Australia pays Eritrea to take sheep–and has a new live transport incident
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2003:
PORTLAND, Australia– The Australian live sheep export trade
had just begun to regroup after the three-month Cormo Express debacle
when economic disaster hit again– induced this time by Animal
Liberation South Australia campaigner Ralph Hahneuser.
The Cormo Express sailed Fremantle with 57,937 sheep on
August 5, bound for Kuwait, where they were to be unloaded and
trucked to Saudi Arabia. Arriving on August 22, the sheep were
refused entry to Kuwait, however, because some had developed scabby
mouth disease en route.
After no other nation would accept the sheep, the Australian
government repurchased the consignment from the Saudi buyer for $4.5
million U.S., halted all further sales of livestock to Saudi Arabia,
and investigated means of slaughtering and disposing of the sheep
short of returning them all to Australia, where the sheep industry
no more wanted them than the Saudis did.
On October 26 Eritrea agreed to accept the sheep as a
donation– along with a subsidy of $700,000 U.S. for transportation,
holding, and slaughter costs.
By the time the sheep were all unloaded, 5,681 had died in transit.
In Eritrea the sheep were killed by the halal method:
throat-cutting without pre-stunning, as directed by the Quran.
The live export carrier Al Shuaikh was to haul the next large
consignment of sheep to the Middle East, 73,000 in all, but
Hahnheuser on November 18 stole into the feedlot where the sheep were
awaiting boarding and contaminated part of the water supply with
shredded ham, in hopes this would make the sheep inedible for
devout Muslims because of the Islamic prohibition against eating pork
in any form.
The Al Shuaikh was to deliver sheep to Bahrain, the United
Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.
Victoria state chief veterinary officer Hugh Millar announced
on December 4 that tests showed only 1,800 sheep might have ingested
the water containing the shredded ham. The 1,800 sheep were
slaughtered locally. The remaining sheep were loaded during the next
two days and sent to sea on December 6. The episode reportedly cost
the exporters the equivalent of more than $500,000 U.S.
Hahnheuser, 40, of Adelaide, was charged with trespassing
and contamination of goods with intent to cause economic loss. If
convicted at a scheduled January trial, Hahnheuser could be fined
the equivalent of $17,000 U.S.
Hahnheuser is believed to have acted alone, based on hs own
statements and a lack of evidence implicating anyone else–which did
not stop a mob of politicians and farmers’ groups from demanding
punitive action against the whole of Animal Liberation, a national
organization with many local chapters.
“This group should be deregistered immediately,” fumed New
South Wales shadow minister for agriculture Duncan Gay, whose role
is that of ranking minority agricultural policy critic.
“These political campaign groups have a role to play in
raising awareness of specific issues,” said Royal SPCA president
Hugh Wirth, but Wirth added that in his opinion Hahnheuser
“overstepped the mark morally and ethically” because he “endangered
the sheep to make a political point,” an odd remark in view of the
difficult voyage ahead for the sheep and the certainty that they
would all soon be slaughtered whether shipped to the Middle East or
Responded Claudette Vaughan of Animal Defenders Australia,
“Ralph’s action was carefully planned. The animals themselves were
not harmed in any way by the rendered pig meat. For years,
liberationists and welfarists have been working behind the scenes to
get the live export trade banned,” Vaughan said. “Ralph’s action
sends a clear and resounding message out to farmers, business
people, and government that the live export trade will not be
Hahnheuser was also praised by Chinny Krishna, chair of the
Blue Cross of India and vice chair of the Animal Welfare Board of
India. “On behalf of thousands of people in India who applaud your
courageous act,” Krishna wrote, “I would like to say that your
action serves to inspire us to do more for the cause we believe in.
The motto of the Animal Welfare Board of India is ‘Compas-sion in
Action,’ exactly what you have done.”
“We wouldn’t do [what Hahnheuser did] ourselves, but given
that he has done it,” commented Animal Liberation Victoria president
Patty Mark, “it’s good. It will open up the whole issue of animal
rights in Australia in a way that is long overdue.”
Animal Liberation was founded in 1976 by Peter Singer, who
authored the 1974 book Animal Liberation, and Christine Townend,
whose 1985 book Pulling The Wool was the most comprehensive expose to
date of cruelty in all aspects of the Australian sheep industry.
Much of the book concerned live export to the Middle East, during
which sheep routinely spend two to three weeks at sea and often die
in large numbers from disease, stress, and heat exhaustion if at
any time the shipboard ventilation systems fail.
The Australian live sheep export trade is currently worth
about $143 million U.S. per year, but was more lucrative before an
11-year suspension that started in 1989 during a dispute over Saudi
rejection of several cargos. Live sheep exports from Portland,
Australia, were suspended again in October 2002 by Australian
agriculture minister Warren Truss, after five shipments in a row
including one by the Cormo Express had deaths exceeding the
Australian recommended ceiling of 2%.
Australian trade minister Mark Vaile on December 11 said he
would lead a delegation to Saudi Arabia in January 2004 to try to get
the trade underway again.