Why I disagree with GetUp’s petition to ban live export

[Email sent 1 June 2011]

For the attention of Simon Sheikh

I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of GetUp for a number of years, participating in online petitions and making donations – I have my NYT Assange poster on my wall.

However, this is the first time I’ve disagreed with you, and I feel very strongly that your carte blanche approach to banning all live export is misguided.  The live export trade is not the problem, it’s the animal cruelty.

However:

  • There is animal cruelty everywhere – including lots in Australia (why else is the RSPCA so busy?).
  • You have to admit, this was a story that was always going to be controversial – footage of a compliant abbatoir was never going to make great TV.
  • A live export ban won’t stop cruelty in some locations – whether in Australia, SE Asia or the Middle East
  • Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Livecorp have a lot of explaining to do, as they’re the bodies – funded by producers – who are supposed to ensure our cattle are treated according to agreed standards, and that training is carried out in overseas abbatoirs.
  • Sending chilled meat is not the solution – there are cultural issues involved, which I’m sure many GetUp members would be sympathetic to.
  • A live export ban would ruin Australian livelihoods – families and communities who work hard, honestly and drive innovation and follow humane practices in their contribution to the Australian economy.
  • A live export ban will just make the affected abbatoirs source their cattle from elsewhere – but how will that stop the cruelty, or is it enough that we just won’t see it any more on prime time TV?
  • A live export ban will take $300 million out of Australia’s coffers.

I have a bit of experience with this, having worked with a major media organisation in the North West of WA, and met many pastoralists and covered stories on the topic.  However, I state that I am not affiliated professionally with any live export body or cattle producer; this is my personal opinion borne out of experience.

And the problem here is that the 4 Corners program was so emotive, so shocking, it’s no wonder people are appalled. But now there are nearly 145,000 GetUp supporters who are going for the jugular, so to speak, without knowing the other side of the story.

This is not cowboy land.  These are men and woman, many of them under 30, tertiary educated, running family businesses and driving the use of technology and striving for ‘best practice’ in their operations.  They cannot be held responsible for the actions of a few.

So I’d like to know why GetUp has taken this blanket approach to banning live export, and not considered some of the points above.

I reckon if you were to ask your supporters if they want to stop cruelty in Indonesian abbatoirs, or they want to ruin the livelihood of fellow Australians who are doing a good job, I know what response you’d get.  Is it too late to change your message?

To summarise: some animals are killed. Some animals are treated cruelly. Some animals are eaten. Money changes hands. Unfortunately, these statements aren’t always mutually exclusive.

I’d like to see GetUp focus on the statement that your supporters, and most of Australia, is appalled by.

Thank you.

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3 thoughts on “Why I disagree with GetUp’s petition to ban live export”

  1. Bravo again JB, I didn’t see the Doco, but It has clearly pushed a few buttons in the wider community. In addition to your list or did it come under “cultural issues involved” by the very definition of halal slaughter, it is not a quick death… it seems the ABC is using a little bit of Hegemonic( ?) license…as you point out – “but also by the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as ‘common sense’ and ‘natural’.

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  2. I totally agree. I did watch the program as a friend of mine worked on it. I think one of the most poignant moments was when the farmer couldn’t answer one of the questions that Sarah Ferguson put to him. You could see the entire dilemma of the situation running through his head. I have come across the type of attitude behind the GetUp petition when I have done stories asking question such as is organic food really better for us? Or, treating The Greens like any other political party during the election. It especially reminds me of one of my pet hates, people assuming if it is a “chemical” it is bad. Really good opinion piece sums up this point much better than I could. http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/04/20/3184037.htm. The thing is that GetUp is a protest movement and “Ban Live Exports” works much better on a placard. Having said that I hope they listen to you with an open mind.

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  3. JB, nicely put as always. I didn’t watch the 4 Corners episode as I didn’t want to see the cruelty (head in the sand) but I did sign the GetUp petition albeit somewhat against my better judgement as this issue will not simply be solved by stopping all live exports. What is really needed is a more thorough oversight by MLA etc and a more in depth treatment of the issue taking into account all the points you make above. Without knowing a lot about the trade and knowing full well there are cultural issues involved, I still reckon there should be some way of reducing the number of animals sent offshore, processing some of the meat here, creating jobs and adding value to our product. Well done for speaking out. Fran.

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