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Live animal exports: defending the indefensible

jenny Hume Jenny Hume has been a regular contributor to WD since last year and a campaigner for animal rights since 1972. She has a degree in Asian and Islamic Studies and a lifelong background in farming, which led to a special interest in the prevention of cruelty to farm animals. In 1980 she formed the ACT Branch of Animal Liberation to expose abuse and lobby for change. Her first piece for Webdiary was Live Animal Exports in Heavy Seas, which looked at the history and welfare issues of the live animal export trade. Here she updates us on the issues and why she will not be voting for the Howard Government in the next election.

The report and footage
flowing from Animals Australia’s January 2006 investigation in the Middle East prompted me to write to John Howard and Agriculture Minister McGauran expressing my serious concerns at the fate of animals exported live to Egypt in particular and to the Middle East in general. I asked a number of important questions. These did not muster any reply, not even from a junior clerk.

Such is the arrogance of the Howard Government. It no longer believes it has any responsibility to answer genuine letters of concern from the Australian public, and the signatures of over 160 000 of its citizens opposed to this trade mean nothing. Instead, we have attempts to silence protest in Australia. Those welfare organizations that receive Government funding are at risk of losing it if they attempt to change government policy. That effectively tells animal organisations to confine themselves to such activities as running animal shelters and to keep their noses out of matters affecting big farm business. In other words, do not concern yourselves with those hundreds of thousands of sheep, cattle, goats, horses, deer and camels loaded onto those ships. Yet in just six years to 2005, the Government’s own figures show that over 320 000 of them died on those ships, some suffering appalling injuries before they died, not to mention the tens of thousands that simply burnt to death on abandoned and burning ships.

The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) reveals that a further 39,133 sheep and cattle alone have died on the ships in 2006. The Department fails to inform the public of the fate awaiting those animals that do survive the voyage. That is left to donor funded organizations such as Animals Australia, (representing over forty animal welfare groups in Australia) to reveal, and it is an appalling story of gross animal abuse.

It was clear that the AA undercover investigation in Egypt in early 2006 and its findings, coming on top of the Cormo Express disaster, would put the Howard Government in a rather awkward position. It was forced by public outrage to suspend the live trade to Egypt. (The trade to Saudi Arabia had already been suspended after the Cormo Express languished for weeks on the high seas while its cargo died in their thousands. A desperate Howard Government finally gave its remaining cargo away to Eritrea. That at least got if off the front pages.)

It was also clear that the Howard Government would try to find a way to get the trade to Egypt and Saudi Arabia up and running again as soon as possible. The treatment of animals in Egypt was not going to change but the live export industry has some powerful players and John Howard knows it. So the Government wasted no time in negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Egyptian Government to get a special deal for Australian animals, that is that they would be treated in accordance with the World Animal Health Authority’s standards (OIEs). These standards are very basic guidelines for the treatment of animals and are lower than the requirements in Australia.

No sooner said than done and the ships started to move again. It was not hard for AA to predict and later to prove that the MOU and those standards are not worth the paper they are written on. Further, tendon slashing, eye stabbing and other cruel methods of disabling and disorienting cattle prior to slashing their throats (while they were fully conscious) would still be inflicted on non Australian animals in the Egyptian abattoirs and on the streets during religious festivals. This did not deter the Australian Government.

The line pushed by the Howard Government that this country, by continuing the trade, is in a position to bring about better treatment of animals generally in the importing countries is total nonsense. In the face of failure of that argument, the Government’s response is: If we don’t send our animals, other countries will. Never mind that the trade is cruel. If others do it, then we have to do it too.

This is moral bankruptcy. Animals Australia pointed out to Minister McGauran and Departmental officials that with no animal welfare laws, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries have no ability to enforce any standards of care of any imported animals under any MOU. Not to be deterred Australia recommenced the shipment of live sheep to Egypt in late 2006 to meet demand for live sheep for sacrifice on the occasion of the Eid-al-Adha.

Animals Australia had no confidence in the Howard Government’s assurance that the first shipments would be monitored for compliance under the new MOU. Nor would it even have been possible to enforce any agreement as the sheep are in many cases sold to private individuals for slaughter in home backyards. This McGauran’s Department openly admits. So AA sent its investigator, former SA policewoman Lyn White back to Egypt in December 2006 to track the fate of Australian sheep under the MOU. Assisting her was an independent investigator from the UK.

Sheep being trussed and then tossed in heaps onto the backs of trucks, onto car roof tops, and crammed into boots of cars were in clear breach of the most basic rules of humane handling of animals, of the international standards, and hence of the MOU. But that was not the end of it. These sheep arrived in time for the Eid and the Government admits that the Eid is a peak demand period for Australian live sheep.

Lyn White wrote:

I had been told that on the morning of the Eid the streets of Cairo ran red with blood. I did not think for a moment that this could be true. Much to my dismay I was soon to learn that this was an accurate portrayal of this terrible day. In every street crowds were gathering watching animals being slaughtered on footpaths and driveways.


On this issue I personally had first hand knowledge. When I was in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Pakistan’s Lahore University back in the Sixties, my Muslim friends told me how important it was for all young men to slaughter a sheep for Eid. They spoke with pride of boys as young as nine being required to kill their first sheep, by cutting its throat. Nothing will have changed, of that I can be 100% sure. Little kids hacking away at the throats of animals, our animals. You don’t need any imagination.

Lyn reported that an Egyptian who professed to be an importer of Australian sheep had invited her to his premises to witness Australian sheep being slaughtered. She described the slaughter area as the quadrangle of a shopping centre which turned into a sea of blood as the sheep were brutally slaughtered. She added that at the same location the appalling final minutes of a terrified young bull was one of the worst abuses of an animal that investigators had documented.

That animal cannot speak for itself, but we should all sit up and take notice of its treatment, for it is typical of how animals are treated and slaughtered in the Middle East.

