Nobody could ever accuse me of writing for the sake of being popular…
I was more shocked by the response to Monday night’s episode of Four Corners than I was to the program itself. It was revealed that abattoirs in South-east Asia engage in animal cruelty.
How could anybody be even remotely shocked by this? Where has everybody been for the past forever and a half? Are we only capable of considering animal rights when television and the internet shock us? Have we become this shallow?
Further shallowness was demonstrated in its response to the problem. Both my Facesbook and Twitter feeds were flooded with appeals to ban live exports. For some reason, people understood the problem as ‘Australia sends live animals overseas’ rather than ‘Australia sends live animals overseas who are subsequently slaughtered inhumanely’.
Don’t get me wrong. There are problems with our current live export regime. The answer to these problems is to regulate the conditions of export (we have regimes for the treatment of animals in Australia which seem to end the moment you put them on a boat).
Further, while live exports to Indonesia provided $320m last year [Source], this is a tiny fraction of our export industry. As such, we are not risking a great deal to regulate the export industry adequately.
Conversely, banning live exports results in our greater dependence on preserving meat for export, particularly through refrigeration. Not only is it a wasteful way to transport food, it greatly increases the energy output required to transport food.
Regulating live exports means we can improve the quality of life for animals while on boats and concentrate on particular countries which don’t protect animals from inhumane treatment. Forcing exporters to use refrigeration or other forms of preservation isn’t sustainable.
So why are so many people jumping on the ‘Ban Life Exports’ bandwagon? Given the complexities of the problem, nuanced answers are required to unravel the tangled web of issues.
Instead, we’re overwhelmed by the slactivism so common to ‘progressives’. It’s much easier to retweet a hastag and like a GetUp! link than it is to be thoughtful and sensible.
So instead of changing your profile picture to a bovine for six hours in order to raise awareness, why not:
a) Push for states to improve their animal protection legislation? In rather a classic case of ‘Doctor, cure thyself!’, we’re so uptight about what Indonesia does to our animals that we forget the barbaric treatment of animals in Australia. Also, there should be a national ban on selling non-cruelty free animal products.
b) Push for better regulation of exported livestock? Animal rights shouldn’t end the second they’re off Australian soil. Sure, it will push up prices slightly, but it is not a massive industry. Given the choice between that and refrigeration, exporters will fall into line.