Sentient, The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, has thanked ABC’s Four Corners, and in particular Sarah Ferguson and Kerry O'Brien, for bringing the recent culling of exported sheep in Pakistan to the attention of the Australian public (‘Another Bloody Business’). Too often the media shies away from addressing the serious animal welfare issues inherent to the live export trade. This production was courageous, honest, comprehensive and unrelenting in challenging the government’s claims that its Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) is safeguarding animal welfare. Kerry O'Brien’s clarity and directness in the face of Senator Joe Ludwig's long-winded, vacuous responses left viewers with no doubt that the Australian Government cannot guarantee there will be no further inhumane culling of animals in export destinations.
The footage of sheep being brutally beaten and thrown into pits, many while still alive, was distressing to witness. As was the declaration by an independent veterinarian that the sheep were not sick and that serum samples were negative to anthrax and foot and mouth virus. The Australian Government ‘as regulator’ will be investigating the cull in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the investigative team at Four Corners have already provided the answers as to how this atrocity was able to occur: Bahrain rejected the shipload of sheep for ‘political reasons’ whilst claiming health grounds due to Scabby Mouth, which is not a food safety risk; the exporter (Wellard) nominated Pakistan as an alternative market, with our Government signing off on this despite Pakistan not having regulatory approval; both parties then failed to inform authorities in Pakistan that the Bahraini government had already rejected the animals; finally, the Pakistani government learned of this deception, expressed their offence at receiving a shipment of unfit animals, ‘as if we are not humans’, raised hysteria about possible anthrax and ‘biological warfare’ and seized control of the shipment from the exporter. This chain of corruption, deceit and poor judgement, fuelled by human pride, insecurity and a volatile political climate, is what led to 21,000 innocent animals being demonised and butchered in a drunken frenzy.
What an insult then, to hear a representative of the exporter refer to the cull as ‘euthanasia’. Rather than acknowledging the terrible course of events and taking responsibility, Senator Ludwig, Minister for Agriculture, refused to move beyond the official stance, demonstrating his mastery of the broken-down-record technique by repeating that ‘the vast majority of exporters do control the supply chain’, ‘commercial decisions are made by commercial entities’ and ‘this trade has come a long way in the last twelve months’. No mention was made of revoking the exporter’s licence as a consequence for such dire breaches of animal welfare standards. As Kerry O’Brien concluded, ‘enough said’. No doubt this program has given enormous support to the animal protection movement and raised public awareness that the Australian Government's reforms to the trade are reforms in name only.