Promoting Australia's Greatest Shame

Sheep trade tests our national values

Our engagement with live trade is, I suspect, governed by a group of purchasers far better and cleverer at bargaining than we are. We assist that success by our readiness to be swayed by the practical consequences of the apparent loss of trade if we do not capitulate to the demands of a cultural practice we know is wrong. Yes, the money is important, but so too are our values.

Claims, aimed at assuaging our concerns, that the ritual killing of sheep by cutting their throats and allowing them to bleed to death means they are only conscious for between 10 and 30 seconds, are highly questionable. If Australian Muslims find it acceptable to stun the animal before slaughter (The Age, 17/9), it is obvious that our acquiescence in the live sheep trade is pragmatically fuelled - and a striking example of our willingness to indulge in cultural cringe.

It is about time our values were taken to the negotiating table. If we refuse to succumb to this kind of cultural cringe, and resist the willingness to accept trade at any price, it is highly likely that a lucrative carcass trade - one we can be proud of - can be established. Abattoirs operated in Australia under conditions and customs we find acceptable would completely eradicate this barbaric practice of live trade and the extra, unnecessary suffering it imposes on sheep.

If we can't stand up and insist that the grade between our countries must be on the basis of what we believe to be right, then we are sadly a long way from achieving maturity as a nation.

Kenneth Felstead, Sutton Grange

The ongoing debate over live sheep exports has raised the issue of whether animals have rights. This is a difficult philosophical and moral question. What is much less debatable is the proposition that people who treat animals decently are usually far better human beings than those who don't.

-Tony O'Brien, Balwayn