‘Red-haired’ animal advocates across the country gathered once again today (July 30) to urge the Gillard government to put an end, once and for all, to the cruel live export trade. The action followed news that Elders has been given a permit to send cattle from Darwin to Indonesia next week.
In Hobart, at Parliament Lawns and the Salamanca Markets, organiser Suzanne Cass said:
‘We have dressed as ‘grim reaper’ Julia Gillard today, in shirts covered in red to signify the blood of the animals that Julia Gillard has on her hands. Her government had the best reasons ever, since that ‘Four Corners’ program ‘A bloody business’ to end this wretched trade in animal suffering, and it chose not to do so’.
The Gillard government claims to have put procedures in place to ensure the welfare of cattle sent to Indonesia.
‘What the government has in fact agreed to is ‘business as usual’, said Ms Cass. They say that Indonesia will be required to comply with ‘guidelines’ from the International Organisation of Animal Health (OIE), but those standards are rudimentary and do not proscribe any of the cruelty we saw on ‘Four Corners’. The Mark 1 slaughterboxes and hog-tying the animals’ legs will still occur, and the fully conscious animals will crash to the concrete, bashing their heads in panic as we saw, and were so outraged about.
They claim that there will be ‘independent auditors’, but those auditors, like the ‘independent vets’, are employed by, and paid by, the exporter. So the industry is back to ‘regulating’ itself’.
Ms Cass added that conditions for the millions of animals sent to the Middle East are the same as those seen in Indonesia. A shipload carrying 73,500 Western Australian sheep was sent on a lengthy horror voyage to Turkey in May on the Maysora, which caught fire off the coast of Turkey.
‘It’s not as if the Gillard government, and its predecessors, haven’t known about this appalling animal abuse for years, even decades’, continued Ms Cass. ‘What they, farmers and exporters do not seem to ‘get’ is that hundreds of thousands of decent, hardworking Australians are deeply, deeply ashamed of this trade. The politicians who have so far spoken out against the trade MUST now step up to the plate and have the courage of conviction to support the two bills currently before Federal Parliament’.
Ms Cass said that the protests will continue, across the country, until the live export trade is ended for good.
First published: 2011-07-31 06:24 AM
• EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST
Art for Animals at AnimalFest
Promote positive attitudes to non-human animals with a captivating piece of artwork! Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania are requesting art to be displayed during AnimalFest, in conjunction with World Animal Day. AnimalFest is a celebration of all things about non-human animals. This will take place on Saturday 1st October on the lawns of Parliament House from 9am to 2pm.
Art is a wonderful way to help non-human animals, by creating awareness and educating about the importance and beauty of our fellow earthlings. Artworks can be of any medium, must be animal-related and you must be able to assist with its display if necessary. Please submit details of your planned artwork for consideration.
• Mother Jones:
Big Meat vs. Michael Pollan
A beef industry group crusades to stop the Pollan-ation of America’s college students.
— By Wes Enzinna
Carrin Flores is a cattle rancher’s fantasy come true: An attractive 26-year-old with stylish eyeglasses and glossy lipstick, she’s unabashed about her love of cows. “They are so cute. Their cute little tongues. Oh, and their eyelashes,” she says. “But I also friggin’ love to eat them.” She cooks beef four nights a week and can list dozens of ways she likes it: T-bone, tri-tip, boneless rump roast…Flores, a graduate student in veterinary medicine at Washington State University-Pullman, plans to work in the beef industry when she finishes. But she’s already a graduate of the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA), an industry-funded program that trains college students to fight back against critics of big agribusiness, like Michael Pollan.
“Pollan,” Flores tells me over beers at Dupus Boomer’s, a campus bar, “is really our enemy right now.” More than 35,000 college students were assigned one of his books last year; The Omnivore’s Dilemma is one of the most widely read titles on US campuses. Flores and her fellow big beef advocates hope to counter that. “In the future,” she says, “we’re the ones who are going to tell you about your beef.”
Since its launch in March 2009, the MBA has trained nearly 3,000 students and farmers to spread the “positive beef message,” offering online lessons on how to combat PETA and organizing a Twitter and Facebook “Food Fight” against its “campus critics.” Daren Williams, the communications director for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, helped start the MBA with $240,000 from the Beef Checkoff program, the beef industry’s PR wing. He says the MBA’s “focus has really become young people on the big land-grant campuses,” from which more than one-fifth of future farmers and industry leaders will emerge.
The MBA is just one part of a pro-beef backlash on campus. In May 2009, Washington State’s president canceled a lecture by Pollan, citing budget cuts, and pulled The Omnivore’s Dilemma from the freshman reading list. (The talk was rescheduled when a wealthy supporter stepped in to pay Pollan’s way.) That September, when Pollan was asked to speak at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, the owner of Harris Ranch—a stockyard critics have dubbed “Cowschwitz”—threatened to withhold (PDF) a $500,000 donation to the school. Campus officials turned the speech into a panel featuring a proponent of conventional beef. This was followed by a dustup at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Pollan’s In Defense of Food was distributed to incoming students, angering local ag groups, which bused in farmers to protest a speech by the author.
“Some of what you are hearing is organic, grassroots debate—they have different opinions about agriculture and beef production—and that’s good for a democracy,” says Pollan, who teaches journalism at the University of California-Berkeley (where I was his student). Yet he’s wary of the interests behind the campaign, noting that a PR firm funded by McDonald’s reportedly urged elementary schools not to let Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser speak to kids.
Asked if the MBA is just a phony PR campaign for Big Ag, Flores is emphatic: “We’re not Astroturf. We’re just worried about our futures in agriculture.” The dozen or so MBA grads and young farmers I spoke to shared similar anxieties. “We know the environment is in crisis and we don’t want to contribute to that,” says Crystal Young, a recent graduate of Kansas State University, where she received degrees in animal science and journalism. “But we’re also farmers, so the hard thing for us is to take into account all the criticisms of conventional agriculture, and to also continue to feed the world on the scale we are doing now. I think a lot of young people are primarily worried they won’t be able to have a career in farming at all in the future.”
And therein lies the irony of the MBA: The concerns that have prompted Flores and her peers to get organized are the same ones that have catapulted Pollan to such acclaim. The next generation of farmers realizes that the days of oil-fueled, corn-fed, resource-intensive agriculture are numbered. Beef consumption is the lowest it’s been since 1961. Just 8 percent (PDF) of the nation’s farmers are under 35.
“Things are changing—half of my family are vegetarians,” Flores says. We’ve just watched Pollan speak to a gym of 3,500 or so cheering fans and a handful of fuming, pink-cheeked cowboys. “Pollan was really impressive up there,” she tells me, finishing her beer. “But I can’t escape the fact that, ultimately, his message is that we’re unsustainable.”
Wes Enzinna is an assistant editor at Guernica.