PUBLISHED ON: 12 December 2010
Kuwait is an oil rich nation situated on the Arabian Gulf. It is also the major destination for Australian sheep in the Middle East. Some 22 million Australian sheep have been exported to Kuwait over the past 20 years. In early 2004 and again in 2006 Animals Australia investigators visited Kuwait and brought the brutal treatment of sheep and cattle in Kuwait at the Shuwaikh abattoir and the Al Rai livestock market to the attention of the Federal government and live export industry.
Animals Australia has implored both the Rudd government and LiveCorp/Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to at the very least reduce the risks posed to exported Australian animals by ensuring that they were not onsold to individual buyers - an outcome that they could legitimately achieve through requirements in export permits and exporter/importer agreements. Neither the government nor the live export industry was willing to take this obvious measure to reduce suffering, even though both admitted that religious festivals such as the Eid al Adha (or 'Festival of Sacrifice') where large numbers of animals are sold to individual buyers presented the greatest risks to Australian animals.
Animals Australia's Lyn White returned to Kuwait for the 2010 Festival of Sacrifice and visited once again the Kuwaiti livestock market and abattoir that had presented such grave animal welfare concerns in the past.
"In the Shuwaikh abattoir trussed and terrified Australian sheep were being dragged up the ramp into the slaughterhouse right in front of a MLA sign saying "don't drag" animals. Nothing had changed in the dreadful cattle slaughter area at the abattoir either."
Australia has exported over 23, 000 dairy cattle and 17,000 beef cattle to Kuwait since 2003.
"The streets of the Al Rai market on the morning of the Eid turned into a mass slaughter area for animals. Australian sheep were being purchased, bound with wire and shoved into car boots whilst others were being dragged terrified on their stomachs towards filthy slaughter areas on the side of roads where they waited amongst the dead and dying to have their throats cut. Within 30 minutes of the slaughter starting the streets were running with blood.
"The treatment of two young dairy bulls was so horrendous that it was almost soul destroying to witness. One was killed on the side of the road, and the other in a carpentry workshop. Both were brutally forced to the ground where they struggled, terrified as they were trussed with rope over a period of many minutes until tightly bound, they had their throats cut by inexperienced slaughterers resulting in long, painful deaths.
"One of the most disturbing aspects of this investigation was to clearly witness again that local people are happy for 'tourists' to watch and film their cruel treatment of animals. Conveying that I am an Australian makes me even more popular since we supply them with animals each year. Tragically Australia's willingness to export animals to the region continues to reinforce local beliefs that their treatment of animals is acceptable.
"Whilst the majority of Australian animals will be slaughtered in the Middle East whilst fully conscious all year around, and animals are available to be sold to individual buyers each day, MLA and LiveCorp know so clearly that animals are enmass brutally treated during the Festival of Sacrifice yet they are still willing to send hundreds of thousands of animals to this Festival each year."
Footage obtained by Animals Australia investigators in Bahrain in 2007 forced the Bahraini government to prohibit the transpiration of Australian animals in boots from the Bahrain feedlot for fear of losing their supply of animals. MLA/LiveCorp has lauded the success of their "in the Ute, not the boot" initiative.
"We also visited Qatar and Bahrain to observe the livestock markets. In Qatar, where MLA have also introduced their 'in the ute, not the boot' programme at the importer Al Mawashi feedlot, we observed terrified sheep being put in the back seats of cars of individual buyers.
"In Bahrain we watched MLA staff at the main feedlot ensuring sheep were not going into boots, but they seemed oblivious to the fact that small trucks were regularly leaving the feedlot with more animals that could be needed for individual purchasers. On following these trucks we saw that other selling markets had been established where Australian sheep were being sold into car boots. MLA had a cameraman at the feedlot filming the success of their education programme for a PR film. Their energy would have been better served identifying as we did that the problem was far from solved, but rather that it had been moved to other locations.
"Of additional concern is that this industry initiative is actively encouraging and facilitating animals to be purchased for home slaughter - where they are at greatest risk of ill-treatment."
Animals Australia's investigations in the Middle East have clearly revealed that animals will only be protected from cruelty when legislation is passed to prevent cruel treatment and practices. Current treatment is even contrary to Islamic teachings, yet widespread abuse still routinely occurs. Far from influencing change, Australia's live export industry's willingness to supply animals is contributing to and condoning animal cruelty.
A decision by Australia to not provide animals on animal welfare grounds will resonate through the region and assist the calls from the many caring Muslims throughout the Middle East for animal cruelty legislation to be passed.
These are just some of the hundreds of images captured by Animals Australia's investigative team on their recent investigation to the Middle East in November 2010 for the three day Festival of Sacrifice. Close to one million animals were exported live from Australia for this festival alone.
Photographs show Australian animals being bound with wire, shoved into car boots, dragged and tied up, and suffering terribly before a brutal slaughter - all of which is contrary to Islamic teachings.
Evidence of routine abuse clearly shows that the live export industry's attempts to improve animal welfare in destination countries is not working. Instead, Australia's willingness to continue supplying animals to known abuses depicted in these photographs is re-enforcing the local belief that this type of cruelty is acceptable.