Conscience Vote Critical on Live Export

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Conscience Vote Critical on Live Export

By JENNY MOXHAM
August 11th, 2011
Geelong Advertiser

The vast majority of Australians, including a growing number of politicians, want live export to end, but there is currently a stumbling block with regard to the voting on the 18th. Since both major parties support live export, any politician voting against party policy would risk being expelled. On the other hand, voting in favour of live export and against one's own conscience and the wishes of one's constituents would be unethical.

In a little over a week (18/8), two private members Bills calling for the phasing out of Australia's live export trade will be voted on in Federal Parliament. If the Bills are passed it will bring an end to one of the darkest chapters in Australia's history.

It will end the suffering of millions of Australian animals transported on our "ships of shame" and it will end the cruel abandonment of Australian animals in countries where brutality is the norm and animal welfare laws are non-existent.

Currently around four million sheep per year are exported to countries such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore.

Half a million Australian cattle are exported to countries such as Indonesia, Egypt, Israel, China, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Since 2003, peak animal protection body Animals Australia has undertaken eight investigations into the treatment of Australian-exported animals, challenging the claims made by government and industry that our exported animals are well treated.

Each time, investigators were appalled by the cruelty they witnessed.

Sheep routinely had their legs bound tightly with rope or wire before being thrown into car boots or tied to roof racks. In Kuwait they watched as a sheep was forced up two flights of stairs in a boarding house before having its throat slashed in a toilet. In Oman they watched as sheep were made to jump onto slippery tiles, breaking legs in the process. Animals Australia's latest investigation in Indonesia has highlighted the fact that brutality in importing countries is widespread and ongoing despite government and industry claims that Australia's presence in the region is improving animal welfare standards there. Given that Australia has been exporting animals to the region for 65 years, this is clearly a ridiculous claim. Lack of refrigeration is another ridiculous claim by the Government to justify the need to continue exporting live animals as opposed to chilled meat. Australia predominantly exports to the Gulf region which, because of its oil, is very prosperous. Supermarkets are both plentiful and accessible and all stock a huge variety of meat.

The vast majority of Australians, including a growing number of politicians, want live export to end, but there is currently a stumbling block with regard to the voting on the 18th. Since both major parties support live export, any politician voting against party policy would risk being expelled. On the other hand, voting in favour of live export and against one's own conscience and the wishes of one's constituents would be unethical. Clearly the only fair thing for Prime Minister Gillard to do is to allow a conscience vote.

~Jenny Moxham is a Melbourne animal rights activist