The bull was transported on a ute with its front legs tied together with rope. With no unloading ramp the bull was forced backwards on the ute falling onto its side on the road. The terrified animal struggled against the slaughtermen trying to pull it to the slaughter area (outside a shopping centre). When the animal couldn’t comply, one slaughterman slashed the rear left leg tendon of the bull. Slaughtermen then dragged the crippled bull with its front legs tied and rear leg tendon slashed to a footpath continually twisting its tail and using the pain as a leverage to get the animal to move. In front of a crowd of onlookers this poor animal which by this time had collapsed on the ground, was held down by four men whilst its head was twisted for the throat cut.

Whilst in Egypt the investigators noted that at three locations they visited this practice of slashing tendons of cattle to immobilize them for slaughter continues, showing that this barbaric method of controlling cattle is routine and considered completely acceptable. That the export of live cattle from Australia to Egypt is yet to recommence is of little comfort, as the Howard government and industry fully intend that it will resume as soon as possible. Hundreds of thousands of our cattle have already been sent to Egypt, where the much heralded restraint boxes our Government claimed were installed to allow more humane restraint, were found by AA to be unused.

AA reports that despite documenting clear breaches of the MOU and against the advice and opposition of the Australian Veterinary Association, and all major international animal protection groups, Minister McGauran intends to continue the live export of sheep to Egypt. Following the AA exposure of the breaches, a temporary suspension of the live trade to Egypt is in place, awaiting a response to a letter by Minister McGauran to Egypt’s Minister Abaza in March. I am informed that there has been none. It remains a temporary reprieve. More empty assurances will doubtless be all it will take to get the ships sailing again.

The Government is so unconcerned about non compliance with this MOU that it has signed such useless agreements with six other Middle Eastern countries, including most recently Libya. Minister McGauran announced that this would allow cattle, goats, sheep, horses and camels to be shipped live to Libya. Even then, these MOU’s only relate to an assurance that our animals will be offloaded in the event of disease or other trade related disputes (we call it the Cormo clause). There has been no other attempt to negotiate an MOU which addresses the treatment of animals in those countries. And in the absence of animal welfare laws in those countries, what would be the point anyway. No, those MOU’s may stop the Saudi’s playing ping pong with our sheep, but little else.

While the Government continues to try and claim that the live trade cannot be replaced with the chilled trade, it is to be noted that the chilled trade increased by 35% in 2005 and the Department acknowledges that the value of the chilled trade far outstrips that of live exports. Its argument that cultural reasons demand continuance of the live trade is equally flawed as that chilled meat is from animals Halal slaughtered in Australia.

Meanwhile Amina Abaza, President of SPARE ( Society for Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt) which is Egypt’s largest animal welfare organization wrote in an open letter to John Howard:

We are shocked that the Australians would again send their animals to Egypt, especially to Cairo’s Bassatin slaughterhouse where animals are subjected to the brutal and violent treatment. Even if Australian animals are treated differently at Bassatin, in other slaughter halls they will still be subjected to brutal treatment. Surely this should prohibit Australian from financially supporting the facility”.

One would have thought so.

But no. This Government under its Orwellian Memorandum of Understanding (an understanding of just precisely what?, we might ask) has negotiated a ‘special deal’ for Australian cattle, while local cattle, and presumably those from other countries and slaughtered in other parts of the same abattoir have no protection from the tendon slashing and eye spiking practices of restraint.

And of course no animals at all are pre stunned prior to slaughter.

Even when faced with evidence that the MOU was useless for Australian sheep, the Howard government is prepared to allow the trade to continue. As AA reports, it is clear that this MOU was merely a tool to get past community concerns. It was never about animal welfare.

The live animal export trade was deemed anathema to good animal welfare over twenty five years ago by a comprehensive Senate Inquiry chaired by the late Senator George Georges. It remains so to this day with hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle suffering appalling deaths on the transit ships, let alone the survivors suffering an even worse fate on arrival.

It is doubtful that the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd will have the courage to act against the big business that runs this gruesome trade. And Howard has demonstrated where he stands. Though one could hardly expect anything else of a Government that stood by and did nothing in the knowledge that one of its own citizens had been brutally tortured in Egypt under the so called ‘rendition’ of prisoners to Egypt.

In the face of the paper trail and the CIA admissions, the apparently routine denials on Four Corners by Howard’s ministers and public servants was one of the most sickening displays I have ever witnessed. It was callous indifference in the face of damning evidence, and made me ashamed to be Australian. It is time for these gutless people and their gutless culture to go. It is easy to see why it would be unmoved by the fate of one sheep, or a few hundred, or a few hundred thousand.

That Egypt is seen by international animal welfare groups as having the worst record of abuse of animals should not surprise anyone. People are clearly treated with equal inhumanity.

In my earlier piece I wrote of the upcoming trial of one of the largest live animal export companies in WA following Animal Australia’s claim that a shipment by that Company of sheep on the al Kuwait breached that State’s animal welfare laws. It was just a standard shipment, selected at random, so any finding against the company would have repercussions for the whole industry. It took a Writ of Mandamus to overcome the WA Government’s reluctance to drag the company into court. The trial finally took place in February this year. We await the verdict. Will justice to the thousand plus sheep which died on just that one voyage be done? We will see.

No. I will not be voting for the Liberals or Nationals in the next election. I cannot abide cruelty to animals. It would take courage to act against the big interests that run this abominable trade and this Government does not have what it takes. But does Labor? Probably not, so I probably won’t be voting for them either.

The Howard Government defending the indefensible? Take a look here, boot up the footages and photos and then you decide for yourself.



Animal Australia reports and footage

Departmental of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries statistics.

Government Media Releases

See also Government Reports linked in original piece.


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Forget vegan, I think I will be a Freegan.

Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.

They dress in castoff clothes and furnish their homes with items found on the street; at freecycle.org, where users post unwanted items; and at so-called freemeets, flea markets where no money is exchanged. Some claim to hold themselves to rigorous standards. “If a person chooses to live an ethical lifestyle it’s not enough to be vegan, they need to absent themselves from capitalism,” said Adam Weissman, 29, who started freegan.info four years ago and is the movement’s de facto spokesman.

