Speech – Should Australia ban live animal exports?

(Chairman welcomes Mr Roger Tao to the podium. Mr Tao addresses the audience.)

For forty seven years, I have lived and worked laboriously on my sheep and cattle farm. While this farm has provided a living for my family, I have always attended to the needs of the animals in my care. I was appalled to hear of the tragedy where thousands of sheep were subjected to enormous suffering aboard the MV Cormo Express. However, this was not an isolated incident. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Australian animals have died excruciating deaths during transport overseas. These horrific figures must stop. There must be a ban on live animal exports. This abhorrent industry has brought damage to our nation and caused animal welfare personnel to be justly critical of the inhumane treatment of our livestock. Good evening my fellow colleagues. Thank you for your invitation to speak with you today on this important subject.

Let me begin by examining the conditions on board the ships transporting Australian animals to foreign nations. These conditions are nothing short of atrocious. Mr Wolfson of Anonymous for Animal Rights correctly states: “there is no real control of basic issues such as the prevention of animal suffering on these voyages.” (Israeli Activists Threaten Trade DHS 30 –Oct-2003) On MV Cormo Express, our sheep were crammed onboard the ship suffering in raging temperatures of up to fifty degrees for eleven weeks, 5691 dying due to those intolerable conditions (Sheep Trade Reforms DHS 9-Jan-04). Looking beyond the Cormo Express incident is essential. Prior to this disaster, we can see that in 2002 73,982 Australian animals died on route to overseas markets. Furthermore, between 1989-91, 600 000 sheep suffered (Live Sheep Trade is Not worth the Cost WKT 24-Dec-03). Our history of live animal exports in the past decades is appalling. How can any politicians claim that there is no cruelty inflicted on these sheep on such voyages? Maybe they would also like to be crammed inside a baking car boot and have some first hand experience of the conditions endured by our animals! I can see many of you nodding your heads in agreement.

Sadly, the dire cruelties imposed on our animals do not stop on board the ships. Ninety-nine percent of our exported livestock go to Muslim countries. There they will be slaughtered by having their throats cut with a sharp knife, leaving them fully conscious for ten to thirty seconds before bleeding to death (To the Slaughter The Age 27-Sep-03). I can see many of you are disgusted with such an archaic and cruel method of slaughter. As farmers we have always upheld our responsibility to ensure the humane treatment of our livestock. We can not allow our monetary greed overcome our rational and humane thinking. Veterinary surgeon John Auty is correct when he states: “All they thought about was money”; “there is no justification for inflicting so much suffering on them.” (To the Slaughter, The Age 27-Sep-2003). Dr Auty is one of many vets who feel this way. It is imperative that other options for meat exports be implemented.

We must also recognise that it is the economically voracious nature of this disgraceful industry that results in its inevitable cruelty to animals. The interest of the live export trade lies purely in its profit motive. Vetenarian John Auty appropriately comments: “They are always trying to cut corners;” “in one extreme case I have heard that 60,000 sheep were vaccinated in one day.” Similarly, Hilda Egan, resident near Kobo Feed lot, states: “I see the trucks driving past packed with sheep, sometimes with their limbs hanging out the sides.” (To the slaughter, The Age 27-Sep-2003) The ramifications of these irresponsible actions are appalling, and are disgraceful to farmers. The intrinsic nature of this trade means that it can never treat livestock in a genuinely humane manner. The only way we can truly remove cruelty is by putting an end to this repugnant industry.

There are some people who think they can speak for us farmers. Fiona Myers, a The Weekly Time’s reporter (A Cruel Stunt Kicks Farmers in the Guts, WKT 26-Nov-2003) argues that the live export trade provides a major source of income for farmers. Well, Ms Myers