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Sources for Understanding Animal Rights Debate in Australia
June 14, 2011 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn more about the animal rights issue in Australia in the context of animals being raised for slaughter. Where do I start?

This has been prompted by Australia's recent ban on export of live cattle to Indonesia. I do have some general knowledge about animal rights issues, but whatever I've read has usually been in the context of cruel practices in sports, entertainment or science etc. I don't think I've had any exposure to the debate in the context of animals that are being raised specifically for meat production.

I guess I'm having some difficulty in reconciling "don't be cruel to animals" with "but kill them for my food anyway". I do, however, understand the issue of "don't execute criminals in a cruel way", but that is in a different mental category for me.

I would appreciate inputs for more reading material (not videos) on this, and if it is in the Australian context, that would be even better.
posted by vidur to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan traces a beef he purchased from birth through the beef processing system.
posted by mkb at 2:08 PM on June 14, 2011


Indymedia Australia's Animal Rights section could be an OK starting point for at least one side of the debate.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:33 PM on June 14, 2011


mkb: "In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan traces a beef he purchased from birth through the beef processing system."

While Omnivore's Dilemma is a really worthwhile read, it's specifically about the American supply chain. Livestock farming in most other countries, even western countries, is very different. I have no idea what it looks like in Australia but I'd be shocked if it even approaches the way meat is raised, slaughtered and transported in the US.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:42 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also the controversy about how the cattle may now be turned loose to starve? Crazy situation.

I found reading up on Kosher and Halal (I was wondering if you could eat kosher if halal, etc, and why there was anti-halal happening but not anti-kosher) an interesting way to approach it- both are a "humane" way to kill, yet there are even more humane ways to kill.

That's the other thing that got me with the Indonesian abattoirs- weren't they supposed to be halal slaughtering?
posted by titanium_geek at 3:52 PM on June 14, 2011


I have no idea what it looks like in Australia but I'd be shocked if it even approaches the way meat is raised, slaughtered and transported in the US.

you're right, they're compeletely different. Climate & the availability of grazing land result in the vast majority of Australian livestock being free range, whereas in the US it's more like 80% or more in feedlots. The figures are easy enough to google, but basically the proportions of free range v feedlot are more or less opposite, between Australia & the US.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:25 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some links from a friend involved in this: RSPCA NSW and Animals Australia.

I could ask for more if you really need them.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:02 PM on June 14, 2011


Thanks, LiB. My "need" is really just a desire to understand the debate starting from the basics.

For example, is the campaign to ban live exports derived from a desire to promote vegetarianism (a ban on slaughter itself) or does it merely seek to stop cruelty to animals who are going to be killed for food anyway. If it is the latter, is it just for psychological comfort of the thought that the animal on your dinner plate did not suffer? Or, are there meat quality concerns for animals who are slaughtered in cruel ways? Frankly, I am not even sure that I have the right questions to ask. The level of public debate seems to be far higher than my understanding of this.

It'll be great if you could post a few more links. I checked out the websites you linked, and they seem to make the same PR-speak advocacy points ("legal protection for all animals") that I find hard to understand regardless of which side of the debate they come from.
posted by vidur at 5:26 PM on June 14, 2011


The problem is that due to my positions I'm not sure that asking for more information about animal rights in Australia would be viewed in a positive manner, even if I did claim I was asking for a friend. I honestly have no idea why the Australian public is so up in arms about this, and yelling 'THEY'RE JUST COWS' in every comment thread on the article has not enlightened me.

I think people empathize with animals. There aren't many TV stations here and lots of people are on social media, so the Four Corners report quickly gained an audience on Twitter. Lots of people watched it, and they took to Facebook and online petitions. I guess seeing the torture squicked people out so they acted? There seems to be a high degree of love and empathy for animals in Australia.

Good luck. I'm just as curious as you.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:44 PM on June 14, 2011


My view is that the issue is specifically about live exports, ie:

- possible inhumane conditions on the ships and/or
- inhumane slaughtering practices.

There was a kerfuffle a few years back about live exports to the Middle East. I can't remember the exact details, but I think a lot of animals were dying en route, through heat & dehydration. That brought the issue of live exports into the consciousness of the general public, and then this latest furore added a pinch of "them furriners are being cruel to *OUR* cattle!!1!!"

I'd say that the majority (excluding vegans & hardcore vegos) don't give a shit about animal slaughter, as long as it's done in a known & controlled "humane" manner, which translates (somewhat xenophobically) into "as long as they're slaughtered in Australia".
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:24 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or, are there meat quality concerns for animals who are slaughtered in cruel ways?

Among myself and other... let's go with "boutique," meat producers I know (in the northwest United States), we are absolutely gobsmackingly concerned about stress prior to slaughter. It is considered common knowledge that if an animal dies afraid or in pain it negatively affects the quality of the meat. I've never seen any documentation to confirm it, but pain, fear, and other stress are absolutely considered to be a meat quality issue among the growers I know. And every trade publication I've read.

I can't speak to your primary question, but if you're interested in the perspective of a North American meat producer who has reconciled ""don't be cruel to animals" with "but kill them for my food anyway"", I'm happy to share. It seems like you've got more general ethical issues that you're thinking about. [end derail]
posted by stet at 6:33 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


stet, thanks for that. Any links to those trade publications (if they aren't beyond paywalls)?

Thinking some more about it, the ethical dimension is obviously not limited to Australia. So yeah, it'll be great if you could share something along those lines.

I'd put in the qualification about Australia because debates in Australia often have some uniquely Australian background that isn't captured in the sources from elsewhere. For example, see Ubu's explanation about free range above.
posted by vidur at 7:08 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Australia is a country where a man will get eaten by a shark and his widow will adopt the shark and tell people not to kill it. They love their animals. Still, why this case specifically? And why cows?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:40 PM on June 14, 2011


Still, why this case specifically?

try watching the footage perhaps
posted by moorooka at 3:43 AM on June 15, 2011


vidur: "I guess I'm having some difficulty in reconciling "don't be cruel to animals" with "but kill them for my food anyway"."

Even a vegan will tell you that death is inevitable. This is a totally divorced issue from quality of life before that. Most of us who eat meat would prefer that animals destined for slaughter not suffer in pain, terror and/or deprivation during their lifetimes. I don't know how to articulate that in a moral framework; it's just obvious to me, and - shhhh - I don't even really care that much about this issue.

In terms of export, the idea of banning live exports is not unique to Australia. It is also banned in Ireland and in a number of EU countries, because the treatment of animals in the slaughter transport chain through many destinations is objectively horrific whether you eat meat or not.

I don't know what you'd consider a reliable, unbiased source on this - the Australian RSPCA, which at least here is hardly on the activist forefront of animal welfare issues, has a very firm position on live exports.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:15 PM on June 16, 2011


Thanks, DarlingBri (and others) for sharing your thoughts. I guess the links that have been posted here would have to suffice as my starting points. Like I said in a comment, I am not even sure what questions to ask, so I am going to take these links as the right answers and mark this as resolved.
posted by vidur at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2011


I still don't understand and I have the same question.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:55 PM on June 16, 2011


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