Tragically the deaths on board the Al Messilah are not unusual. 2.6 million sheep have perished on live export vessels since the trade began. Last year alone, nearly 27,000 died before reaching their destination. The live export industry now has an 'acceptable death rate' for every shipment.
The routine suffering and death on board every live export vessel again points to the callousness of an industry that is prepared to export live animals regardless of how cruelly they will be treated.
Sadly, though the public outcry has again been vocal and determined, with record crowds turning out to rallies coordinated by the RSPCA. The reality is that these same sheep who were offered a reprieve last week, may well be trucked back and boarded on another ship to experience the very same fate, in the days to come.
On August 18th a bill to end live animals exports was defeated in parliament. Clearly, the government believes that they know better than its citizens, and have thus far ignored the voices of the Australian public.
Moving forward, the hope is that more pressure in the form of rallies, phone calls and letters to local and federal MP’s, while keeping the plight of these animals in the media, will also put pressure on the government to act, and save these innocent creatures from a terrible fate.
You can learn more about the combined work of the RSPCA and Animals Australia at Ban Live Export.