It was with great trepidation that I sat down to watch the Four Corners investigation. For those outside of Australia, Four Corners is a highly respected investigative journalist show that airs on the ABC. The subject was the the live export of cattle to Indonesia. Animals are raised, sent over to Indonesia, fattened up a bit and then slaughtered for local consumption. I was ready to see some gruesome footage, I mean, I’ve seen Earthlings.
You can watch the show here, but it is gruesome. I saw a few glimpses of the actual violence and had to turn the screen off and just listen to the audio so I could get the gist of the story. The story is terrible. Australia has been exporting cattle to Indonesia since 1982. The export companies have been aware of just how horrific it is. Although they have attempted to improve things, they have been completely ineffectual and tokenistic. I came away absolutely shocked with the images, (and remember I have seen Earthlings) and I was unable to sleep that night. The awful images of those cows burned into my brain.
A very positive part of this investigation is that it has created a huge dialogue in Australia. People are outraged and some very small steps have been taken by the government to fix the problem, but there will still be thousands of cattle exported to Indonesia this year who will suffer the same feat. The Australian public and some politicians and organisations are applying political pressure. You can too by signing this petition and sharing it throughout your social media networks. It gets submitted to the Australian government at 3pm, Friday 3rd of June Australian time. It literally takes 5 seconds. If you have 5 minutes, please write The Aust PM a quick letter here.
I want to take a bit of time to discuss some of my thoughts about this issue, a perspective of a person who lives in a developing country (or whatever is the most PC way to call poorer countries these days). As a vegan and someone who has come to abhore the exploitation of animals in any context I think there is a bit of a disconnect by meat eaters when it comes to this issue. The issue of inhumane slaughter and hoe widespread it is.
Of the people I know, many of them are meat eaters. I think many of these people who believe it is their right to be able to eat meat, however, I am sure the exact same number of people would agree that those animals should be slaughtered humanely. I am sure most people believe that animals are slaughtered humanely. Sadly though, I don’t think a meat eater can ever be sure of this.
I have a few responses to some comments that some people might voice about this latest outcry.
1. I don’t live in Indonesia. I abhore what I saw in this documentary, and it should stop. I won’t be eating any Indonesian meat. This doesn’t apply to me.
Yep. Without a doubt this slaughter footage was absolutely grotesque and some of the worst I have ever seen, but this type of slaughter goes on in many poorer countries around the world. The main reason is that there are very few laws regarding the humane slaughter of animals in these countries and where there are laws, they are lax and badly enforced. If you eat animal products from these poorer countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China, you can be sure that there are no inspectors at the slaughterhouse, there is corruption galore, expensive equipment to make sure it is humane is not considered essential, animal rights groups have a low profile and there is little information out there. It is highly likely these animals have had a painful death. Can you be sure the meat you eat was humanely slaughtered?
2. I live in the US, Canada, UK, EU, NZ or Australia. We have proper laws to prevent this kind of cruelty. This wouldn’t happen to the animals I eat.
Yep. To a certain extent that is true.These countries do have some laws to protect the animals when it comes to their last few days of their very short life, BUT, much of the meat that is eaten in richer countries is actually produced and slaughter in less developed countries. Thailand for example, is a massive exporter of chicken products to places like the EU.There is also plenty of evidence that inhumane slaughter in richer countries happens on a frequent basis. Can you be sure that the meat you eat was humanely slaughtered?
3. I only eat free-range animal products. This wouldn’t happen to the animals I eat.
The words ‘free-range’ is only really a marketing term. In most richer countries, this term doesn’t actually have much meaning in a majority of cases. The animals still have incredibly short lives and they are slaughtered in exactly the same places as factory farmed animals. Laws prevent most animals being slaughtered on farms for hygiene reasons and in many countries, chickens and rabbits are not even covered by humane slaughter laws so there is no protection from them either. So no guarantees there either. Are you sure your meat is humanely slaughtered?
4. I am vegetarian.
Fantastic. You have obviously given this issue a lot of thought whether you are doing it for health reasons, the environment or because the animal cruelty issue freaks you out you have made some changes that will help animals. However, animals are still inhumanely slaughtered for milk and cheese. Think about the egg laying hen who is now no longer able to produce eggs. She goes to the exact same slaughterhouses as the other animals. What about the male chicks born in the hatcheries? They are of no use so they are slaughter inhumanely by being ground up in grinder or suffocated to death in black bin bags or boxes. Dairy… Dairy cows are slaughtered when they can no longer be profitable and the calves born to the cows in order to produce milk suffer a similar fate to their mothers if they are female and the males wind up in the veal industry where thei short miserable lives end in with fear and the possibility of inhumane slaughter. A fish eating vegetarian? Fish are not humanely slaughtered. They are brought to the surface where they slowly suffocate. Something that is very painful and scary. Can you be sure that the products you eat came from animals that were humanely slaughtered?
In my mind, if you want to be sure that the animal has not been inhumanely slaughtered, then the only way you can do that is raise your own animals, or just stop eating them. Just drop me a line if you are interested in doing this. I will be happy to guide you. But let’s also remember that inhumane slaughter is just one of the ways in which we exploit animals. This post doesn’t address things like the cruelty these animals endure in their short lives on factory farms for example, wool production, vivisection, circuses or the use of animals in entertainment amongst others. It is really just the tip of the iceberg. Without a doubt, there is a long way to ensure that animals are not treated cruelly and even further from where I would like them to be; free. Reject the violence and go veg. It is the only way you can be sure that you are not contributing to suffering.
As usual, don’t take my word for all of this stuff. A great place to start is by listening to these podcasts and start from there.