Duck Hunting -Animal Welfare vs Corporate Animal Right

DISCLAIMER:  THIS LETTER REPRESENTS A HYPOTHESIS REGARDING RECENT EVENTS, IT IS FICTIONAL UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE

RSPCA stands for Animal Welfare within Australia, or does it?

A Northern cattle producers perspective…………….

When we watched the show we had just been through one of the worst Droughts in living memory where native shrubs, trees, kangaroos, frogs
and snakes died in the immense heat and cattle caught in the Rangelands, were those that had not been able to get to Indonesia.

Like everyone else watching 4 Corners we were disgusted and surprised at the method of slaughter.  My husband observed that they seemed to be making it much harder than needed, in short it was horrific, but fixable.  As the Drought is still close in our minds we could not fail to observe how well fed and healthy the cattle looked.

We were surprised that Dr Bidda Jones, Chief Scientist, with a respected Animal Welfare organization, who the public rely upon to be objective about the same, didn’t comment on it.   These cattle were feeder cattle they had been in Indonesian care for between 90 – 120 Days, not only had the basic First Freedom of RSPCA been met, the standard appeared to have been much better met than if they had stayed in Australia. 

A quick examination of RSPCA Policies reveals many things. One is by sending cattle to Indonesia for slaughter we were meeting all of their policies as a producer, and the second if we stop sending them, as producers we will be in breach of most of their policies.  For example:

“It is unacceptable for animals to be allowed to starve to death and die of thirst under any circumstance.”

RSPCA policy is we must prevent starvation in any circumstances, avoid long distances on trucks and use the closest slaughter point.  We were sending the animals to Indonesia to be fed, thereby avoiding long distances in trucks and also using our closest slaughter point. And even though we can send the cattle now to Australian feedlots in Indonesia who have a closed system, RSPCA is still Ban Live Export. 

Given their policy, why on earth would RSPCA be looking at Banning something, that would immediately require the retention of a million plus grazing animals be retained in an arid climate and in danger of perishing in the next drought, without any Audit of Feed levels.

RSPCA Position paper B5 is entitled “Managing farm animals during drought”.

“Where there is any doubt as to the ability to provide animals with adequate feed and water, the decision to agist or sell must be made sooner rather than later and well before the animal is too weak to be moved.” 

The 300,000 cattle annually turned off WA’s Pastoral Rangelands that are slaughtered overseas are in grave danger of perishing in the next drought if not mustered now and immediately sold thru Northern exit points.  As the refugee Live Export cattle from NT and Qld also enter the Eastern cattle market and need to be fed, prices drop, it is unlikely Eastern buyers will find it viable to transport them.

In last year’s drought, 127,000 cattle were transported across the SA Border in trucks inspected by the RSPCA of WA travelling distances of 2000 – 4000km as there was insufficient feed and slaughter facilities.   The RSPCA knows that what it is advocating for with Indonesia will place Australian cattle in more danger by Long Distance Transport of
animals, than ever were with Live Export.

“RSPCA teams up with WSPA to fight for a ban on live animal exports.The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is leading a
coalition of animal welfare organisations to end the long distance transport of animals for slaughter.”  RSPCA WA website.  

RSPCA is being a bit quiet and not advising WSPA of the role a ban on Live Exports for Australia will play in increasing long distance transport of animals for slaughter.  Currently on the RSPCA Website underneath BAN LIVE EXPORT

Communiqué from RSPCA Australia Board | 20 June 2011

“At the RSPCA Australia Board meeting this weekend in Canberra, the Board unanimously supported the continuation of the current campaign to bring an end to the live export of animals for slaughter.

The RSPCA has long held the position that animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible. The RSPCA does not believe that the live export of animals for slaughter is justifiable due to the considerable risks to the welfare of animals involved.”

 The cattle are currently being slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible, it is Indonesia.  The cattle are not in Gippsland, they are in the far North of Australia, most are Brahman and may have to wait years to be slaughtered here.

