Your knife will fall out of its sheath… A case against banning live export

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.


Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

One thought on “Your knife will fall out of its sheath… A case against banning live export”

  1. I agree that we should be pushing for a ban on non-cruelty free animal products, and for better conditions for the animals being farmed and slaughtered in Australia (in particular those being farmed intensively). But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask for a ban on live exports too. Are you sure that refrigerated beef would involve a greater the consumption of more energy? Feeding and transporting the cattle, live is surely not particularly energy efficient either. And the travel itself to the country where the animals are slaughtered is just as cruel as what is awaiting them. Not sure how those conditions could be improved upon, really without increasing the cost to a point where it isn’t viable anymore either. They really cram them on those ships.

    Incidentally, some of us have been anti-live export for a long time – I took my 13 year old daughter to the last demo in Sydney in 2009. It is wonderful, in my view, that the mainstream media has finally done it’s bit to make everyday Australians aware of what is/has been going on.

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