In early September 2020, a ship taking nearly 6,000 cows out of New Zealand, capsized off the coast of Japan. It’s been reported that the ship capsized because the ship's engine failed, then it was hit by a freak wave.
Now look at the headlines, commentary and stakeholders that have waded in to the discussion associated with that event.
The practice of live exports has been a contentious issue for many years. As with most practices associated with the human-animal relationship, there are a diverse range of frequently polarised views reflecting the interests, worldviews, and responsibilities of the different stakeholders.
So what words do YOU use to describe “live exports”?
How well are you critiquing the media reports? What is fact and what is hearsay? What is the balance between objective and subjective content? And what’s the level of common sense, logic and rationale demonstrated in the reported commentary? Are you adding context to the reports, reactions and advocated responses?
One starting point is to put the event in context of the total numbers, and total mishaps. Transportation of animals across international borders happens every day. It is estimated, for example, that over two million pets and other live animals are transported by air every year in the United States alone. In 2015 it was estimated that there were approximately 1.49 billion animals transported within the European Union.
It’s been reported that 3 million animals are exported from Australia every year for slaughter overseas. Remembering that critiquing is not simply criticising, but a methodology to understand and assess statements and situations, then it is a useful exercise to examine stakeholder statements using critiquing methodology. For example, according to one animal organisation: “Cattle, sheep and goats are shipped long distances in conditions which result in illness and death for a significant number of individuals”. Those people objectively critiquing the statement naturally query:
Critiquing requires that in addition to considering the types of animals being transported and the purposes for transporting them (e.g. horses for breeding purposes, cows for consumption, international pets travelling with their international owners) there are also questions to be asked about the conditions that the animals are kept in while travelling, and the validated outcomes of the journey (e.g. mortality percentages).
So, how can practices deplored by some people on the basis that they cause pain, distress, and suffering to animals, continue to be lawful? The answer to that question involves understanding the word "necessary" as it's used in animal law.
Of course, the debates, contentions, and legal proceeding frequently revolve around what is considered to be “necessary”. You might find it helpful, for example, to compare what different stakeholders deem "necessary" by having a look at the references attached to this post.
Now imagine what changes would occur if the rulebook required people to not only prevent an animal's unnecessary pain, but to ALSO provide animals with opportunities for comfort, interest and pleasure. That’s the change advocated for by IAL i.e. implementing a legal reform that puts positive animal welfare law in to practice.
So, maybe take another look at live exports and consider, is it the transportation of animals that’s the problem (i.e. does the practice need to be banned?), OR is it the rulebook that establishes the CONDITIONS under which animals travel, that’s the underlying problem (i.e. is it time to update the RULEBOOK?)