We all know Animals Australia will not stop until the last guide dog is out of it’s harness, and I hope you didn’t have milk in your coffee as Dairying is next on their hit list, although the Dairy Farmers probably think Coles is doing a good enough job of making them extinct.  It is no surprise to us that AA has shifted to the next cause without looking at the outcomes for cattle that they saved.

However, RSPCA is a very different matter.  RSPCA was the Animal Welfare group we all remember and did respect, that stands up for, provides shelter to, and humanely puts down large numbers of our pets when needed.  We all go on the Million Paws walks and who could resist Happy Tails Day.  RSPCA stands for all things good and cute with animal welfare. 

Even your average farmer would have contemplated ringing RSPCA if they thought mistreatment of animals was occurring in their area, although they were probably more likely to creatively stop the problem themselves.  The Northern cattle industry might even get a Paw for being largely organic, free-range, with the “freedom to express normal pattern of behaviour” and into low-stress stock-handling.  In short up until 4 weeks ago the welfare of cattle within Australia was not the issue.

To get an idea of how far this goes against the RSPCA we used to know and admire.  It would be as if RSPCA decided that because of some irresponsible pet ownership, it then forced the rest of us to suddenly have more dogs than you can possibly feed and provide care to, not desex them and put them at high risk of Parvovirus when they are not vaccinated, and send them standing up the entire way across Australia, and not consider their needs for a similar climate.  Not likely is it. 

They would say “reduction in numbers of animals” as per draft “Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare”.

http://www.wspa.org.au/Images/Proposed_UDAW_Text%20-%20ENGLISH_tcm30-2544.pdf#false

It is standard animal welfare practice to reduce numbers for the benefit of all animals.  Indonesia currently takes approximately 30% Speyed females, they are the only major market to do so.   The cruelty issue can be fixed, however the numbers issue can only currently fixed by Live Export.

Many of the cattle are in areas only accessibly by helicopter, and no organization public or private, Commonwealth or State, will have the capacity to process or euthanize the numbers required to ensure they don’t starve or die of disease.  A much longer and crueller death but the media usually finds it not dramatic enough to film.  In the case of the Northern Cattle Industry, Fixing Live Export is the only humane option.

RSPCA deliberately withheld the footage of animals being abused, it is unclear for how long and who else new.  It wanted to completely eradicate Live Export from the universe, at all costs. So did it succeed?

Australia is now being seen as an unstable trading partner for Export, cattle are now going to be shipped much longer distances and will be at much greater risk when they get there.   I am confused as to how this Bans Live Export, when it not only Increases Live Export and multiplies the welfare risks.   

We are constantly told that the OIE Guidelines are not enough and leave animals vulnerable, well Heather and Lyn, at last look we were the only ones asking for anything more.  Your policy doesn’t say Australian animals only, and to hell with all others?  Not exactly working for that noble goal of ending long distance transport for slaughter is it.

http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/livestock/cattle/footage-timing-questioned/2202050.aspx

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/games-over-indoensian-animal-cruelty-cost-animals-lives/st ory-e6freuzr-1226076699311  

RSPCA spokeswoman Lisa Chalk said the government was prevented from seeing the footage because it had failed to act when shown similar evidence of past cruelty cases.  "Our fear was, if we showed it to them he wouldn't have done anything. It did weigh heavily on our minds every day but we wanted to get our ducks in a row. It was a huge
ethical dilemma for us," she said.

But not enough of a dilemma to speak up straight away about cruelty.

Aside from interesting shooting terminology, what were the “Ducks”, if they believed as Sarah told us that most were not slaughtered humanely, why did they not just release this to the media straight away if Joe did nothing. 

By releasing the footage prior to the start of the Northern Cattle season, the outcry would have been just as loud but the outcome would have been very, very different for industry, and for animal welfare. 

