Shattered nation rallies behind a bunch of sheep
They say that sheep aren’t very bright. Some of their supporters aren’t that sharp either.
They don’t seem to get politics. They don’t get that the only logical result of their campaign to unseat this apparently heartless Federal Government would be the installation of another Federal Government which cares even less about how animals are treated once they are exported overseas. I can understand people being angry, but the loss of perspective and absence of thought on this issue is quite remarkable.
Talkback and the letters pages are jammed, and Government MPs are being bombarded by thousands of emails and form letters denouncing them as callous and complicit through their negligence in the brutal slaughter of several thousand sheep in Pakistan. Just 18 months after footage emerged showing Australian cattle being hacked to death in Indonesia, the call to end live exports is louder than it was last year. It was pretty loud the first time around. Much of it is understandable but a lot of it is just ludicrously over the top.
People have compared the scenes in Pakistan to the dumping of bodies in mass graves in war zones. In Sydney protesters held up signs referring to the treatment of the sheep as an animal “Holocaust”. Letter writers have described the slaughter as “Holocaust-style”, putting it in the same league as Belsen and Auschwitz.
Hate to be pedantic but the small difference there is that these events involved people rounded for extermination on the basis of their ethnicity, but in the current sheep-fuelled frenzy of indignation, we probably shouldn’t dwell on such trifles.
I watched that footage in the Four Corners documentary the other night. Like any normal person I thought the treatment of those animals was shocking. It cannot be defended. But I am stunned by the degree to which it has sent otherwise politically disengaged people into mouth-frothing apoplexy. It has clouded their capacity for logic.
And unless they think the Greens can win 76 seats in the House of Representatives, they should realise that by saying the Gillard Government should be turfed out over this scandal, their actions would install the same opposition which condemned Gillard for suspending live exports to Indonesia after Four Corners unearthed its original horror reel.
For all the regular people who have sent emails or signed petitions purely on animal cruelty grounds, there are others who have a much more radical bent to them and are using this campaign for their own ends, ends which would probably jar with the more mainstream voters who spoke out simply because they don’t think animals should suffer that way. As the Greens struggle to maintain their standing after a series of poor results in state and council elections, their vocal purity on this issue is something they are using to claw their way back into a more powerful position. Aside from the Greens, there are long-standing anti-farming campaigners and militant vegan groups who think all farming is evil and the consumption of any meat unnecessary.
They’re getting amongst it too.
I am certainly not saying that the Government should tough it out and refuse to take any action in light of this latest evidence. A good start at least in terms of perceptions would be for Gillard to put the stun gun to Joe Ludwig’s ministerial career. His was hardly a merit-based appointment in the first place. Ludwig is the son of Queensland AWU chief and Right Faction supremo Bill Ludwig, and enjoyed an armchair ride into Parliament under Labor’s equivalent of the AFL father-and-son rule. Gary Ablett Jnr he ain’t. On Monday he struggled to show any emotional response to this latest evidence of brutality, nor has he been able to craft a swift and effective policy response.
The cattle industry is one step ahead of the minister anyway. It has itself voluntarily suspended the trade to Bahrain, where the sheep were originally sent but rejected on the questionable basis that they were diseased, and Pakistan, where they ended up and were subsequently slaughtered and buried alive.
The suspension and investigation of supply channels will not be enough to satisfy campaigners who simply want live exports stopped in their entirety regardless of the country involved or whether anything bad has ever happened there. If that is the case, the campaigners should be polite and brave enough to get on a bus to Casino, NSW, ideally in the middle of Beef Week, and stand in the main street with a loud hailer to announce that we’ve decided to put tens of thousands of farmers out of work because we’re really upset about two woeful but isolated instances of cruelty.
Some of the more ardent campaigners might jump at the chance. They do appear to care more about animals than people. It speaks volumes about our priorities that people can live quietly and without complaint in a country where Aboriginal babies die from curable diseases or are damned into cyclical poverty, but will bash down their local member’s doors over the treatment of farm animals.
There was a dramatic illustration of this last year when the first Four Corners program aired. In the same week that a few dozen asylum seekers had drowned at sea, with the Government under deserved siege for its inconsistent and unworkable border protection policies, Parliament was disrupted not by a protest about dead humans but dead cows.
One letter summed it up for me this week, writing on this issue that the test of any society was “how it treats its most vulnerable”. It’s a sentence which normally ends with the word “citizens” and applies to babies, refugees, the homeless, the mentally ill, people with disabilities. Those crafty sheep have muscled that lot aside. And to think people say they’re just dumb animals.
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