Pressure is growing on the Australian government to ban live exports, after footage of the slaughter of thousands of Australian sheep in Pakistan was screened on television.
The sheep had been sent to Pakistan by exporter Wellard Rural Exports, after being rejected on disease grounds by Bahrain, but were ordered to be culled by Pakistani authorities. The footage, screened on the Four Corners ‘Another Bloody Business’ programme on 5 November, showed the animals being dragged, beaten and killed with blunt knives.
Australian Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon and Grant Courtney from the AMIEU meat worker’ union said the revelations of brutality should serve as a “wake-up call” to the government and called for a winding down of the trade and a move towards more domestic processing along with the development of a chilled meat export business.
“Australians have been shown more shocking images of livestock brutalised in some of the worst images of animal cruelty seen on our television to date,” said Rhiannon. “To see healthy sheep loaded from Fremantle that end up battered, abused and in many cases buried alive is awful. It must be heartbreaking for the farmers who have proudly bred and raised these animals.”
Courtney, who is Newcastle & Northern Branch secretary of the AMIEU, said: “Last night’s Four Corners programme highlighted again why the live export trade must end. Over the last three decades 150 meat processing plants have closed and 40,000 meat worker jobs have been lost. Enough is enough. Australia needs to transition away from live exports as soon as possible and support the local meat processing sector.”
Animals Australia, which obtained the footage, claimed that there were “serious breaches” of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) by the exporter, Wellard Rural Exports, and called for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to take the “harshest possible action” and remove the company’s export licence.
“It is clear that Wellard’s failure to be transparent with Pakistani authorities as to the history of this shipment was a major contributing factor to their loss of control and subsequent cruel killing of the sheep,” said Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White.
“It was entirely predictable that when Pakistan discovered they had accepted sheep rejected by another country on health fears there would be dire repercussions – especially as it would have appeared that parties had quietly colluded to keep the history of this shipment from them.”
White said that both the government and sheep producers should renounce their support of the livestock trade, pointing out that the value of domestically processed sheep is nearly 10 times higher than live export.
An Australian Greens bill to ban live exports is currently being debated in Australian parliament. However, Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Joe Ludwig, said that the while the cull in Pakistan was “very distressing”, it was an isolated incident and “not a reflection of the trade as a whole”.
He added that the live export trade was important to Australia and said the government would “continue to support the live export trade and all those who rely on it”.