A few days ago, 4 Corners did another alleged exposé on the live export trade, this time focusing on the Pakistan sheep slaughter fiasco.
The promo for the segment claimed that 4 Corners knew the truth about what happened, and was going to share that with us.
Except this wasn’t the case.
As I predicted in the post The Overlooked/Neglected Animals Of Emotive Campaigns, the 4 Corners episode failed to mention that the sole cause of this problem is that society views animals as a commodity that has value, and therefore can be traded.
How many people watching the episode picked up on the fact that this was purely politically motivated, and had nothing to do with a breakdown in the the ESCAS system?
During the segment, Sarah Ferguson says
We’ve tried to unravel how Wellard so comprehensively lost control of the situation in Pakistan.
Was this an anomaly, an extreme example of local politics gone wrong? Or are the new rules simply unable to protect Australian animals once they leave the country?
Yet all they did was focus on getting the viewer to believe that it was a breakdown in the ESCAS system that lead to this.
The politics behind this was briefly touched on, yet not explored further. Below is a copy of the transcript of a discussion 4 Corners’ Sarah Ferguson, and Jaya Kumar Iyer from Kuwait Livestock Transport & Trading Company
JAYA KUMAR IYER (subtitled): It became quite evident that it was not a health issue for the grounds of rejection. It was something to do with political issues in Bahrain.
SARAH FERGUSON: What do you mean by political issues?
JAYA KUMAR IYER (subtitled): That could be interference between departments or between the ministries in Bahrain.
This is further hinted at by Animals Australia’s Lyn White:
We have also heard from trusted industry sources that a particular member of the Bahraini Royal Family wanted to import a shipment of sheep for the Festival of Sacrifice, found that he couldn’t because of the new government regulations and was particularly displeased by that.
This problem was further compounded by the fact that when the sheep finally made it to Pakistan, which was originally designated as an alternative port, it was in the midst of anti-western protests. The region where the sheep ended up, Karachi, experienced some of the most violent of those protests.
It was at this time that the media did what the media all over the world does, find a way to inflame and sensationalise what is happening. Local authorities, either aided or instigated by the media, decided that these sheep were unfit for human consumption.
With the initial diagnosis of scabby mouth not being a ‘notifiable disease’ by OIE standards, another disease had to be thought up. What began with foot and mouth disease quickly became anthrax and connections to biological warfare.
Dr Kalhoro, Sindh Poultry Vaccine Centre: The dead animals were anthrax. Then there were the question that if was anthrax and it’s (like) a biological war and risk of contamination huge, then there might have been huge mortality.
It was during this time that 90-100 heavily armed police stormed the compound and forced Wellard officials and PK Livestock and Meat Company employees out at gunpoint.
Also, no attention was paid to the fact that if these sheep we indeed infected with some sort of contagion, that none of the people slaughtering the sheep were wearing any sort of biological protective suits.
Further politicising and inflaming anti-western sentiment was the following comment made by Dr Kalhoro “If it is harmful for the Bahrain, it’s not harmful for Pakistan? Why? Because we are not humans?”
A local employee of PK Livestock and Meat Company acknowledged this when showing Professor Ulrich Wernery from the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai around the location where the bodies were dumped, and the live sheep held, saying “There are no sick animals, this is the biggest propaganda ever done”.
Unlike the situation that was exposed in Indonesia last year, where their footage obtained was of an accepted and common practice, what happened in Pakistan is not the norm, and even shocked the locals.
Also remember that the facilities at PK Livestock and Meat Company, are state of the art for the region, and I’d be willing to be by Australian standards too.
It is also worthwhile mentioning that there are 100 countries involved in the live export trade, and that Australia has the highest standard of all of them.
The final question asked by Kerry O’Brien to Joe Ludwig, Minister for Agriculture, “Yes or no – the bottom line remains that you cannot guarantee that what happened to those sheep will not happen again”. Has no relevance whatsoever, as this cannot even be guaranteed in the local saluter industry, and asking it only served the purpose of further demonising the live export trade.
Lets also not forget that it isn’t only the live export trade that falls victim to political games, the chilled meat trade is just as vulnerable. The 118 containers of frozen beef worth $8-10 Million dollars that I mentioned in a previous article is still in limbo in an Indonesian port.
The game of international trade and politics isn’t always forthright, and it is usually the innocent that suffer, in this case the animals – both dead and alive.
The only way to prevent the stalemates that we have seen in Bahrain, Karachi, and Jakarta is to stop using animals as a commodity to be traded, in any form.
1: 4 Corners – Another Bloody Business – Transcript
Retrieved 07 November 2012
2: Jakarta beef impasse unresolved despite re-export claims
Retrieved 06 November 2012