Freeganism dates to the mid-’90s, and grew out of the antiglobalization and environmental movements, as well as groups like Food Not Bombs, a network of small organizations that serve free vegetarian and vegan food to the hungry, much of it salvaged from food market trash. It also has echoes of groups like the Diggers, an anarchist street theater troupe based in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in the 1960’s, which gave away food and social services.

After five years of retirement including 4 years as a personal care worker (working poor) I think the solution for me might be Freeganism. I have always been a bit of a dump diver. If we are serious about reducing our footprint on this planet, we must be open to all ideas. 


Jenny, perhaps the indifference to human suffering that I refer to is merely affectation. It is not something I invented but rather something I have observed in others, from time to time. Attributing it for a desire for "safe" politics is me editorialising - in truth I don't know why certain people speak as they do. It is not that I haven't asked it is that  the answers I have recieved explain nothing.

I am sure the bulk of the animal rights movement has similar concerns about human suffering - if their motivation is compassion then it makes little sense that they would not. Yet sometimes they do: such is human complexity. Perhaps by some distorting accident I have come across particularly jaded individuals, in my life.

I think human politics is complicated by notions of guilt, innocence and just deserts. Animals are characterised as innocent by their very nature and as such cruelty towards them becomes a black and white issue. Nevertheless I find myself less concerned about animal rights than about people, I suppose because I value people more than animals.

I don't apologise for this - one cannot care about everything in practical terms. You serve where you are called to serve, as people in my church used to say. I can assent to the justice of your cause but am not going to become a convert. But you've worked that out already.

Great article!

Thanks for the information Jenny! I think that many people just don't care anymore and that hurt me. How can humans be so cruel..

We have to stop thinking about ourselves and try to make sure everyone is respected, humans and animals. It's not much harder and we could all end up winning. For those who like chicken recipes, fine, but it's our responsibility to make sure that the meat we buy it's from people who care about the animals and shows it in actions.

Fiona: Patty997, welcome to Webdiary. Unless you need to use a pseudonym - in which case please contact the editors - could you please amend your username to your real name. 

A slow boat, Patricia

Patricia: Thank you for your comment. Changing this abominable trade is going to take a long time I am afraid. The Rudd Government is just as committed to keeping it going as was Howard. The suffering of hundreds of thousands of animals is not important when it comes to big business. But we will keep the pressure on for however long it takes. The mulesing issue has put pressure international pressure on the sheep industry and we intend to see that the live export trade receives the same treatement. A coalition of Australian and International groups is now focusing specifically on this trade.

We did successfully stop the trade to Egypt for over a year now, even after McGaurin (thankfully now out of office) started it up again under his useless MOU. The evidence our group collected proved the MOU was not worth the paper it was written on and the trade once more ceased to that country. The claim the Government put forward that to not ship the thousands of sheep over there for the Eid, (during which the men, even young boys are expected to sacrifice a sheep) would simply see some other country step in to fill the gap left by Australia, was found to be wrong. In fact there was a large increase in chilled meat in lieu.

Another positive is that in Egypt now animal welfare is now becoming an issue of broad concern with a desire on the part of the Egyptians to address the problems. But in the ME there is a long way to go as no country, other than Israel, has any animal protection laws.  

My earlier piece for WD you might find interesting which preceded this one, Live Animal Exports in heavy seas again, covered a wide range of concerns, and also the case Animals Australia was instrumental in bringing against one of the big WA live exporters on the grounds it breached the animal cruelty laws of that State.

The Magistrate has just ruled against the company, but failed to record a conviction on the basis of a technicality, ie to effect that the Federal Government issued permits for live animal shipments and therefore permitted the cruelty. The Solictor General over there lodged an appeal but the Carpenter Government instructed it be withdrawn, therefore effectively interfering in the legal processes of that State.

A lot was written on another thread about images of people blown to pieces in Iraq and it was obvious that some held the view that if people did not want to look at those images, they did not really care or want to know. Yet those same people would I am sure never take their children into an abattoir to see what the animals are subjected to, and explain that the meat they eat comes from such places. No, they prefer to just let their kids go to the Shows and cuddle a cute little lamb or calf or whatever, but never to see what its ultimate fate really is. 

I believe people who write a great deal about human suffering but never concern themselves with the suffering of other creatures are selective in their compassion, and I have never been able to relate to that sort of mentality.  

Anyway, nice to see another female around here. Cheers.

Supporting your great article

Hi Jenny and all

I really believe that the Australian government relies upon community ignorance and apathy to get away with what is really genocide of animals. A substantial number of people turned off the Four Corners, Landline and Sixty Minutes exposure, saying "I couldn't watch it, it was too awful".

To those people, I say - by turning away, you are abandoning those animals, and you are therefore condoning this torture, You are also SUPPORTING IT with your tax dollars.

Sending animals to that part of the world at all is indefensible, sending animals back into Egypt is simply unconscionable. How do we get enough people to care enough to remove these gutless politicians who cave in to the live exporters?

How do we get the WA government to do its job over the "Al Kuwait" case? Another writ of mandamus?

Although Australia exported far less sheep in 2007, it still managed to kill more of them on the ships than in 2006. As much as they suffered, those who survived suffered far, far more. Now Middle Eastern countries are onforwarding these animals, in unspeakable conditions, after they have already survived a torturous journey.

Farmers whinge that "animal libbers" are trying to "send them broke". They deserve nothing less, having founded a living on this brutality.

WHEN WILL ENOUGH BE ENOUGH? How much egregious cruelty is the Australian public going to tolerate before this is stopped?


Ian MacDougall (Ed): Welcome to Webdiary, Nicky. I don't think you have posted here before. (Am I right?)

In any case, I draw your attention to the guidelines in 'About Webdiary' at the top of the home page.  Follow the links About Webdiary > How to comment > Editorial policy for details, the main one being that we all use our real names here unless editorial approval has been given for not doing so.

We look forward to more from you.

