Article extracted from:

Veterinary Surgeons' Board of WA - Newsletter September 2003

Ethics

Ethics of live animal export - a reader’s submission

“When the big welfare issues, such as live export, are brought to the public attention vets are perceived to back the vested economic interests without question we need to expand veterinary education to include meaningful consideration of ethics and counter-balance the current emphasis on exploitation"

The VSB newsletter often attempts to generate discussion regarding professional conduct between vets or in relation to a single animal or its owner, usually a pet. There does not seem to be much discussion regarding what should be the equally important issue of unprofessional or negligent conduct relating to production animals or animals bred purely for the purpose of slaughter. Recent publicity has exposed, yet again, cruelty verging on the grotesque in live animal export. People look to vets to provide guidance on matters relating to animal welfare and double standards are becoming increasingly obvious. We can provide a united and self-righteous campaign against tail-docking in puppies, (which is undeniably cruel but hardly a particularly pressing welfare problem) but remain silent when confronted by demonstrable cruelty to 7 million animals per year! As a profession, we must start to draw the absolute ethical bottom line as to what we allow to happen to animals When the big welfare issues, such as live export, are brought to the public’s attention vets are perceived to back the vested economic interests without question.

The live export industry is the example of all that is wrong with current attitudes to animal welfare. Transporting animals by sea, at a cost which allows for profit, results in some degree of suffering for all the animals and for many extreme suffering, prolonged stress, fear and painful death. Despite years of horrific animal abuses, live export has been encouraged in preference to developing markets for chilled or frozen meat. The simple reality is that Australia is exporting jobs to Middle East countries who then erect tariff, quarantine or cultural barriers against chilled meat imports to protect these jobs. Australia has subsidized feedlots, port infrastructure and research on improving welfare but has done nothing to address the fundamental need to phase out live export. Australia is failing to use its position of strength as one of the world’s leading livestock producers.

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For the following reasons live export could not continue if Australia’s animal welfare laws were extended to cover animals in transit.

  • The law in Australia is drafted to refer to individual cases and animals, thus cruelty to a single cow or sheep is an offence. If an animal’s suffering is ignored then the person in charge of that animal is liable to prosecution. The often quoted industry mantra “look at the mortality figures, things are getting better” is misleading and irrelevant as morbidity and individual suffering which is the basis of the law is conveniently in fact by necessity, left out.
  • On arrival animals are either further transported or slaughtered in ways which would be illegal in Australia. Australia cannot have any positive effect on animal welfare in countries where there is no cultural or legislative protection for animals at all. These animals have been sold and, quite rightly the new owners can do what they like with them.
  • A third undeniable fact is that the trade is utterly dependent on the support of the veterinary profession’

Where should we go from here? Firstly, the true welfare and economic implications of this trade must be put before the public and the profession should be calling for a Senate inquiry as soon as possible. It is timely to investigate whether action can be taken to discipline or prosecute vets, or others, who break Australian welfare laws on ships and beyond. Protection should be offered to whistle-blowers, such as the vet interviewed on 60 Minutes, who allege under-reporting of mortality or morbidity in transit. In the long term we need to expand veterinary education to include meaningful consideration of ethics and counter-balance the current emphasis on exploitation. There is need for a new group to organise within the profession, distance itself from vested interests and provide some alternative views on animal welfare. Anyone interested?

Just imagine what would happen if veterinary services were withdrawn from the live export industry. It would stop. O Happy Day. Australia would be a better and richer place.

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The article as it appeared

 

 

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