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What you can do if live exports disturb you

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The recent outcry over the live exporting of animals from country to country for slaughter is another episode of misguided empathy. If the concern truly lies with the wellbeing of animals, the outcry should go further than importation and should be directed at the fact that the animals in question were on their way to slaughter in the first place.

The release of videos taken secretly on an animal export ship swiftly sparked the most recent wave of concern surrounding live exports. The video showed thousands of sheep being transported from Australia to the Middle East dehydrated, collapsing and dropping dead before being thrown overboard. Essentially, sheep suffered and died on their way to suffering and dying in a more controlled, profitable slaughter.

I’m sure the upset over the two thousand (plus) sheep who lost their lives aboard this particular vessel is genuine however it strikes me (and should strike you) as hypocritical. As horrific as it might be, what makes an animal dying from heat exposure on an overcrowded export ship worse than being stunned and shot on a farm? Many are arguing that the former causes less suffering but ultimately, the outcome is the same. These sheep were stuck between a rock and a hard place, as all animals viewed and exploited as property are. There isn’t a “better” way for a person – human or non-human – to have their lives taken unjustly.

The root issue does not lie in whether or not the animal is being slaughtered painfully or slowly, the issue is that the animal is being slaughtered at all. There’s no scenario in which such deaths can be justified. Would it have made the mass death somehow more acceptable if humans had been able to profit from it? If the sheeps bodies had then gone on to be consumed as meat, this wouldn’t change the fact that thousands of sheep died at the hands of humans. But it also wouldn’t have been considered newsworthy.

It’s been reported that lambs on the boat who collapsed from heat exhaustion had their throats slit and their bodies discarded into the ocean. The disregard for animal life on board this ship is beyond clear. But how different is this from the animals who are used for food, clothing and other items? Are we naive enough to believe that there are still rolling green meadows for the “happy” animals? Or in this case, luxury cruise ships?

One article published in the Guardian this week about live exports argued that, “you don’t have to be vegan, vegetarian or even particularly attuned to animal welfare to be sickened by live exports: they involve some of the most protracted cruelty ever dreamed up by man.” You may not need to be vegan to recognize the disregard for life, but being vegan means putting ideology into practice. As long as you continue to support animal agricultural industries, you’re supporting the deaths of animals before, during, and after production–whether that’s planned by their exploiters or a casualty of the systems they have in place.

Another article published recently points blame on “holes in the system”. In actuality, the system was created to make as much profit as possible, “caring” for animals in the most economical (read: ignoring their wellbeing) ways. This kind of thinking defends the idea that there’s nothing wrong with the system in the first place and that by creating stricter live export regulations, we’re doing something good for the animals. Patching up “holes” in the system isn’t enough because the entire principle of the system is wrong. Instead of focusing on stricter regulations that allow sheep to be commodified, the focus should be on dismantling the idea that animals are a commodity which can be used and sold at all.

Regardless of where your animal products are purchased, or what label they slap on to it to make you feel better about consuming it, you’re funding the death of animals. An animal raised for human consumption, no matter what life they get to live, is being raised to be slaughtered and sold for capital gain. There’s no value in looking for how to improve that–we need to end it.

If you’re disturbed by the footage of live exports, look at your own plate, your own clothing and your own complicity. Go vegan.

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