Hang in there, Nicky

Hi Nicky, hang in there. This is not an issue I am prepared to let go. Am working on another article and on Rudd and the MLA. We can only keep trying and you may have heard about the recent success in Jordan where, with the help of the Royal Family Animals Australia managed to get an appalling abattoir closed down. A letter of thanks came thanking us for exposing the atrocity to animals in that facility. So there is hope that there is emerging concern in the countries themselves.

The interference in the WA court case by the Government over there is outrageous. But AA has some ideas how to proceed in the face of that obstruction.

More to follow in my next article for WD. I assume you are familiar with the work of Animals Australia. My earlier article on this for Webdiary was Live animal exports in heavy seas. It has more information if you would like it.

Stay tuned.

Selective compassion and chooks

Solomon: To be concerned and affected by the suffering of a child and not of a sheep is to me an example of selective compassion. Selective compassion is to me convenient compassion and therefore rather hollow.

In societies where there is massive human abuse and suffering, animals also get a pretty raw deal. Hence animals exported to countries in the ME have no hope of humane treatment. You simply cannot separate the two issues, as much as it may be comfortable to do so.

Similarly it is quite common to find that those who commit the worst crimes also have a history of animal abuse. There are many cases in Australia where that has been true. 

Maybe you have run into some jaded individuals but from my experience those who care about animals are just as caring about human suffering. It is not about valuing people more than animals, it is about a capacity to respond to suffering. And some people are pretty immune or certainly appear to be so, irrespective of the species. 

Kathy:  I agree with you. Chooks make for really nice pets. And I object to those school experiments that allow children to imprint chickens as they do, only to then abandon them.

Goulburn, the old family pad, has had good rain at last and the farm in the north has had a reasonable start to the winter but many areas of NSW and Qld are still very dry as is WA. I hope and pray it rains in the West soon.

I see you have taken on my other half and others on the Morality thread.  Believers cannot get much traction there I've found. The problem with non believers is they have great difficulty in understanding what faith is really all about, and what it means to millions of lives world wide. I do not think the world will be a better place if religious belief were to simply die, quite the contrary. 

Incidentally it is the believers in my family who are the greatest supporters of charities, both animal and human.   

Well back to bed with this old girl. So much for the flu shot.

Hi Jen

Jenny, when I said that no one apart from  Roger  would understand what faith  really means, I was mistaken.

 Of course YOU  would understand  Jen! Sorry for the oversight.

Yes, we believers are in the minority here . Lol!

 Think those prayers are working though. We're in for quite a bit of rain over the next few days. Thunderstorms this evening according to the bureau.Just hope the farmers cop a fair share of it.

Hope you feel better soon old girl.

PS: He's a real gentlemen your other half!

Hope you feel better soon old girl.

Sounds good Kathy

Kathy: Sounds promising at last for the West. Ian may not have time to update his Drought Song (written by us both during the big 78-82 drought and recorded by Macca) as requested by Macca a few months back. We know that because we had half of
  ringing us up telling us Macca wanted to hear from him. One way to track us down I suppose. But he may have to wait for the next big one which no doubt is already out there somewhere in time.

 You are right. Roger Fedyk has the best perspective on all this religion business and I feel rather inadequate in the face of his knowledge and insight. My faith is a rather simple and practical faith and my life is better with it than without it. 

 Do not however be put off by the rather big intellects that inhabit this place. I myself find them a bit daunting but I try not to let them get away with too much!

 So I will look forward to your piece on autism. It is very demanding having a child with special needs. Our own extended family has not escaped such challenge and it makes me angry that they have to struggle financially to pay for special needs, when Governments are prepared to waste so much on advertising just to tell us how good they are to us, or will be if we vote for them. That money would be far better spent helping parents and those children by funding early intervention so that every child with such need can benefit.

 And I could rescue a lot of battery chooks from a life of misery with some of that money. But no, we have to be indoctrinated instead.

 Feeling a bit better thanks and the rare gem, the gentleman you refer to here, is very attentive. Mind you I caught it from him. But he's a good man, they in fact do not come much better and not a malicious bone in his body.  That I should be so lucky.

Against Cruelty

I do NOT like cruelty of any kind Jenny.

 I have not bought eggs other than free range for many years now.

 I love chooks.

 Had  a white leghorn as a pet many years ago, called her Caw caw! She was a great pet!

I am also against cruelty to human beings..

 Abortion is  high on my list.

 Some years ago I discovered that I was carrrying a child with a neural tube defect (anencephaly) which in this case meant that my daughter would die at birth. I chose not to have my child aborted. Nature (God) took it's course, and at 26 weeks I went into early labour. My dear daughter was  still born....

Her life , was not mine to take.

Pray to her every day though......


Hi Jenny. Maybe I came over the wrong way in my post, I was just playing at seeing things from different perspectives, and I did not mean to suggest any justification for cruelty.
I really wanted to point out how we can be desensitised even to the suffering of our own people, I remember a time when the thought of a homeless Australian would have caused revulsion. Not anymore.


Jenny, yes we do know their suffering as a fact and that is why I said earlier the issue was about acknowledgment. I do remember the coverage by Channel Nine. I admire your approach, animal by animal, almost as if you're building an ark. I have met several people like you, committed to animal rights (some at my church), and, below their charm and wholesomeness there is a steeliness there. Others I know work for animal rights because they have given up on human beings (which is troubling), or because they see it as 'safe' politics (which is weak), or because they think humans are capable of controlling their own destiny (which is naive).

I feel similarly to Angela Ryan in that if we cannot acknowledge the suffering of human beings, what hope is there for animals? But then it seems some how simpler in their case - the politics is simple. Somehow human suffering becomes complex, and, manipulative of our emotions.

Selective compassion

Solomon: During my years in the animal rights movement one of the things that really surprised me is that there are many many people who profess concern about the plight of people, but are quite indifferent when it comes to institutionalised cruelty to animals. Where they see they benefit from that cruelty, such as with cheaper eggs from caged birds, they are more accepting of it. Their compassion is to me selective and selfish. I have never found the reverse to be true of any I have known in the animal movements.

