The Public’s Right to Know

Many Australians were quite rightly horrified by the cattle cruelty taking place in some Indonesian abattoirs that was exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program a couple of weeks ago.

The processing of animals is something most people prefer not to think about as they barbecue their meat of choice, but the confronting scenes of barbarity would have turned even the hardest heart.

True to form, the Labor Government overreacted by banning all live cattle exports to Indonesia, thus threatening the livelihoods of many Australian cattle ranchers and the associated entities involved in this $300 million industry.

Among the many hysterical demands in response to the show was an insistence that Australian cattle and sheep only be exported to countries that agree to stun the beasts before slaughter. While this might help salve the conscience of the inner city vegetarians, not only is it impractical, it is also hypocritical.

Firstly, slaughter by cutting the throats of animals for bleeding has been going on for centuries and, when done correctly, it is a humane and relatively painless method of killing. In places without refrigeration, this bleeding process is necessary to keep the meat fresh for the maximum amount of time. Indeed, many of my farming friends can tell stories about how it was (and sometimes still is) usual practice in obtaining meat for their own consumption.

But the demand by some Australians for stunned slaughter overseas is also hypocritical because we have unstunned killing taking place in commercial abattoirs here too. There are a number of businesses that ritually kill beasts to comply with religious requirements – kosher and halal for example. I am sure none of these would be anything like the ghastly processing scenes we saw on Four Corners, but those with an aversion to unstunned slaughter should know this before getting carried away with their demands of other sovereign nations.

I have previously written that I would prefer not to eat meat slaughtered in the name of any religion, particularly one that is at odds with my own belief structure. Given the large public outcry against unstunned slaughter in recent days, I can only assume that many others agree with me – acknowledging that different reasons may have led a disparate group to the same conclusion.

So why is it that many of the meat products that have been killed according to religious requirements are not labelled as such?

Surely every product that has been subject to a religious ceremony or religious processing that some consumers may object to should be clearly labelled as such. This would enable consumers to make an informed choice about whether to purchase that product or not.

For some, such labelling would not influence the purchasing decision at all. For others, concerned about the method of killing or an aversion to the religious element, they could choose an alternative product that met their own moral requirements.

Personally, I suspect that many consumers would be alarmed to find out just how much of their beef, lamb and chicken have been subject to ritualistic or religious killing.

Isn’t it time we allowed them to make an informed choice about whether they find this acceptable or not?

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