Millions of Australian cattle, sheep and goats are exported overseas every year, sometimes for breeding stock, but mostly for slaughter and consumption in other countries. Thousands of these animals suffer unnecessarily in transit because of the unbearable conditions onboard the livestock ships, enduring extreme stress, illness and injury on journeys that can last up to 35 days.
Those that manage to survive the journey are often handled brutally and inhumanely when they reach their destination, and are killed while still fully conscious.
The Australian live export trade is controlled by the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources (DAWR), and despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary, the Australian Live Exporters Council (ALEC) continues to claim that Australia has the best live export standards in the world and any instances of cruelty are one-off incidents that do not represent the industry as a whole. The problem is, that these one-off incidents are happening all too often!
The evidence keeps mounting
Australia has been involved in live exports since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, but it is only in the last few years that the determined efforts of concerned groups and the prying eyes of the media have brought the cruelty involved in live exports to the public’s attention.
In 2017, an RSPCA petition against future trade was tabled in Parliament with over 21,000 signatures calling to prohibit the live export of all equines for the purposes of slaughter.
In 2018, Animals Australia and 60 Minutes aired secret video footage taken on a ship carrying live sheep to the Middle East, which revealed shocking conditions and numerous breaches of animal cruelty laws.
So, what’s being done about it?
The short answer is not enough. While the New Zealand government was able to stop live exports from their own country by introducing prohibitive legislation, our live export sheep trade is worth $250 million a year, so don’t hold your breath for similar tough action here in Australia.
The irony is that the economic benefits of live exports don’t justify the industry’s existence. Research conducted by World Animal Protection found that a sheep that is processed domestically is worth 20% more to the Australian economy than one exported live overseas.
Then there is the environmental impact of the live export industry, which is one of the top 40 carbon emitters in Australia. Stopping this trade would equate to the removal of around 320,000 cars from our roads.
Moving from live export to a frozen meat trade is not an ideal outcome if you don’t eat meat, but it is certainly a kinder alternative as the animals will at least be handled and killed to Australian regulations and standards.
Waiting for government action on this matter will be a long wait indeed, during which countless more animals will continue to suffer and die. So if you want to do something concrete about ending the live export trade, you are going to need more than just words … and that’s where ethical investing comes in.
About ethical investing
Whether we are aware of it or not, every one of us is an investor. That’s because we all have superannuation, which is invested on our behalf in publicly listed companies, hopefully earning us a return on our investment.
If you think that doesn’t add up to much bargaining power individually, you’re right. But collectively, it means that we can use our investment choices to influence the way companies behave and to force politicians to act.
Australians have more than $3.5 trillion in superannuation (March 2023) and the average super fund invests a quarter of this in Australian shares. So, by only investing our money in industries that we support, non-ethical industries that we boycott will be forced to change or disappear altogether.
Money talks and when it also walks, its voice becomes very loud indeed. And that, in a nutshell, is what ethical investment is all about… using the collective power of our super to effect changes in the world that otherwise just wouldn’t happen.
Think of this as a two-pronged approach; you have probably stopped eating meat, which will have an impact on the industry, but if you also remove your financial support by moving your super, the pace of change will be even faster.
Choosing a fund that cares about animals
So, if you are serious about seeing an end to the live export trade, consider Australia’s animal-friendly ethical super fund, Cruelty Free Super.
At Cruelty Free Super, we will ensure that your savings are not invested in companies that earn money from the live animal export trade.
We also do not invest in companies that profit from the exploitation or harm of animals including those who conduct tests on animals for cosmetics, breed animals for fur or down, hunt animals, race animals or use them for entertainment. See our full list of investment screens here.
So come and join over 8,000 Australians who have chosen the humane option with Cruelty Free Super.
We love writing about cruelty-free investing and creating a kinder world, but please be aware that the information provided is general in nature, not personal or financial advice. When we discuss companies, it's not a recommendation to buy, hold or sell shares in that company. If we mention returns, please remember that past performance isn't a reliable indicator of future performance. Before acting on any information provided, you should consider if it's appropriate to you.
About the author: Lee Coates
Lee Coates is one of the UK's most respected experts in ethical and socially responsible investment. Lee has lectured internationally on the subject of responsible investment, has created some of the world's most innovative and interesting responsible investment products and is one of the world's highest qualified financial planners. On his many travels to Australia to visit family he was always bermused by the lack of options for cruelty-free investing for animal-conscious Australians. This became especially so once he began to understand the superannuation system here. It's not like Lee to notice a problem and sit by to wait for someone else to solve it - so he solved it. Lee created Australia's first niche ethical super fund, Cruelty Free Super.
This is general information only and does not take account of your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on it, consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional. When considering financial returns, past performance is not indicative of future performance.
This product is issued by Diversa Trustees Limited (ABN 49 006 421 638; AFSL No. 235153; RSE Licence L0000635) as trustee for Professional Super which is a sub-fund of the Tidswell Master Superannuation Plan (ABN 34 300 938 877; RSE R1004953). Professional Superannuation Management Pty Ltd (ABN 31 617 160 791; AFSL No. 499786) (PSM) is the Promoter of Professional Super, which is marketed under multiple brands including Cruelty Free Super.