Many people will refuse to give to animal charities on the excuse that people are in greater need. I say excuse because I suspect they don't give much there either.

I do not agree that animal activism is safe politics, whatever that means. Nor do I agree that human suffering becomes more complex and manipulative of our emotions while that of animals is somehow simpler and the politics simpler. In fact, quite frankly I find that statement rather meaningless.

Charles: No I did realise what you were saying. So no problem.





In first year Communication they teach you about the difference between empathy/sympathy. That may seem basic but it is a topic limited only by your own curiosity in exploring its depths. Empathy is an act of the imagination, an attempt to percieve how others unlike ourselves view the world. Sympathy is something shared. From my study of the topic it has led me to think that people, as a general rule, imagine others have more simplistic and selfish feelings and motivations than themselves. I think this is especially true when men imagine women, and, vice-versa.

Empathy is not scientific, it is not based on evidence, but rather on experience and emotion. I think in a sense it does not really exist, with all our efforts to imagine how others feel as based on shared reference points - we all know how pain feels and so we can relate to others in pain. Without any common experience, how can we imagine others at all? How can we know what it feels like to be a spider, an ant, a bird, a lamb? Our common experience is pleasure and pain but our consciousnesses are otherwise, I suspect, incommunicable. A butterfly cannot know what it feels like to fall in love. A human cannot know what it is like to see the ultra-violet light reflecting from a red flower, like a bee. I don't know what it is like to be exported but I can imagine how I would feel: and what, exactly, is it that makes me think an animal would feel less terrible about it than I?

We also interpret other humans through the prism of our own experience, projecting ourselves on to others. We can learn a little - hell, even a lot - through vicarious experience, by imagining how certain events would affect us - but the convicction of many refugees and survivors of war seems to be that we who live in peace simply cannot know what war is like. I think to humanise is to recognise that others are, as far as we can gather, are like us (Hath not a Jew eyes?). I don't think we can do much more than that, but I am not unhopeful that, with a certain level of application and effort, that I may be wrong and we can find a way to make the incommunicable communicable - to make the foreign, the alien comprehensible to beings who are otherwise limited to the familiar.

The important thing is

Solomon: As the philsopher Jeremy Bentham said over a hundred years ago in regard to animals: The question is not can they talk, nor can they reason, but can they suffer.

Our species has over the centuries conducted the most brutal experiments on animals in the name of science to determine whether they can suffer, and how they suffer. Those who have studied psychology will know something of what I am referring to here.

If you are interested in knowing how PETA got started, read what was done to those Silver Springs monkeys. It was unimaginable cruelty. And it did not only happen in America. It was over the treatment of primates at the ANU that I handed back my degree.in disgust a few years back. I no longer had any pride in my association with that university. But at least we were able to get some changes in place there.

I don't think issues of empathy or sympathy really have much to do with it. Animals can suffer and that is an established fact. Given that, we have a duty not to inflict pain and misery on them, but we do all over the world to countless millions of animals every day. And I want as far as I can to change that for as many as I can before I die.

Keep writing letters

Thank you for your comments and I hope this reply does not vanish like the last.

I will not go fishing with the fishermen otherwise I will stray too far off track. And I am more concerned about such things as shark fin harvesting, whale killing, and issues such as how the Indonesians kill those big sea turtles (turning them on their backs and cutting them down the middle alive) than the odd trout on the end of a line.

Solomon: The Media has been pretty co-operative and showed the AA footage extensively in prime time television when it was released. It was that footage and the public outcry that followed it that the Government could not ignore, and which led to the ban, still in place, of at least live cattle exports to Egypt for the past year. The Government is trying under its MOU to get in place a tracking system to monitor what happens to cattle sent there in order to get that trade going again. It believes it can get Australian cattle in by getting a special slaughter deal for just them! And never mind about the rest. I find that disgusting.

But it is totally unconcerned about what happens to the sheep, simply because it cannot stop them being inhumanely handled as the footage shows and onsold for ritual slaughter in markets. As stated in the article, however, sheep shipments have been temporarily suspended since our last footage as the Government tries to deal with that fallout. Without the airing of that footage we all know it would be business as usual.

Channel 9 has been particularly helpful in making this an issue the Government can no longer afford to ignore.

Angela: All we can do is keep getting the damning evidence, so any donations to AA can help that organization in its efforts (see my last link in the article for details) and by continually putting pressure on the Government and on the industry. A leading animal rights scientist, Dr Richard Ryder, told us 25 years ago: never stop writing letters what ever you do for you do not realise the power the pen still has. I have found that to be true even to this day. It is the day we stop that change will stop also. And there have been big advances in animal welfare since the advent of Animal Liberation in 1975 under Peter Singer and Christine Townend. But there is so much yet to do.

BTW: This piece is not my debut; see the previous piece mentioned which looked at some of the broader issues and facts of the Trade.

The live trade can never be made humane. Two major inquiries, to which I linked in that first piece, evidence that in the conclusions. Live animals are not meant to be shipped live on rolling ships. Read the link in that piece to the stockman's report as to what happens when a ship is caught in a cyclone. The description by him of the injuries, suffering and deaths of the cattle on board over several days, makes appalling reading.

No, it is an abominable trade and surveys done show the majority of the public are strongly opposed to it. Howard, of course, ignores that fact. Some very big names in WA big business are prominent in this trade. But we will not give up and the images will keep coming and it is true to say that all the pressure has brought about some improvement in conditions and less mortality on ships.

Yes, one does wonder about the economics of all this and I am looking at that at the moment. If a sheep is bought for $70 here and then shipped to Egypt and sold to individuals for ritual slaughter, then clearly they would be paying quite a hefty price for that sheep at the other end. Not your average poor Egyptian I suggest! And you have to factor in the 1000 or so that will die in any 100 000 shipment, on average. Some ships of course lose many more and some, their entire cargoes.

