The PM Must Allow A Free Debate On Live Export Ban Bill

When an industry puts profit ahead of animal welfare, there is no reason to think it is capable of reform.

Thirty-three years ago, the Senate Committee into Animal Welfare investigated the live export trade and concluded that “if a decision were to be made on the future of the trade purely on animal welfare grounds, there is enough evidence to stop the trade”. In a historic display of compassion, the Senate has fulfilled that promise and passed a bill that would effectively ban the cruel live export trade.

The bill passed by the Senate, co-sponsored by Senator Derryn Hinch, Senator Tim Storer and the Greens, would see an immediate end to long-haul sheep live exports in the oppressive summer of the Northern Hemisphere for ships that travel to the Persian Gulf or through the Red Sea. After five years, there would be no live exports allowed to that region at any time of the year.

It was this route that the Awassi Express ploughed in its voyages of misery. Like many Australians, I was deeply shocked and sickened by the images that brave whistleblowers exposed earlier this year. We saw thousands of sheep dying from heat stress and overcrowding and more than 800 dying in excruciating conditions in a single day, a death every two minutes.

Live Exports

We saw scared, confused and terrified animals knee deep in excrement. A newborn lamb lying abandoned alone on a metal floor. Sheep desperately trying to escape pens as they are literally cooked alive. Carcasses piled up as they decay in the oppressive heat.

These images exposed the brutality inherent in the live exports trade.

The bill isn’t perfect, but it represents a historic political deal that would see the worst types of cruelty end. The Greens are committed to the end of all live exports of animals for slaughter and essentially the inability to send sheep to the Middle East will be a death knell for a trade that has no social licence to operate.

The bill now sits in limbo as hours after the Senate passed the bill, the Government stymied efforts to bring it to a vote in the House of Representatives. Those Liberal MPs who have said they want an end to live export voted against having this bill debated which was incredibly disappointing.

Liberal Backbenchers Rebel Against Live Animal Exports

We know that if these MPs were allowed a free vote, they would cross the floor and respond to the demands of the three quarters of Australians who want this industry shut down. These MPs need to tell the Australian people if they are willing to right thing from the front or the back bench.

The Prime Minister now has a choice to make. We have an opportunity to take a big first step towards ending the horrors of live export. He must allow the bill to be debated freely.

READ MORE: Liberal MP Sussan Ley Introduces Private Members Bill To Ban Live Sheep Exports

READ MORE: Government Announces 'Seismic Shift' For Live Export Industry

The simple reality is that this is not an industry that can be reformed by Government’s tinkering around the edges. Cancelling licenses for individual exporters and making some regulatory changes will not fix the fact that the trade is fundamentally incompatible with animal welfare. Live exports fail not only the animal welfare test, but the economic one too. Chilled meat exports are worth seven times more to Australia than live exports. We know that the live export trade competes with domestic meat processing in regional Australia, leading to closures of abattoirs and a loss of local jobs.

Live Sheep Exporter's Licence Suspended
Supporting the chilled meat industry to fill the live export gap gives us a path to improving animal welfare and creating long term and secure jobs.

Time and time again brave whistleblowers like navigation officer Faisal Ullah and veterinarian Lynn Simpson have risked their careers to expose what the intense cruelty. Time and time again the exporters have promised to change. They’ve had the opportunity to reform in the past but have not. When an industry has put profit ahead of animal welfare at every turn, there is absolutely no reason to think they will be capable of reform this time around.

The ball is in your court Prime Minister, and the people are watching.

Feature Image: AAP/Getty