Australian minister to probe harrowing footage from cattle farm supplying Israel
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Australian minister to probe harrowing footage from cattle farm supplying Israel

Alannah MacTiernan says she will fast-track regulations requiring pain relief for stock before de-horning, after secretly filmed material shows workers abusing animals

A calf in a headclamp being dehorned without anesthetic at a western Australian cattle farm. (Kan TV screenshot)
A calf in a headclamp being dehorned without anesthetic at a western Australian cattle farm. (Kan TV screenshot)

Western Australia Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said Thursday that she was looking into harrowing footage from cattle farms that send animals to Israel to see if documented incidents breach animal welfare laws.

“This footage is confronting and the community will rightly question how producers can be permitted to operate in this way,” MacTiernan said. “We cannot tolerate inhumane and cruel treatment of animals if we want a strong future for the northern cattle sector.”

Yeeda Pastoral Company, which leases Kilto Station, where some of the footage was made in 2018, said that until it saw the recent films it was not aware of the “despicable and horrific acts,” the Guardian reported.

“Yeeda strongly condemns these acts of cruelty,” Yeeda Pastoral Company chairman, Mervyn Key, said. “It is not what Yeeda stands for and contrary to Yeeda’s core values and principles.”

Screen capture from video of Western Australia Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan. (YouTube)

Australia is regarded as one of the more enlightened suppliers of cattle for the meat industry.

But Kan public broadcast TV news published footage Monday, filmed secretly by two Israelis who secured jobs at several cattle farms in western Australia, showing an animal protection manager kicking and punching a cow; workers standing on, electrocuting and even shooting “for fun” at animals; dying cows being left to die slowly when there weren’t enough guns to finish them off and — in one instance — a cow still alive on the ground after someone who had never previously held a weapon fired four bullets into her body.

Mornings began by collecting dead animals and throwing them into open pits in a practice that Dr. Mohammad Abed al-Halek, a former chief veterinarian at an Israeli abattoir, said polluted groundwater and could poison local wild carnivores. He pointed to a lack of hygiene on the farms.

A cow in a western Australian cattle farm still breathes after a worker who has never held a weapon fires four bullets into its body, in footage screened on Israeli TV, December 2, 2019. (Kan TV screenshot)

Calves were filmed dying for lack of water or mother’s milk, sick animals were not treated and anesthetics were not given to calves prior to dehorning — a painful practice to prevent them bruising people or one another.

Vets cost more than the animals were worth, one farm employee said, adding, “It’s a numbers game.”

Ronen Bar, founder of the Sentient organization and one of the two Israelis to document the abuse, said, “I was virtually the only person there who thought that what was happening was crazy.” Farm owners were often located great distances away from the farms, workers did whatever they wanted and enforcement of animal protection laws was “a joke,” he added.

Ronen Bar (Kan TV screenshot)

Despite Tel Aviv’s reputation as a vegan capital, Israel is the fourth biggest beef and veal consumer in the OECD, after Brazil, the US and Argentina, with annual per capita beef consumption in 2018 standing at 20.5 kilograms (45.2 pounds). The country imports some 90% of its beef, around a quarter of it from Australia, according to Greenpeace.

Last November, just weeks before the Knesset was dissolved, MKs green-lighted a bill in its preliminary reading to stop the live transports of hundreds of thousands of lambs and calves from Australia and Europe to Israel each year for fattening and slaughter. The bill, which could not proceed further because Israel has since been without a fully functioning government, sought to gradually reduce livestock numbers being imported into Israel and to stop them completely within three years, moving entirely to the import of chilled meat.

A calf dies for lack of water or mother’s milk on an Australian cattle farm, in footage screened on Israeli TV, December 2, 2019. (Kan TV screenshot)

According to United Nations figures, some 18 percent of greenhouse gases are caused by the beef industry — way above the 14% caused by all forms of transport on earth. Despite that, a doubling in beef consumption is predicted over the next 30 years.

According to the Kan report, environmentalists in Holland calculated that 75% of the globe’s farmland — equivalent to the whole of the US, China, the EU and Australia combined — could be freed up and used to feed the world properly if humankind moved to a totally plant-based diet.

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