Ban live exports – the need for dialogue!

As my readers will know I have empathy with the case for non-stun slaughter. I do believe that in the right place and performed well by appropriately trained people zabiha or shechita is not inhumane. One the other hand it does not scale up.

My thinking is in part shaped by my understanding kosher and halal codes. These cover the journey from farm to fork. High welfare standards are required during life up to and including slaughter. After slaughter good storage, cooking and hygiene are required.

These codes, at least to me, appear to be based a concept that life is a Gift of Nature, if you are a secularist, or a Gift of God, for people of faith – hence a belief in or feel for the Sanctity of Life. Rationally, therefore, taking life should not be undertaken lightly. It should be a solemn exercise, whatever the cause.

Do we treat the slaughter of animals to eat too lightly?

How many of us merely see animals as a commodity?

I ask these questions in the context of the live export trade from countries such as Australia, where livestock production for consumption is big business. Much of Australia’s livestock are destined to provide meat for the Islamic countries of the Far East. Fortunately these countries will accept the slaughtered carcass.

Seemingly one issue is Eid-al-Adha. The Guardian recently reported on the resumption of live exports to Iran specifically for Eid-al-Adha.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/28/australia-live-sheep-exports-iran

Can this expert ever be a proper thing to do?

Good Islamic values require the most humane treatment of animals throughout their transient existance on earth. How does one transport animals in bulk humanely? And by sea? Surely the animals’ experiences will not be pleasurable.

And what happens on disembarkation? Iran has given assurances.

“Iran has agreed to animal health certification protocols giving Australian exporters the green light to start shipping sheep, cattle and goats to the country.”

But how transparent will these agreements be? Will there be Australian oversight? OK, I guess that practices can be adopted to care for large numbers of animals but good halal practices must apply all the way to the point of kill. The longer the physical supply chain the more opaque it becomes – especially if the produce is passing through the care of several agencies or legal entities that ultimately rely on trust.

Now what I say next may be completely out of order and out of place. I may have the wrong concept and the wrong understanding altogether. Forgive me if that is so.

Eid-al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, suggests to me the slaughter of a large number of animals in conditions that may not be wholy compatible with the best principles of zabiha.

Not doubting the right and appropriateness of a large festival of thanksgiving, do followers not need to consider seriously all the welfare considerations from the farms or ranches in Australia to the plates in Iran?

Good zabiha does not scale up easily. It should be a quiet and calm practice. Does the need for volume slaughter fit the best principles of zabiha? I don’t know and am merely asking.

Perhaps all these conditions can be met but is there not a less traumatic alternative?

Do the Australian and Western welfare authoritiesa and agencies need to be more relaxed about non-stun slaughter than they are? Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to establish sensible protocols for regulating non-stun slaughter in the country of origin. It is possible to store and ship large quantities of carcasses – for example, the UK has no issues with its New Zealand lamb.

So this will put a premium on the Iranian import cost but as I say “welfare covers the entire journey from farm to kill”. Would such arrangements not be better than the live export of animals to Iran?

In conclusion I am not comfortable with the live transport of animals over any distance and I am even more uncomfortable with sea transport. I am suggesting here that both exporting and importing countries need to look at an entire picture. Best Islamic practice may actually benefit all concerned not least the animals destined for slaughter.

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