Image for Why does our outrage just fade away ... ?

• First published July 13 ...

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*Pic: Liz West, Flickr ( HERE )

The Premier of NSW, Mike Baird, has made the courageous decision to ban greyhound racing and his decision has been followed in the ACT. Sadly, the Hodgman government has confirmed that it lacks the courage to do likewise.

Amongst the cruelty concerns cited about the greyhound industry is the exporting of greyhounds to Macau, China, Vietnam and South America, where they face shocking cruelty and hideous deaths, some by injection of insecticides or other horrific substances. Others are simply dumped by roadsides and left to starve to death. 

This is the ABC’s Caro Meldrum Hanna’s report on these exports from December 2015 ( HERE ).

This is a story from the Daily Mail, which also describes the horrific fate of greyhounds exported to Chile, as well as those sent to Asia, but a warning, it contains very distressing images and video footage ( HERE ).

Of course we are horrified, just as we were when the live-baiting scandal exploded into our living rooms. And our outrage continued when Senator Chris Back put up a Bill that sought to amend the Criminal Code, with provisions for draconian penalties for animal advocates, and journalists, who had the courage to expose and report on horrors such as these.

There were over 2000 submissions, and by our calculations, 96% of the submissions were outraged at such a prospect and demanded that the Bill not be passed. It has been in limbo ever since. Without the courage, skill and expertise of these investigators, the public would remain in the dark about the terrible lives and deaths of millions of animals in Australia - and those exported to other countries as live exports.

We are, as we undoubtedly should be, horrified at the cruelty that is systemic in the greyhound industry. The unconscionable carnage of perfectly healthy dogs whose only crime was not being able to run fast enough, or those who sustained injuries that prevented them from being profitable. They have become profitable by exporting them to horrific cruelty and deaths in Macau, China, Vietnam and Chile, mostly under the radar of the so-called regulations.

At a visit to our vet last year, there was a man waiting with a greyhound who was standing on all four legs. He stated that it was a racing dog and it had a broken leg - if that was the case, it would not have been able to bear weight on all four legs as it was. He emerged some time later with the muzzle and lead and left the clinic, so I asked the receptionist if he had left the dog there to be destroyed. She replied ‘yes, and it’s the third one today’. That is one vet clinic in one day, so how bad is this carnage? We challenge Graeme Barber, from the peak industry body, to provide us all with the truthful and accurate figures of dogs destroyed - just in the last 12 months will do - so that we can all make an informed decision about whether we want $5 million of our taxpayer dollars to be thrown at such an industry.

Here is the conundrum though. We absolutely abhor this treatment of ‘man’s best friend’, these gentle, placid dogs. But we should be just as appalled, possibly even more so, about Australia’s greatest shame, the live animal export trade. We see horror footage and evidence month after month, year after year, of the horrific journeys, for as long as 6 weeks, endured by millions of our sheep, cattle, goats and camels. We see the most abhorrent video footage of how they are treated in every country to which they are sent, month after month, year after year. We are horrified, we run rallies, we write endlessly to politicians, then it dies away until the next time.

Recently, a former exporters’ veterinarian was thrown into the spotlight after she was dismissed from her job in the Animal Welfare Branch of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DoA&WR), because, according to her boss, Karen Schneider,  the industry ‘could not work with her’. How is it possible that a powerful industry lobby group can dictate who and who is not employed in the Australian Public Service?

Dr Simpson compiled a lengthy report in response to a request for submissions to a review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL). The Department published her report ‘by mistake’ on its website, albeit it hastily removed all submissions shortly afterwards. These are some photographs from Dr Simpson’s experiences. In discussing the matter of how the bodies of dead (and dying) animals are disposed of at sea, she had this to say:

‘The very vast majority of dead animals are thrown overboard in one piece with the ear tags removed for traceback purposes.
Some ships, not all, have grinders/ hoggers/ comminuter machines but they are disgusting to maintain and clean. Hence overboard as a whole body is the usual practice.
If we are close to a shore/ coast we may or may not make a large incision to facilitate sinking of the carcass.
Whilst on deck we rarely know exactly how many nautical miles from shore we are so we likely often breach the guidelines.
Often I will have already opened the bodies up for post-mortem purposes so the extra cut is not required.
If they are cattle from below main deck or deep inside an upper deck, they are usually too heavy to logistically throw/ move whole. So we cut them up into moveable weighted pieces, ie about 9 pieces, drag them to the edge and throw them directly into the water.
And if they are dead from heat stress/ rotting very quickly, we get rid of them asap as they are just disgusting and pose a biological hazard to other animals and people onboard and logistically fall apart in your hands as you try to move them like a “slow cooked roast”’.

Dr Simpson has provided a sound body of evidence of the hell these animals experience on these dreadful journeys, and her perspective is from the shipboard experience only - the survivors of these horror voyages experience brutal handling and slaughter of which nightmares are made.