I asked Heather about the “Ducks” in her recent appearance on Australia Talks

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/australiatalks/stories/2011/3250659.htm

I couldn’t obtain an authorised transcript, but to summarise my questions are about the third in (Seek 11:57):

Christine:  “Given that all of these problems we are talking about with slaughter, arrangements with closed feedlots and abattoirs, traceability, could have been resolved on release of the footage.  What were the ducks that she was referring to, what did it actually relate to, that the footage wasn’t released until the ducks were in place? 

Because as it stands now it has caused the maximum amount of damage to the Industry, it’s almost collapsed it.  It’s put Australia at risk of foot and mouth disease, it’s actually going to possibly perish large numbers of animals in the next drought.

What were the ethical considerations, and why were they waiting to release it?”

 Paul:   “Was there some, I think the suggestion from Christine there, that there was some, perhaps strategy, involved in the release of
this, that might not have been necessarily been in the interests of the animals themselves?”

Heather:  “I think I need to reflect on a couple of things Mr Crombie said as well.  I mean MLA, and anybody who has been to Indonesia and seen the slaughter of cattle there, has seen in a typical slaughterhouse, which is where 90% of Australian cattle actually go. 

At the very least they have all seen animals tripped onto their side, either because they are being slaughtered traditionally, or thru a Mark 1 Box.  MLA’s own reports since 2003 have documented problems with slaughter processes in Indonesia.  And that really led to a whole series of refinements of the Mark 1 Box.  But even still, despite the
fact everybody recognized that there were problems.  Last year that MLA installed 10 new boxes into Indonesia. 

 So everyone’s known about problems with slaughter in Indonesia really for a decade, and it is a really sad fact that unfortunately with the Live Export trade that not one thing significant has happened to change the lives of animals exported for slaughter unless there has been a public exposure.

Paul:  “I don’t think that quite answers the question though about the role of the RSPCA in this and the release of the footage.”

Heather:  “We had no choice, we didn’t think, but to actually find a reputable organisation that was going to do their own investigation to prove to the Australian community and to MLA, Livecorp, the Australian Government that the cruelty occurring in Indonesia was abysmal and needed to change and something needed to happen.”

Well there’s one Duck, one that is identified as taking 8 weeks for 4 Corners to produce the programme.  It is a very “Noble” Duck, if there had not been a reputable organization, no-one would have been convinced.  Or would they? The footage that Lyn White held was horrific, that any release of it either to the government or to the media, or viral U-tube,
would have prompted public outcry and need for change.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/games-over-indoensian-animal-cruelty-cost-animals-lives/st ory-e6freuzr-1226076699311

The letter to the RSPCA chief executive Heather Neil from Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig expressed concern that the organisation had refused to show the footage and implied it would have acted had it seen the evidence.

 At no point has either Animals Australia or the RSPCA provided to myself, my office or my department copies or examples of this
footage," the senator wrote on May 25. 

This footage was not provided at the meeting on 6 April, nor in response to the phone call on 12 April.

This is despite the fact that your letter makes it clear that Animals Australia has been in possession of this footage since late February or early March."

There were more Ducks that had to be in line though.  A quick glance at the websites of RSPCA, Animals Australia reveals a highly developed network of interlinking Parent-child websites that could not be released until 4 Corners screened.  They could not be launched until the footage was in the public domain:

http://www.rspca.org.au/   Parent- child website  http://www.banliveexport.com/

which links to http://www.animalsaustralia.org/  which links to http://www.banliveexport.com/virtual-protest/  which both link back to RSPCA and Animals Australia websites. 

All websites allow the viewer to Donate and Vote and Donate again, in what was undoubtedly the first, and may be most successful Virtual Fundraising/Publicity Campaign for any charity ever in Australia.  These websites are fantastic, if you get some time go and have a look at them but be careful, because just by having a look you can accidentally vote, pass judgement and there is a myriad of different ways to empty your wallet.  Especially the workplace donators as they will still be donating long after anyone remembers what it was about.

