Promoting understanding
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Comfortably numb

Posted in: Di's diary2 Comments

I must admit I’m all for a bit of comfortable numbness occasionally. The end of a hard week, a few glasses of red wine and most of my stress and worries temporarily drift away. But what intrigues me is how some people manage to live their entire life in a state of comfortable numbness. I’m not talking about alcoholics but everyday people who have managed to find a switch which blocks anything confronting, cruel or unpleasant and allows them to just zone out. These people are not the perpetrators, they do not personally inflict cruelty or harm, they just don’t want to know about it and they want it kept behind closed doors.

But on the 30th May, urban Australia was shaken to its collective core when images of Brahman cattle being sadistically tortured and brutally slaughtered by primitive and crude techniques in Indonesia were flashed across our TV screens. A quarter of a million people signed a Getup petition to have the Live Export trade abolished and hundreds of thousands of dollars was donated to fund a national advertising campaign to pressure the Government into action.

For a few days or even a week, many people who normally kept their emotions in check allowed themselves to ‘feel’. And what they felt was outrage, disgust and anger that our government, despite repeated warnings over many years, had allowed and even promoted a trade that was so inherently cruel. But then as the days passed, their mood softened and they relegated the issue back to the confines of the ‘uncomfortable basket’ and blocked it from their minds.

Was it the fact that they felt powerless and believed that nothing could be done? Yes probably. Was it the fact that they were too busy coping with the demands of everyday life? Yes probably. Was it the fact that the images were so disturbing that they interfered with their quality of life? Yes probably. In fact there are a myriad of reasons why people lost their passion but one for me stands out above them all. The media.

I found it interesting that attempts to defend the trade did not start in earnest until some days after the footage was aired. It was as though the media, (not surprisingly Newscorp in particular) and the export industry realised that the nation was in shock and any attempt to sway opinions would be futile. But after a week the tirade began. Since that time we have been bombarded with reports about farmers doing it tough and starving Indonesians. There has been barely a mention in the mainstream media that one of the strongest opponents of live export is the Australasian Meat Workers Union (AMIEU). Very little if anything has been said about the animals and their capacity to feel pain or terror or their rights to be treated humanely. People who have spoken out against the trade have been brandished mung bean munching hippies with little more to do than protest and destroy Australia’s way of life. Is it any wonder why people have retreated?

I have read a few interesting articles these past few months but the one that really sticks in my mind is this… . It states that “While it is important not to detract from the short term hardships that may be faced by those operating in live exports, looking at the big picture, live exports made up just over 6% of total industry revenue with exports to Indonesia already contracting prior to the current issues surfacing.” And that “Live exports to Indonesia are roughly the annual revenue of funeral parlour operator InvoCare, or pizza retailer Domino’s – if any of these companies were fighting to resume activities at sub-industry standards, it is doubtful the government or the public would give them the time of day.”

 Let me put it another way. If you or I were to lose our jobs through no fault of our own, as many of us do daily, would these farmers be sympathetic to our plight. Would they even be aware of it? Probably not. Sure we have more opportunities for employment, more ability to diversify but surely that is because of personal choice or sacrifice depending on which side of the divide you live. Yet we are made to feel guilty for destroying the lives of battling farmers simply because we choose to speak up for those who have no voice. For trying to restore a sense of morality and decency into what is an undeniable blight on the Australian conscience. Mind you most of the live export trade is controlled by a handful of mega corporations handing out six figure salaries to their directors.

Regardless of the arguments against live exports, the fact remains that the media has intentionally presented a one sided, biased view of the issue and what this portrayal has done is reinforce people’s reluctance to stand up and be counted. In fact it has given them even more reason to crawl back into their comfort zone, reassured in the belief that ‘it is all for a reason’, that ‘it is economically necessary’ and that ‘things have improved’. When people are ‘quiet’ then things can resume as they were before – no problem, no questions and no accountability. Fortunately a small army of people have refused to be silenced and refused to accept the slick ‘spin’ that has surfaced. They have spent every spare moment emailing politicians and phoning them, they have debated the issues with farmers, they have submitted their views to a Senate inquiry and attended two live Export rallies.

However on Sunday the 14th August we all have the opportunity to stand together, to demand action and to say ‘enough is enough’. The National Ban Live Export rally is being held in every capital city in Australia and is organised by Animals Australia and the RSPCA. This is just ahead of the bills to end live export are due to be voted on in parliament on August 18th. This is an incredible opportunity to join together and try to effect change. Even if the bills are defeated on the 18th, I believe that the days of the live export trade are numbered. It will be defeated, if not now, in the not too distant future, simply because it is morally repugnant and fatally flawed.

I also believe that a new era is dawning in Australia. Call me an optimist but I think people are starting to acknowledge the rights of animals to be free from pain and fear. To live a life where they are free to express their natural desires, be that grazing, scratching, rolling, digging or grooming. A life where they can enjoy the natural world that they were born into, complete with sun and rain, wind and dirt. The live export debate has done more than just ignite opinions on live export, it has enabled thousands of people for the first time in their lives to question our use and abuse of animals in every facet of our society. So at least in that respect, the hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle that have been sent overseas and suffered immeasurable cruelty have left us a poignant legacy.

So come along to the rally on Sunday. Allow yourself to speak out and make a difference. Most of all ,allow yourself to feel and fight the urge to become too comfortably numb.

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  1. francesca reid said on 13/08/2011 at 2:01 am

    Just a most brilliant article

  2. Rex Ryan said on 14/08/2011 at 11:55 pm

    I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I am quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

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