I totally agree. With the appalling torture of its own citizens, one is not going to find much concern for a sheep in Egypt, though some very good people over there are trying to get change on both fronts. Not everyone is immune to the misery over there even if John Howard is.

At least with modern media the Government will never be able to hide the facts of this trade as it could in the past and for as long as it continues it will be confronted with images of cruelty to our animals. But it is a constant battle and no doubt there will be more trips to the ME to get the truth on film.

Michael: PETA. Yes it funded the UK investigator so it was a joint operation. I do not have any problems with PETA. You do get the odd splinter group in any organization that is more extreme but that organization is prepared to pro-actively go after the big issues, where big business is profiting from what I call institutionalised cruelty to animals.

I do not believe in animal rights style terrorism but I do believe in direct action and have been involved in it myself in the past. But the level of anger and frustration that is often felt over the gross abuse of animals can be an explosive mix so one has to find the balance between illegal activity that is justified and that which is not. For instance, I broke the law when I trespassed at the Goulburn Abattoir with a few others and accessed the Council’s fodder supplies to feed starving cattle that I found dying over the Christmas break in 1972. I was threatened with legal action but not surprisingly they backed off in the face of front page pictures of dying animals. That action resulted in change, and not just in that one abattoir. I went on to tackle the issue of the treatment of animals in meatworks across the State and beyond.

Years later an abattoir manager from a major metropolitan abattoir came up to me at a big public meeting and asked me if I was the person who had once written a paper entitled Animal Welfare in Abattoirs. I hesitated as I thought I was in for a hard time, but when I said yes, he said: I just want to shake your hand for that changed so much. I had not realised that, so there are some high moments in this business.

I similarly intervened at saleyards where animals were often left for days without feed and water. It took an occupation of the local council chambers by our group to force the installation of water troughs in all saleyards, and the end of water curfews in NSW - something years of verbal agitation had failed to do. Direct action certainly has its place when ears are deliberately deaf.

Yes Charles, animals can be cruel but that does not excuse our turning our backs on man's cruelty to them. All around the world there are good people fighting for the rights of animals. Some of my friends have lived in third world countries for over 15 years working on the ground to that end and sometime I will write of their activities, which not only benefited the animals, but the people there as well. Others of my friends have spent a lot of time in gaol for rescuing battery hens. Do no be fooled by the images the industry shows of fully feathered supposedly happy hens in those cages. Take a look at them after we get them out after 15 months. See a spent hen as they are termed, fit only for mincing up into cat food. Please buy only free range eggs if you can afford to.

If we are to see real compassion in the world, then it will require that we address the treatment of animals in the world, as well as the treatment of our own species. There are many in the world who are unmoved in the face of torture of man or beast and in order that they can prevail, then we only have to remain silent and do nothing.

Pick up your pens. Do not let WD be the only place you raise your voice in protest. Write and protest to John Howard and Minister McGauran about this abominable trade.

And let us hope as you say, John, that a third party will emerge to challenge the apathy of the major parties on this issue. Until it does, though, we just have to keep up the pressure.


The point is not that the subject suffers – this we can know empirically. It is the choice we have to acknowledge that suffering, or not. Footage, photography – these things would help, coupled with a wide exposure in the media.

I am not wholly sold on media diversity, seeing value in concentrated mass media to serve good, for the very reason that it has the potential for so much evil, because it is powerful. Nevertheless, splash a few pictures on A Current Affair or the front page of the Daily Telegraph and it might move a few hearts and minds in the government or opposition. The question is how do you (legally) obtain such pictures (perhaps if you're in international waters? To stow-away on the high seas, Jenny?).

Otherwise, all I can say is: yes, I will sign your petition. And then promptly forget about it, as occurs with all petitions.

Now what happened there?

Sorry everyone. I posted a reply to you all and when I went to send it said terminated for suspicious in put data so I all my effort has no doubt gone to who knows where. And now I have to leave for Sydney so will come back to you later. But thank you for your comments. Till then.... 

Margo: That happened to me once when the internet connection dropped out. The super careful might like to take a copy before hitting the send button.

Can we expect better treatment for animals than people?

Hi Jenny, what a marvellous debut! Hope it is the first of many. You have chosen a topic a little close to my heart too.

I find the cruelty that humans can inflict, the suffering and pain, is unlimited once one can "dehumanise", which means harden one's heart against their suffering and stifle any understanding or empathy for them, to not allow any feeling of pain of fear as a human might feel - as we might feel. To deliberately dehumanise a group of people to thus allow barbaric treatment is the ultimate cruelty. But here we are talking of how nonhuman animals are treated. Perhaps the ME is a little perplexed at our care for sheep and not for Palestinians or Iraqis or Iranians or Kurds or Sudanese or Lebanese or Sephardic Israelis or Algerians or.........Aborigines .

Why, I understand John Howard has even chugged along Paul Martin to remove Canada from the UN rights of the Indigenous. No surprise. No surprise sheep suffering are rather forgotten.

I guess Jenny, here in Australia, where there is oversight and people bother to care, then people are treated well, including the vulnerable. However even here, in areas of Australia where people are not supervised/oversight such as the current NT scandal (known about for decades) and in international areas where it is a free for all as far as bombings and murder by states, it is little wonder that animals are low on the list as far as empathy for suffering.

Cruelty to animals in Egypt? Heck, just think what they do to prisoners there, especially those kidnapped at the CIA bequest and tortured. States that approve torture and savage conditions for their prisoners must quietly snicker behind impassive faces as those who pay for the torture, and supply the weaponry, demand them to not upset or harm their animals sent to be slaughtered..

So, Jenny, I am totally with you. Until such countries have proper internal laws regarding animal care and slaughter that reduce suffering then we should not be exporting live animals to them. But why did we export live humans to them like Habib?

Also please do not forget Indonesia, which sources most of its live animal trade from Northern Australia. This is not an Islamic issue but more a cultural one, as there are many non Islamic nations that slaughter in a manner that is cruel. I remember in Nepal making the mistake of arrriving in that country on its festival day and seeing a bull's neck sliced at the top of the temple stairs and then rolled down to splatter its blood everywhere for blessing. Every household splattered some animal's blood that week upon their lintel.