Well I am a bit like Lyn, I like to name my animals, so I will call this Duck “Webby”

All sites encourage viewers to…

“Watch, React, Click, DONATE”

“Watch, React, Click, DONATE”

Watch, VOTE, hey that took my vote, and I was just looking.

Next in line were “Donation” and “Outcry”, these are very fat ducks.   And they are the parents of a ugly duckling called “Publicity”.  This Family is very important because it allowed those who have reliable access to Internet, TV, mobile and phones to mobilise, and have their outcry very loudly heard, before anyone had even made it in from looking after cattle.

If you were in any doubt about the difference digital media made to this debate.  Here is an excerpt from Animals Australia’s website:

“Australia's most respected current affairs program Four Corners
airs explosive footage of Animals Australia's investigation into the live export trade to Indonesia, exposing unspeakable suffering and torture endured by Australian cattle nightly in that country. Websites of Animals Australia and campaign partners, RSPCA Australia and GetUp! crash as outraged Australians attempt to make their voices heard. In the first 24 hours after the screening a bill is announced to parliament to end live exports as the government immediately suspends exports to the abattoirs identified; the Agriculture Ministers phone system is brought
down; tens of thousands of emails are sent to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard local MPs; the number one nationwide Twitter trend becomes #BanLiveExport and a petition to ban live exports is the fastest growing petition in GetUp!'s history. Australians have sent a clear message to their leaders that they will accept nothing less than a total ban on live animal export.”

Attempts to clone the Donation, Outcry and Publicity family have met with not much success by the pastoral industry, after weeks of fundraising allowed them to put their first ad on Imparja TV.  It is a fantastic effort, however the comparison of the Media blitz before them is 100 to 1.

I know nothing about the internet, and I thought RSPCA websites were amazing, so I followed up with the website designer who are listed as developing RSPCA’s new website.

When we heard that RSPCA Australia were looking to have their website redeveloped, we instantly knew that the project was for us.

Working very closely with the RSPCA Australia online team, we created a brand-new original layout, with a focus on cleanliness, readability and style. Navigation was constructed with a focus on simplicity and inherent findability.”

We wanted to develop a Website as good as RSPCA and needed to know what sort of time frame would be needed.  In an email on the 21st June in response to our enquiry:

OK then, well for a site of that calibre (RSPCA etc) you are looking at over $------ or so, with a charitable discount. Each ‘microsite’ would probably cost around $------ or so, depending on what was required.

 The issue is getting everything done in a three month period. There is no way that Working Party could deliver multiple large sites for you in that period, we just don’t have the resources.

 Also, please do no underestimate the work involved in writing content for your new Web site — the RSPCA site has a team of people helping to keep the content up to date. It is no small task! And creating it from scratch, for a Web site as large as RSPCA will take a very long time.”

 Although we didn’t manage to find Animals Australia’s website designer it is very clear “Webby” took far more than three months to grow to his present size, but it does seem like very good value for money.  And “Webby” had to be ready to be out in public the moment “Noble” paraded past.  Didn’t he Sarah.

Why was the 4 Corners show postponed by a week, if it is not acceptable that this go on another night?

I am not going to go on about “Goose” and “Gander”, “Member” and “Caucus”, ‘Independent” and “Green” but they are very important ducks in this shoot.

However there was an entirely different set of Ducks that RSPCA needed to be waddling and on the move.  The Northern Cattle Industry needed to start it’s annual migration. Yes Sarah, it is Seasonal.

http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/state/livestock/cattle/abc-washes-hands-of-live-export-blame-part-two/2 205941.aspx?storypage=4

If the footage had been released during the wet, there possibly would have been no ducks at all, apart from a few feathers pulled out of MLA, and a puddle where the Goose had been.  The Goose could have gone and investigated while the doors to abattoirs were still open, to see if they could be sent into closed systems, safeguards could be in place, or
if a Suspension was absolutely necessary the Gander could have gone up to send a clear message that $11.5 Billion of shared poultry was still worthy of a respectful relationship.

