Monday, October 10, 2011

Live Export

I wrote this submission for the independent review into Australia's livestock export trade.  It wasn't meant as a blog post but people are reading it and responding positively so I thought I'd include it in here now.

Here's my take on live export - written in July of this year.

It is unfortunate that the people of this country have become so aggressive about this issue.  Ultimately everyone agrees that animals should be treated humanely but there are a too many people out there who are determined to take ‘sides’ and put live export in a box labelled “against animal welfare”.

We live in a very fortunate environment in which the majority of people can go to a supermarket and buy their meat without having to think about the process it took to get there.  It is a luxury that many other people of the world do not have.  We also have the luxury of being able to voice an opinion based on our experiences without retribution.  We have comprehensive media networks on which we rely to bring us information about what is happening in our country and around the world.  These networks are very good at inciting an emotional response in their viewers/readers.  By their very nature, they cannot tell the whole story.

When I was at university, I learned how to critically analyse media sources to avoid getting caught up in emotional hype.  I also learned the techniques to find more information and the necessity of getting a balanced view of important issues.  I understand that many people have not had the benefit of this vital education.  Otherwise how could one media program cause so much drama and damage.

I live on a beef cattle property.  Each animal is special to us.  We care for them as we would our own children.  We are there when they are born, and get excited about each new baby on the farm.  We support the mothers with nutritional supplements.  We regularly check that our children have enough to eat and drink, that they are safe and happy.  We vaccinate our kids and protect them from parasites and predators.  They have a good life.

The reality of it is, for you to have your steak on any random Tuesday, one of these beasts has to die.  Systems are set in place to do this as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Wherever it is found that this is not happening, there are dozens of people working to change this.  This occurs in Australia and overseas, including Indonesia and was in place well before Four Corners single-handedly incited pandemonium.

Farming practices are improving all of the time.  We are far more humane to animals than we ever have been in the past. But we have to also be sensible and realistic.  Northern Australia floods for more than a third of each year.  It is rude to ask a business such as a meatworks to start up in this part of the country and then ask it to only operate for seven months of the year.  What of the staff?  How will it maintain economic viability? 

Indonesia has no refrigeration.  How can you offer them a continuous supply of fresh meat if it is not alive when it arrives there?  And even if this was possible, would they be able to afford meat processed here?  Have people forgotten so quickly that it is only in the last century that power and refrigeration have existed anyway.  Is our history already lost to us?

There is more at stake here than the welfare of animals.  We need to also consider the welfare of our food providers.  Without them there would be no food.  They need to be able to have the ability to do their jobs in the safest, most ethical and most economically viable fashion.  If you don’t believe that farmers and graziers are the first and most passionate environmentalists and animal welfare activists then don’t get your information from the media.  Get in your car and drive to the country.  See for yourself what really goes on out here.  Talk to the people who are responsible for putting food on your plate before you take away their livelihoods.

Lastly, if we take away live export, we take away the farmers ability to raise cattle.  That means there is no reason for the cattle to be there at all.  Is it better to let these animals have a good life and a quick death to provide protein for the masses?  Or is it better for them to never have lived at all?

Thank you for considering this submission.

Michelle Croner


  1. Hi Michelle, I am not a farmer. I know nothing about farming. I am very interested in hearing the point of view of the farmer as it leads to a balanced and rational discussion. I think the problem with your submission is that you write about the animals having a good life and a quick death. I would like to know if you think that is happening in the case of live export to Indonesia. From the point of view of an outsider from the industry it appears that these animals die in cruel and horrific fear and terror. It would appear that it would most certainly have been better for them to have never lived at all.I am surprised that you speak of the cattle as "your children". Would you let your children meet this horrific end to their life?

  2. Kate, thank you for your comment. It is great to see people taking an interest in where their food comes from. In response, I don't for one second condone the horrific manner in which we saw animals being slaughtered in those Indonesian abattoirs. However, these practices were conducted by a minority of places. The rest of them process cattle in approved and humane ways. We do what we can to make sure cattle are treated well, in fact Elders control the supply chain from farm to consumer by sending beef cattle to their own abattoir in Indonesia. You can learn about this here: So yes, I do believe that animals exported to Indonesia have a good life and a quick death.

    Just because some people are horrible and cruel, does not mean we should get rid of an entire industry. I have seen some people treat their own dogs in an appalling manner. Should we then ban having dogs as pets?

    In the case of the unfortunate beasts that do end up dying in terror, is it better not to have lived? I don't know how to answer that. But perhaps we could consider the parent of a child who dies in fear or pain. Would they say that the child would have been better off never having lived?

    Thank you again for your comments. I hope this helps.

  3. Great to get a farmer's perspective Michelle. Farmed animals are treated with care and respect and the vast majority are killed quickly and humanely. What was shown in Indonesia shocked everyone but represented the exception, not the rule. Those who lobby for an end to animal agriculture ignore the fact that farmed animals live a far more protected and contented life than they otherwise would under the alternative, being "released into the wild". US animal scientist Temple Grandin summed it up well talking about slaughtering cattle in her movie: “I don’t want a lion eating my guts out, I’d rather die in a slaughterhouse that was done right,” and "nature is cruel, but we don't have to be." Before people decry farming based on what they've heard in the media or from animal rights groups, they need to go out and talk to farmers to get some perspective first.

  4. Good on you Michelle.
    We're still seeing the affects down the line, with northern producers glaringly absent from bull sales in CQ.
    What a mishandled exercise this whole fiasco was, which will continue to cause economic and personal grief to northern pastoralists for some time to come.