Do we ,as breeders and raisers of these creatures in Australia, have any responsibility to them, from womb to plate? Do we? For that is the issue. We cannot change other societies' ways and perhaps have little right to if they are unwilling or are doing things they think justified by their religion.

We can set example by how we treat our animals and fellow humans but that road has been cratered by the Howard government's complicity in torture and violent regime change . Animal rights where human rights have been trashed is the sign of a distorted world.

Well done Jenny. It is our duty to speak for those creatures who cannot and are suffering. Cease the live animal trade now. Slaughter here , halal law perhaps, and export it all frozen. A new industry.

How to stop it? Find the reasons for it first. No doubt there are some close government connections with the ME importers and the shippers involved . How are the economics such that cattle bred and raised here in a "first world " with such vet fees etc and haulage fees can be economically competitive with locally produced in ME and surrounds?

I suspect a few stringent regulations about how many animals per square metre on a boat and how often each must be taken to the surface and exercised and what must be done to each carcass, rather than just throwing the thousands overboard may have a bottom line effect

Then we shall see if proper costing for proper care may even stymie any live ship trade. End of problem. Cost is what all is about. Once proper conditions are in place , proper treatment rules, then proper prices accordingly we shall see how many are sent. That is only economic rationalism. :)

At the same time, the government should help the abbattoirs develop new product and market it - maybe we will have a new huge export trade in frozen halal meat. At present our abattoirs are complaining of a lack of anilmal to slaughter due to the drought and that has caused many to shut. The current consolidation is of concern around NSW as it will reduce competition and further put the farmers in the hands of middle men.

Or maybe fewer environmentally costly creatures will be bred for economic reasons. A water and carbon/methane tax on all exports may well come our way soon. There are always other ways. More well managed organic certified beef and sheep with better managed farming land and better prices and less "battery fattening " of volume product may be the way to go, and kinder too.

Thanks Jenny, an interesting and topical article. Have you any suggestions of your own to stop this cruel practice? Unenforceable laws are clearly not the answer at present.

Animals can be cruel

People obviously can be desensitised to the suffering of other human beings - look at what’s happening right now in Iraq and many other places.
Now I wonder if a cow or any other animal sits around thinking about the pain of other species.
Probably not, I saw a cat once tear a dove to pieces for absolutely no reason at all, just for fun.

At the end of the day life is pretty cruel. If there is a God, don’t you think he/she could of found a better way to ordering things? I mean, first he/she creates life, for what, so every species feeds of every other species, including us. So Jenny, is there any logic to this, or maybe that’s the wrong question.
What reason is there for suffering and cruelty?

Symbolism in Post-Modern Animal Husbandry(ism)

Michael, I have similar qualms about fishing that Jenny and others have. Then again, I figure that as long as you eat the fish, you do honour to it. I don't imagine there's a lot of difference between being yanked out by an angler, and being mauled by a barracuda or crustacean or some other predator.

Animal husbandry is another, um, kettle of fish. We nurture and cultivate those beasts of the fields with the express purpose of eventual slaughter. (By 'we', I include vegetarians, who are complicit in all this while they don't engage in sabotage against abattoirs and other meat-industry installations.)

What interests me is the hypocrisy and double-standards of public perceptions about the treatment of animals. Every Hollywood film one sees that involves animals carries a notice in the end-credits, endorsed by the American Humane Society. We read, "No animal was harmed in the making...", while chowing into our freedom french fries that may have been deep-fried in beef fat.

Beef cattle and other livestock are, of course, treated abominably relative to our cosetted four-legged friends in Hollywood confectionery. A young friend who works on a dairy farm was recently invited to observe the de-horning of some of the cattle. He declined what I can only agree must be a revolting spectacle.

It's been off the screens

It's been off the screens since the sheep version of Roots which was Cormo Express debacle. The public, as usual, has lost much interest. That, of course, suits the parties involved.

There must be a better way to transport these creatures. Of course there is but it likely costs more. As to what happens when they've arrived at their destination evidently something stronger should be in place that what currently obtains. That said, governments - and this one is no different, possibly worse - are interested in the export dollar, not the necessarily the niceties involved in how it is earned. Witness the desire to sell uranium to a country that is not a signatory to the NPT. It's OK, we can trust them. Never mind they are already nuclear capable.

I notice that the investigation was carried out by Animals Australia in partnership with PETA, who direct visitors to it and, apparently, jointly funded it? This is not to downplay the barbarity on display but I, for one, do have issues with this "never touch an animal at any cost"  organisation. This obviously arises from the fact that I am an angler.

I've serious concerns with the fact that fishing can be depicted in terms of "imagining you reach for an apple and find you hand impaled on a large hook".  Terrifying description of being inexorably pulled by an unseen force follow. Another favourite is the billboards adorned with a dog, impaled by a hook in the jaw, being "fought" from a ute.

Never mind the basic scientific differences between all species involved. It makes for wonderfully denigrating and disgusting imagery. Similar are the blanket claims that one should never eat fish as they are all contaminated with heavy metals.

I'm singled out because I catch and release. This - a hook in the jaw - when removed apparently kills the fish I so return. Please, tell that to the next trout that swallows - whole - a live yabby or the bream that cracks an oyster.

Oh dear, apologies for my somewhat off-topic rant. Just that I think one needs to choose "allies" carefully. It's not that PETA is entirely bad per se, just that it is as extreme as some of the organisations/industries it attacks. Ditto its tactics.

Fly fishing

Michael: An authority on angling I spoke to some time back told me that he returns most of his fish these days. He ties his own flies onto No.2 barbless hooks, which you would think would be asking for trouble. But he told me that he experimented and found repeatedly that even if he let the line go slack and deliberately committed all the errors of trout fishing, he could not get the fish off the end of the line while it was still swimming in the water.

He put this down to the lightness of the hook. Its small inertia means that it travels with the fish's mouth wherever the latter takes it.