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Photos from Dr Lynn Simpson’s article in Splash247: HERE

While Dr Simpson’s commentary is primarily about cattle, it’s worth remembering that cattle generally get better attention and conditions than sheep on ships, because of the simple reality that they are worth more. She also notes that much of her material is from voyages on ships claimed to be ‘state of the art’, purpose built for this trade.

Other, older ships on which tens of thousands of sheep die terrible deaths every year are converted oil tankers, vehicle transporters and container ships. On the 38 year old Bader III, 4179 sheep died of heat exhaustion in a period of just over a period 24 hours in August 2013, and the ship then took 6 days to travel between two Middle Eastern ports as the carcasses were dispoosed of. The DoA&WR is fully aware of the heightened risks of loading animals from cold, wet, southern feedlots and shipping them through to the Middle East, where temperatures can exceed 50 degrees Celsius. 

They can be left, hog tied, in blazing sun for hours, and loaded into car boots in these temperatures also for hours.

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They can be left, hog tied, in blazing sun for hours, and loaded into car boots in these temperatures also for hours. Photo: Animals Australia, Kuwait, 2014.

Thanks to Dr Simpson, we have a strong dose of the reality of what the animals face on these ships, living in their own filth, with excrement flowing on and around them and into feed and water troughs from animals above.

And it can take six weeks, from the time the first animal is loaded in an Australian port until the time the last animal is unloaded somewhere in the Middle East, Russia or Turkey.  Their slaughter is protracted, terrifying and brutal, as we have seen far too many times, with the latest complaint (one of 17) coming from Vietnam just last month, of cattle being sledgehammred to death. Also last month, Barnaby Joyce has overseen more animals being sent to even worse destinations, Laos, Cambodia and Lebanon. In Cambodia, the usual method of slaughter of cattle is with axes and knives.

So on what level can any of this be described as being in any way acceptable in a decent, civilised country? Why does our outrage just fade away - until the next time? Why do we tolerate our government (and that includes the Opposition) having an unashamed agenda of exporting more animals to more destinations - just to kill the long suffering survivors at the other end?

And the industry and its players are teflon coated. No matter how serious the violations of the farcical Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS), implemented after millions of grief-stricken, decent Australians united in a groundswell of rebellion following the Four Corners expose of horrific treatment of cattle in Indonesia, not a single exporter has ever had a penalty of any substance or meaning applied.

There are slaps on the wrist with wet lettuce leaves in the form of ‘Notices of Non-compliance’, then it’s business as usual. More and more business, and with that goes the loss of tens of thousands of meatworkers’ jobs. It doesn’t make economic sense, and it certainly does not meet the expectations of decent, hard-working Australians. The industry talks about a ‘social licence’ - it has never had that, and it never will.

There has never been a better time - to hold your parliamentary representatives to account.

We sent a strong message that we are well and truly over the ‘two party’ paradigm which has afflicted us for far too long, so let’s put them all on notice.

Labor and Liberal, and any Senators who think that we are not serious.

If Mike Baird - a Liberal - can be so affected by the brutality of the greyhound industry, and can be persuaded to ban it on the grounds of cruelty, we need to send the same powerful messages for our gentle sheep, cattle, goats and camels.

Before this horror trade gets even worse.

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*Suzanne Cass, above, was the Lead Candidate for Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party in Tasmania. She is an adult education professional who has been passionately campaigning against the live animal export trade for more than a decade and has led rallies in Hobart and Adelaide. She has three post-graduate qualifications, in Adult Education and Law, and has most recently worked at TAFE Tasmania. Prior to that, she managed a Workplace English Language and Literacy project at Metro Tasmania. She also worked for the Department of Justice, at the Prison as a teacher, and for Community Corrections managing the Community Service Order Scheme at Bridgewater. In 2003, Suzanne moved to Tasmania from Newcastle, in NSW, where she worked as General Manager of the Hunter Development Board, and managed Labour Market Programs with the Commonwealth Government’s CES until it was abolished by the incoming Howard government.

Barnaby Joyce Satire, HERE: ‘I haven’t read the report ...’SMH: Barnaby Joyce links NSW greyhound racing ban to Labor’s live animal exports controversy ...

• Andrew in Comments: Thanks for a very thoughtful article, Suzanne. All your points are, sadly, spot on. How can any humane Australian really accept the fact that millions of sheep and cattle are taken out of their relatively normal environments, shipped in disgusting conditions (as you have shown) to the other side of the world and then subjected to slow barbarous deaths after having their throats cut. There is absolutely no justification and the farmers who supply these animals for the live export trade and the politicians who support it should be bloody well ashamed of themselves. I keep a few sheep to keep the grass down and they are friendly, amusing animals with their own personalities and I have no doubt that they suffer just as much as we would if we were subjected to the same disgusting treatment. We are a rich and prosperous country, despite the current rhetoric and can easily live without inflicting this sort of cruelty on animals. It’s a pity that the major parties do not take proactive steps to close down the live export industry and it takes graphic TV documentaries to stir up the public enough to demand action. The good news is that if enough of this media is shown, it might put enough pressure on the politicians to force them to do the right thing.

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