However if you wait patiently until the cattle were in the supply chain you can get every single Duck.  Gander is forced to make a chopping block decision, to save her own neck.  Exporters, Importers, Suppliers big and small, International Relations all were offered in sacrifice instead. 

Pastoralists can’t muster without forward supply to Boats, as the costs of helicopters, feed and fuel are too great, hence the jumping up and down.  Most who were in drought last year, and remember it, may go under, if not this year, then next.  Difficult to get finance for a business that the entire income can be removed and the value of it’s assets halved in one decision of government.  Would not even guess what Pastoral properties are worth this week, but I’m quite sure you would have Buckleys of borrowing to buy one.

And if you want to really upset the neighbours just pull the stunt just before Ramadan.  Why would anyone want to invest money in animal welfare in another country or this one, when supply can be instantaneously withdrawn by Twitter.  By waiting the Producers, Exporters, Importers and Markets may have taken a fatal hit. 

China Market will now source it’s dairy cows from NZ.  Yes, that’s right the country across the Tasman you keep telling us doesn’t Live Export, only 70,000 dairy heifers.  And Australian dairy farmers probably just lost their last bit of viability to be able to provide the Australian public with Milk, which kids need to grow.

Complete eradication of a species, or is it? We still have Donation, Outcry and Publicity and for the time being Goose and Gander and their flock.

And as for Lyn she has decided to use the considerable funds raised to ensure that people eat more beef, so that “Brian, Tommy, Bill, Arthur and Dudley” are not slaughtered overseas, only kidding.  Check out the Animals Australia website, Australian Meat Industry Council has got to be happy it held hands with the Tofu-set.  

http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/global-warming-film/  “Meat the Truth”

Animals Australia is fully aware by Australia withdrawing cattle, that the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) Guidelines are insufficient and any live cattle that are now exported to Indonesia from other countries are at considerable risk.  Probably need to change the Website, “a voice for animals who speak the same language as Lyn”.

But what about the Cattle that were saved, we are told that “90% of Australia” stretched it’s forefinger to click, from all I’ve seen in the media all attempts to explain their welfare needs and have been portrayed as self-interest. 

 RSPCA considers them in it’s Communiqué continues: 

“Mechanisms for the domestic processing of cattle that were destined to be exported live for slaughter, but held back in Australia, must be rapidly put in place and the Government and industry must address support for producers and the industry needed to make this happen. The Board noted that the welfare of cattle in Australia is protected by Australian animal welfare legislation.”

 No matter what the Greens think there is no such thing as an Instant Abattoir.  There is also no amount of legislation/support that can now
protect Cattle in Australia from the scale of the animal welfare and environmental problem that has just been created by RSPCA’s planned and deliberate Duck Shoot.  In the meantime, cattle are now being processed in Indonesia, in 4 short weeks, no foreigner can have access to abattoirs. 

The RSPCA, we and many of their members remember has gone, it’s new emergence alongside the Animal Right, (and who thought politics were just for Parliament) leaves a vacuum.  There is no longer an independent voice for animal welfare, with a few steps to the right it moved itself, so far out of the picture that it will be difficult for it to be present in Indonesia where the problem was.

And for the RSPCA to expand, or collect donations on the back of an animal welfare issue it has just created, their ability to work in Australia will have been greatly compromised. 

You see to wait about animal cruelty until Webby was established to ensure Donation, Outcry, and Publicity were created is not really Noble is it.  Especially if the RSPCA were also ensuring all the Northern Ducks were in full flight for their complete obliteration, and in doing so disregarded the consequences of creating the most adverse outcomes for animal welfare in recent Australian history.

If RSPCA is against Duck Hunting, they are certainly good shots.