Action Down Under on 20th World Farm Animals Day
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2002:
WASHINGTON D.C.–The 20th annual observance of World Farm
Animals Day was perhaps most effectively marked by Australian and
Philippine officials who probably never heard of it. The occasion
honors and mourns the 47 billion animals raised and killed for food
each year, 10 billion of them in the U.S.
Meant to be celebrated each year on Mohandas Gandhi’s
birthday, October 2, which this year fell on a Wednesday, World
Farm Animals Day was actually observed on both the preceding and
following weekend, as well as in midweek.
The coordinating organization, the Farm Animal Reform
Movement, estimated that commemorative activities of some sort took
place in more than 1,000 communities worldwide. In India the
festivities flowed into World Day for Prayer for Animals, promoted
by Beauty Without Cruelty/India and observed on October 6.
But if Australian agriculture minister Warren Truss knew
anything about the occasion, he made no mention of it. Celebrations
were probably far from his mind on October 1 as he ordered a
moratorium on live sheep exports from Portland harbor, Victoria
state, knowing that the economic and political consequences could
sink his career.
Opposition critic Kerry O’Brien almost immediately denounced
Truss for allegedly jeopardizing livestock sales worth $400 million
Australian dollars per year. Sheep ranchers struggling against
prolonged drought and low wool and mutton prices were outraged.
Animal advocates would have preferred a permanent ban on livestock
exports of any kind. Truss was also widely accused of hypocrisy,
since he acted several days after a livestock carrier was allowed to
leave Portland with 45,000 sheep aboard.
Australian exporters shipped 6.6 million sheep in 2001,
after struggling for years to recover from a four-year suspension of
permission to land in Saudi Arabia, 1991-1995. The major customers
for the sheep are hallal slaughterhouses serving Muslims in Southeast
Asia and the Middle East. The most lucrative parts of the business
are supplying sheep for consumption by pilgrims to Mecca, and
supplying sheep for slaughter at the Feast of Atonement, marked
throughout the Islamic world.
As occurred a decade ago, frequent deaths among the sheep in
transit have begun attracting attention. Animal advocates are
concerned about the sheep; agriculture and health authorities in
recipient nations are aware that unsanitary shipments led to the
global hoof-and-mouth disease panic that damaged the livestock
industry from China to Great Britain in 2000-2001.
In early September, Truss asked shippers to explain why they
tossed overboard the carcasses of 15,153 sheep during July and
August. The Al Shuwaikh reportedly lost 5,800 sheep from a cargo of
86,000; the Corriedale Express lost 6,119 sheep (11%) from a cargo
of 55,590; the Al Messilah lost 2,170 sheep from a cargo of 77,150;
and the Cormo Express, which lost 10,000 sheep in one 1990 shipment,
lost 1,064 sheep from a cargo of 52,485.
In addition, the cattle ship MV Becrux lost 900 cows.
Then the The Al Shuwaikh sailed again and lost 2,302 sheep
from a cargo of 74,740. That made five major sheep shipments in a
row that exceeded the Australian government recommendation that
losses in transit should be kept below 2%. The composite toll, over
three months, was 5%.
“In Australia,” commented Kevin Shiell, CEO of the
Australian cattle export firm Livecorp, “we are used to losses of
animals that might, in some nations, be regarded as quite extreme.”
Dog day afternoon
In Baguio, the Philippines, regional police on October 5
raided an illegal dog meat restaurant, arrested three butchers, and
rescued 52 dogs, finding the freshly killed remains of 14 others.
The raid was reportedly instigated by the Political Animal
Lobby, a subsidiary of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
“Records obtained from PAL-Philippines show that at least 56
persons were arrested, 28 of whom were charged with the illegal sale
or slaughter of dogmeat, during 42 operations conducted from
September 2000 to July 2002,” wrote Harley Palangchao of the Baguio
Enforcing the 1996 Philippine anti-dogeating law amounts to
protecting dogs from reduction to farm animal status.
Consequences of killing chickens
The Kentucky State Police, Tyson Foods, the Kentucky
Poultry Federation, and the Kentucky Farm Bureau meanwhile offered a
reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and
conviction of someone who has turned off the ventilation systems at
four poultry barns in two months, killing as many as 80,000
chickens. The most recent incident occurred on October 3.
However, demonstrating the paradoxical nature of
livestock-related law enforcement, Florida chief assistant state
attorney Bruce Bartlett recommended a few days earlier that cruelty
charges not be pressed against Jim Renard Biggers, who founded
Cypress Farms in 1960, built it into a major regional egg supplier,
had four bad years in a row from 1998 through 2001, and on February
19, 2002 ran out of feed and credit. At least 2,000 chickens
starved to death before the plight of the remaining 200,000 became
known. The survivors received a last meal from the Florida Poultry
Association, then were killed.