One of the major scourge of modern civilisation is live animal trafficking that occurs worldwide, within the EU, from Canada and South America, but emphatically from Australia where the extreme distance to Middle Eastern markets should make it untenable.
Following disturbing images of sheep fatalities —550,000 are estimated to have perished at sea 2000-2012—a new federal law designed to prevent suffering was enacted in 2018: no animals could be exported between I June-October, the Middle Eastern summer.
This year, unbelievably and tragically, the industry regulator granted an exemption for the livestock carrier al-Kuwait, delayed by corona virus cases among some crew members, to slip out of Fremantle on 19 June.
Nor the RSPCA, nor the thousands of people opposed to the live animal trade could prevent this contempt. Even an urgent appeal to the Federal Court on 15 June by Animals Australia failed to change the decision.
After a month of being stuck in feed-lots, 35,000 sheep were loaded for the voyage to endure 24/7 fluorescent lighting, constant engine noise and slippery metal floors with the pitching and rolling of the vessel causing added misery.
The sheep are scheduled to reach Kuwait on 1st July when the temperature could be 46.7C (mean average for this month) in time for slaughter on Eid-ul-adha.
With chilled meat exports now able to reach Arab dinner plates within 48 hours, on-shore kill must replace this cruelty.
Air-freighted lamb exported to Gulf airports in 2018 was worth $476 million —more than sea and live shipments combined, a clear indication that animal trafficking is uneconomical as well as immoral.
Ideally the export of livestock — the main markets being Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE —should cease altogether.
The Prophet’s own emphasis on kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals is referenced multiple times in the Hadiths.
Qurbani is not an edict in the Qur’an, but in acknowledging the biblical story of the Prophet Abraham, it has entered Islamic culture to demonstrate one’s loyalty and submission to Allah.
What many people, including Muslims themselves, find especially distressing is the mistreatment of animals prior to their slaughter: the graphic qurbani videos seen on You Tube stress this point. Some might opine it is even unconscionable to venerate a god whose favour is bought with the blood of an innocent creature.
While the distribution of a third of the meat to the less well-off is a charitable gesture, how much more compassionate to give the animal to a poor rural family for milk. Or to build up a small herd.
It is also economically more sensible. The 10 million animals killed on eid ul-adha in Pakistan, as an example, is calculated to cost the country US$3 billion in one fell swoop.
If Muslim academics and moderate imams could reach agreement on the desire for some revision of the custom, it would be a positive step towards easing tensions in predominantly Christian countries hosting thousands of Muslim refugees.
“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day: give him a fishing rod and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”