I have not tried this, and am only a very occasional angler. But I pass it on out of interest, in case you are unaware of it.

There are animal rights extremists about: it takes all sorts to make a world. In nature, animals very rarely die of what we call 'old age'. As their bodies age they become increasingly likely to succumb to predation, or fatal parasitism by a variety of invasive organisms. Not even lions escape this fate. Unfortunately, most wild animals are sooner or later in for a lingering and painful death. It's a rough world out there.

As long as fishing is done sustainably, I have no problems with it. However, a visit to any fish shop on the eastern seabord to study the species on sale, shows one that commercial fishing is not being done sustainably.

But then, camped by a pool on one of the high plains, with a fresh-caught trout gently pan-fried on an open fire; a good white and a blow on the harmonica as the sun goes down on the Snowies. In my experience, it does not get much better.


The piece is most certainly not more important than the photo, Jenny. I have a particular interest in photography and I can assure you I am entitled to my interpretation. Few people are best placed to form an opinion of themselves - eating disorders being the most tragic example of this fundamental human trait. Nevertheless I said you were beautiful by nature, before I ever saw your face (in reality, only a trace of your face, rendered only as completely as our feeble technology can reproduce. All photographs are by their nature incomplete - when do we ever see a person in a still frame? Time rushes on). Your face gives expression to your nature and as such you are blessed. Some are less lucky.

I wrote an essay recently that made the point that photographs can humanise (and of course, dehumanise) others and give a more tactile (for want of a better and more accurate word) to suffering. I also wrote that the unseen could be more important than the seen. I picked up Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man today (not to be confused with the Welles fantasy) and have been immediately enthralled. I love American literature above all and reading Baldwin has made me curious about other black writers from the period before and during the civil rights movement.

I have been studying Communication on and off for years now but it has only recently dawned on me that that which remains unexpressed (but not necessarily uncommunicated) is as important, if not more important, than that which is expressed. We shall see if it becomes harder for people to write maliciously at you now that they can see your face. It clearly didn't work that way in Margo Kingston's case, for anyone that has followed Webdiary's history.

Visuals can inspire extremely strong emotions - think how you might feel to see a child suffering. Whilst the child is no more noble, nor innocent, nor selfless than any body else, to see a child in pain is to be immediately defeated. The instinct goes: protect, protect, protect. A photograph can be an aide memoire, or it can bring something wholly new to light. My hope is that it can be used to remind people that others are humans and not abstract numbers in a death toll.

The first point made by Ellison is that people choose not to see. Or more to the point, they choose what they see. I think the whole process of learning is to make new choices about what to see.

My answer is no, I have not read the piece in any detail, as I am currently preoccupied with a kind of paganistic pseudo-spiritual journey in bleak city. Tonight is my last night here and I am a little restless and sad - it has been a story of missed opportunities and miscommunication (not, unlike my Webdiary journey, I suppose). It has not been a Christian journey though I can still feel traces of my religion in me, over-riding my more solitary and individual preoccupations with the maturity and wisdom of the faith I nurtured for over a year. Your piece about animal rights to me was a fait accompli. I knew you cared for animals and have long felt as if you treated me not unlike a badly behaved puppy rescued from a life of roaming and inconsequence. Like a puppy I also am always ready to drink of the milk of human kindness.

Animals deserve rights not because of any inherent goodness, or because they give pleasure to children (and the young at heart) from their looks and simplicity, but because of their capacity to suffer. I see an adult calf as no different from a baby calf in its capacity to suffer and so am as happy to eat veal as I am to eat beef. Likewise I have long felt that the "Children in detention" question was flawed, as I suspect that children's lives are far more regulated and limited than that of an adult, and that an adult detainee probably has a greater capacity to suffer because less able to adapt, more capable of imagining and fear, and having tasted a little of the fruits of liberty. Judging merely from a cursory glance the issue is: should we or should we not have "battery cows", etc, and the answer should clearly be of course not.


Thanks for the information, it is disgusting Jenny. Most people in the city don't see the eyes of these poor animals.

We need a third party

Hi Jenny, you say: No. I will not be voting for the Liberals or Nationals in the next election. I cannot abide cruelty to animals. It would take courage to act against the big interests that run this abominable trade and this Government does not have what it takes. But does Labor? Probably not, so I probably won’t be voting for them either.

My wife and I lived in Fremantle for a few years. We would often see the road trains carrying sheep to the port. It was not unusual to see legs of these poor animals, trapped outside the cage, at odd angles probably resulting in a broken leg or at least severe pain for the sheep. The smell that came from the sheep ship was horrific. We could only imagine the terrible trip these sheep were about to make. You point out the nightmare situation if the animals survived the journey.

The farmers were making good money out of the live sheep industry.  But what about the cost?  A lot of  country abattoirs closed putting many workers out of a job and threatening the viability of many of the country towns. We are exporting  jobs as we do in mining.

I know how you feel, it is hard to know which party to support. I am not sure Labor would stop live animal exports. But unfortunately its a two horse race, I don't think we have a Green candidate in Cairns, more likely it will be One Nation or Australia First. That is one of the real problems with our democracy. Lots of people have tried really hard to get a third party up and running, in Australia, but the truth of the matter is next year we will have either Howard/Costello or Rudd as our Prime Minister. 

I couldn't stand another year of Howard, so it looks like Rudd is the only choice. It is sad that the Greens and the Australian Democrats couldn't get together to give us a third choice.

Nice to put a face to the name - I didn't realise your were such a stunner.


I feel sick to the stomach Jenny!

How  can people treat helpless animals in this manner?

Your piece was very comprehensive, and certainly enlightening for me.That such shameful cruelty is still being perpetrated by countries such as Egypt, with our own governments tacit approval,shocks and dismays me.

The government's Pontius Pilate act, doesn't wash with me..

They have blood on their hands.

The question therefor Jenny, is,  when will this inhumane slaughter cease? ..And how?

I'm shaking my head here.. I really am..

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