With an onslaught of videos exposing shocking abuses of Australian cattle, sheep and other animals shipped to foreign countries for slaughter, the campaign to ban live exports from Australia has reached a tipping point. And Members of Parliament (MPs) are finally speaking out:
“How many more exposés do we need before the government finally acts decisively to outlaw this vile trade?” – Andrew Wilkie, MP
“It seems there is no fate too cruel for Australian animals that would cause this government to pause.” – Melissa Parke, MP
“This abuse simply cannot continue to occur. My electorate has had enough. And so have I.” – Michelle Rowland, MP
The long-awaited criticism from elected officials comes on the heels of new undercover investigations in Vietnam and Israel, two of the 19 countries to which Australia ships over three million live animals for slaughter each year.
In May, Animals Australia documented workers in Vietnam using sledgehammers to kill Australian cattle. The footage is so “shocking” and “distressing” that the organization decided not to release it.
Vietnamese workers slaughter Australian cattle with sledgehammers
In spite of the live export industry’s own admission that they cannot track the animals once they arrive in Vietnam, the Australian government has continued to allow weekly shipments.
Just three weeks after exposing the atrocities in Vietnam, Animals Australia released footage of workers in Israel slitting the throats of Australian cattle while they were still conscious and then hanging them upside down. The footage, which also shows workers dragging cattle by their legs and tails, prompted Israeli authorities to shut down the slaughterhouse, the largest in Israel.
Advocates argue that ESCAS (Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System), a program introduced in 2011 to protect Australian animals shipped abroad for slaughter, does not – and cannot – work, as tracking millions of animals once they arrive in foreign countries is logistically impossible.
Live sheep exported from Australia
In fact, Australian authorities cannot even protect animals in the slaughterhouses that have their stamp of approval, as evidenced in the most recent undercover investigation in Israel.
Israel’s largest slaughterhouse, which had the stamp of approval by Australian authorities, was shut down after Animals Australia released footage of cattle being tortured
In spite of mounting evidence demonstrating the failure of ESCAS, Australia’s Agricultural Minister, Barnaby Joyce, continues to defend and even promote it, describing it as a “model” welfare program that other countries should emulate. But his remarks are beginning to wear thin with Members of Parliament, who have received an onslaught of calls from constituents in recent years.
“To the people who have taken the time to contact me about this, I want to say that your activism is really having an impact,” -Clare O’Neil, MP
“Constituents are contacting my office in astonishing numbers.” – Adam Bandt, MP
Live export protest in Sydney (photo: James Morgan)
Had Animals Australia not sent undercover investigators into Vietnam and Israel, the abuses would have never been exposed. Footage from these and 33 other investigations demonstrates that ESCAS cannot protect animals, even in countries that have legal protections in place for them.
Australian cow in Gaza (photo: Animals Australia)
In Australia’s live export trade, abuse is not limited just to the countries where the animals are shipped. During the overseas journeys, which can last up to several weeks, animals get sick and die in their cramped spaces on the ships. According to Animals Australia, millions of animals have died during transport.
Live export ships can transport tens of thousands of animals in cramped spaces (photo: Animals Australia)
Australian sheep are unloaded from a transport ship in the Middle East
In recent years, the fight to ban Australia’s live export trade has gone global. On April 15th, animal rights activists in the United States staged a protest at the Australian consulate in Los Angeles. The organizer, Loretta Smalls, said it was “a show of solidarity with thousands of our Australian brothers and sisters who are fighting to ban the horrific practice.” In Israel, the group Against Live Transports has employed street theater to educate the public as part of its growing campaign to outlaw the importation of live animals from Australia.
Israeli activists use street theater to protest the importation of live animals from Australia