Human Chain Protests Live Export

human chain
Human chain in Fremantle, October 2016.

By MarEx 2016-10-10 03:32:51

A human chain of around 850 people stood along the Stirling Bridge in Fremantle, Australia, on Sunday in protest against the nation’s live animal export industry.

Organised by the Stop Live Exports organization, the rally is an annual event aimed at highlighting animal cruelty within the trade.

Event organiser, Sandie Rawnsley, said she was pleased with the number of people that attended the demonstration. The bridge was chosen because trucks carrying animals to be exported travel along it to get to Fremantle port.

Credit: Jen Regan, Stop Live Exports

Spokesperson for animals for the Greens political party, Lynn MacLaren, supported the demonstration, renewing her call for a ban on live exports. MacLaren points to evidence that inhumane treatment of Australian sheep and cattle overseas continues, despite Australia’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) regulations designed to stamp out cruelty and regular inspections carried out by exporter representatives.

“Just last month, for example, during Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice), extensive breaches of Australian export regulations were recorded across the Middle East, as Australian sheep were diverted from the approved supply chain for backyard slaughter,” MacLaren said.

“The latest Regulatory Performance Report, published by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, lists ESCAS non-compliance involving Australian sheep in Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The latest breach reports come just four months after workers in Vietnamese abattoirs were filmed bludgeoning Australian cattle to death in footage that rightly shocked the nation.

“Instances of the torture of Australian animals overseas have been well documented and reported to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources over and over again – and still they not only allow live exports to continue, but also continue to actively seek out new markets.”

Under ESCAS protocols, Australian livestock cannot be purchased for home slaughter or for slaughter at facilities that have not been approved as meeting international animal welfare standards. Australian regulations require that animal handling and slaughter in the importing country conforms to World Organisation for Animal Health standards.

The standards call for sharp knives (sharpening between each animal), single cuts of the throat (not repetitive blunt hacking) and effective restraint to minimise animal stress and to make the cut more efficient, as well as low-stress animal handling. However, the standards do not require that animals are stunned before having their throats cut, as many animal welfare groups believe is necessary for humane killing.

Credit: Jen Regan, Stop Live Exports

The event unfolded peacefully. In the past, protestors allege that they have had farmers throw eggs at them and that people driving livestock trucks have deliberately tried to disrupt their protests.

In the past, farmers have held their own rally, often travelling long distances to Fremantle and often with attendance numbers in their hundreds. Live export proponents believe that if Australia withdraws from the live trade, the trade won’t stop; it will just shift to countries with lower standards of animal welfare.

The live export industry contributes an average of $2 billion in export earnings annually to the Australian economy. Australia's livestock export industry works with the many cultures across the Middle East and Asia to implement programs that improve the welfare of Australian animals exported to the region. This is achieved through training programs and by making improvements to infrastructure to improve welfare outcomes during local transport, in feedlots, marketplaces and abattoirs. 

In June, the first 2,600 of an expected 150,000 cattle were shipped to Cambodia. For the January to July period this year, live cattle exports declined 16 percent from the same time last year to about 700,800 head. Sheep exports during that time declined by one percent to around 1.06 million head.

Millions of animals have died over the 60 years that Australia has been exporting live animals. However, Australia is the only country that makes animal welfare a condition of trade.