Backlash: Australia’s conflict of values over live exports

Because of its importance as a document of public interest, available for free download is a pdf of the entire book: Backlash: Australia’s conflict of values over live exports. Bellow is a new introduction providing context to ongoing problems with this industry, including the recent whistle-blower footage of appalling conditions in the shipping of live sheep. (The paper book will continue to be available for sale.) See Reviews.

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New (April 2018) Introduction to Backlash: Australia’s conflict of values over live exports

When Backlash was released just over two years ago, the live export industry argued it had a social licence to continue its business model. We wrote the book in an attempt to set the record straight about the cruelty of the trade and the failure of its oversight and regulation by government.

Recent outrage over the latest graphic video evidence of appalling shipping conditions for sheep exported to the Middle East echoes the enormous reaction of the public to the inhumane slaughter of cattle in Indonesia in 2011. In this context, we’ve decided to make Backlash available free as a pdf. We hope it will allow more readers to learn about the full story of the live trade and the terrible history of our regulatory processes failing under pressure from commerce.

While the initial impetus to write Backlash was the 2011 crisis, the book also looks at serious problems in the live sheep trade. In 2011 the central issue was horrific slaughter practices beyond our jurisdiction. Then, as now, the cruel neglect of sheep on ships to the Middle East has always been totally within our control. This is a purely Australian problem. It is absolutely our responsibility. Apart from anything else, how has government failed to demand proper animal welfare standards with independent surveillance and auditing of on-board conditions?

Quite simply, the export industry has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide the reality of its trade behind a public-relations front built on unquestioning government support and glib phrases like ‘no fear, no pain’ and ‘world’s best practice’. In an attempt to contain the public’s outrage about this latest disaster, the usual defence is being pushed that these are unusual events that can be fixed by tighter oversight. The truth is that raising standards high enough to protect animal welfare would make the trade uneconomic. The business model is so fundamentally flawed that it is unsalvageable, and that is exactly why the industry attempts to hide its practices from scrutiny.

While the industry has fought improvement because its very existence was at stake, the federal government has enacted measures to ensure it remains unaware of exactly what happens in the trade. This avoidance of responsibility has allowed the exporters to get away with such inhumane practices. Most recently, the Turnbull government has been considering handing regulation and investigation to an industry-owned company, in its continuing attempt to remove itself from any oversight or responsibility. The industry developed system, LGAP (Livestock Global Assurance Program), is intended to be an alternative to ESCAS (Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System). ESCAS is already a seriously inadequate system, but its replacement by LGAP would be the equivalent of handing protection of the chicken coop to the fox.

As well as revealing the full backstory to this failure of our political system, Backlash investigates the evolution of this powerful industry and the campaign to bring it to an end. The book also examines how Australia can and should transition to meat-only exports, and how ending the trade would remove its stain on our ethical reputation, allow us to market our meat trade as humane, and see millions of animals avoid a toll of suffering no civilised country can possibly tolerate.

We hope making Backlash freely available helps inform understanding of these issues.

Bidda Jones and Julian Davies