Live Exports: The next great issue to Disappear under Abbott’s Government
Following on from its success in addressing climate change by making it just “disappear,” and similarly eliminating any discussion of asylum seeker arrivals from public sight, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has today announced that the Government will scrap the Live Export Independent Inspector for Animal Welfare position.
The move follows a report on ABC television that showed Australian sheep being brutally slaughtered in Jordan.
Tony Abbott has called the footage as “disturbing” but defended live exports as a “good system”.
The prime minister said the video – taken by Animals Australia – is being “investigated” by the government.
“If someone has done the wrong thing, suitable action will be taken,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne.
“If the rules have been broken, well we’ll ensure that ends and that the rules are enforced.”
The video, which has been sent to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), was gathered during the Eid al-Adha – or Festival of Sacrifice – in Jordan in mid-October.
The footage shows sheep being dragged along the ground, thrown into car boots and carved open at the throat.
In one scene, four dying sheep lie twitching in an open street alongside the still body of a fifth, which has had its neck bent backwards after being cut open.
The images have rekindled debate about Australia’s live export trade, with Animals Australia saying 10,000 Australian sheep were sold outside the current Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS).
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said the footage was sickening and asked how many more instances of animal cruelty had to emerge before the government acted.
“There is no doubt that Australia’s live animal export trade is systemically cruel,” Mr Wilkie told reporters, adding that current regulations are inadequate and it is a “furphy” that markets demand live animals.
But Mr Abbott on Thursday repeatedly backed live exports and the ESCAS system, saying it was designed to ensure animals are not mistreated.
“I caught some of the vision this morning, and yes it was disturbing,” Mr Abbott said.
“But it is a very foolish government that makes policy on the run on the basis of one or two media reports.
“We are not going to play games with our customers. We’re not going to play games with the food security of other countries.”
The prime minister said it was important the live export industry operate on a sound footing.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce earlier ruled out stopping live exports to Jordan.
Jordan was Australia’s third biggest market for live sheep exports and halting that trade would only harm Australian producers, he said.
And we can’t have that now, can we.