The truth about cattle…

Cattle Behaviour cattle

The common perception of cattle is one of docile, unintelligent animals that exhibit only basic instinctual behaviour. This is far from the case.
Cattle are social animals and love the company of their herd. They are gentle animals who make and keep friends – and enemies – and show signs of intelligence far higher than most people have ever given them credit. They are naturally curious animals and will inquisitively investigate new things – like an old sack blown into their paddock – with a reserved curiosity.

Today’s farmed cattle are far-removed from their wild cousins, having been bred to demonstrate specific traits for economic purposes, such as increased milk yield or greater muscle mass.

Fear and pain in cattle

Like any prey animal, cattle crave the comfort and security of their herd and bellow for their herd when they become separated. Despite weighing more than 250kg, cattle are easily spooked and become agitated. The smallest thing can place the animal in a state of fear – cattle being herded into feedlots or slaughterhouses are terrified of changes in light or texture, puddles of reflective water, even a polystyrene cup on the ground.
It is easy to identify fear and pain in cattle. An animal will show outward signs of pain, such as limping, when it is suffering. A frightened animal will often bellow, and the whites of the eyes become visible when an animal is terrified. Cattle also pant when stressed and defecate when placed in extremely stressful situations, such as those experienced prior to slaughter.

Treatment of cattle in the Middle East

Cattle that are exported from Australia will be subjected to a host of new and frightening environments. Unloading in overseas ports is stressful, with cattle forced to endure many new and/or frightening factors including; extremes of temperature, handling, noises, smells, and painful practices (e.g., tail-twisting, beating). Animals may be separated from their herd and will face these situations alone, often bellowing for their fellow herd members.

The slaughter of cattle in the Middle East causes great fear (even terror) and prolonged suffering. Animals Australia video footage shows acts of unimaginable cruelty being committed against these placid, gentle animals. These large animals are not easy to coerce, so slaughtermen use sheer brute force and pain to force the animals to move. These gentle animals have their tendons slashed, their eyes stabbed, and their tails twisted (sometimes broken) before slaughter. Our investigators filmed an instance of treatment so prolonged and brutal that the animal was visibly ‘broken’, and unable to struggle against the brutality any longer.

These beautiful animals then have their necks bent back and their throats cut whilst fully conscious, and very often take minutes to die.

Cattle Intelligence

‘Eureka Moment’ Study

Recent research conducted in the UK has dispelled the myth that cows are docile, unintelligent animals. In work led by Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, it was found that cows bear grudges, nurture friendships, and become excited over intellectual challenges.

In one study, researchers challenged cows with a task where they had to find how to open a door to get some food whist an electroencephalograph measured their brainwaves. The results clearly showed increased excitement when the cows worked out the problem: “Their brainwaves showed their excitement; their heartbeat went up and some even jumped into the air. We called it their ‘Eureka’ moment,” said Prof. Broom.

Forming Friendships

In another study, John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol University, and his colleagues documented how cows within a herd form smaller friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other. cattleThey also dislike other cows and can bear grudges for months or years. Professor Rescued calves – Micaly & TippyWebster has published a book on the topic, entitled Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. Speaking of the intelligence and sentience he witnessed during his research, Professor Webster said, “People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic,” he said.

The assumption that farm animals cannot suffer from conditions that would be considered intolerable for humans is partly based on the idea that they are less intelligent than people and have no “sense of self”. Professor Webster dismisses this idea, saying, “Sentient animals have the capacity to experience pleasure and are motivated to seek it. You only have to watch how cows and lambs both seek and enjoy pleasure when they lie with their heads raised to the sun on a perfect English summer’s day. Just like humans.”
Ref: The secret life of moody cows, Sunday Times, 27/02/2005

Cattle are intelligent, placid, gentle animals, and to subject them
to the brutality implicit in the live export trade is utterly abhorrent.

We would not condone such treatment in Australia;
we should not condone such treatment in any other country.

Kuwait’s brutality sees no end for animals, live export

DUBAI: Australian sheep are still being sold and brutally slaughtered at a notorious livestock market in Kuwait – in breach of live export regulations – despite Animals Australia notifying the Federal Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) five months ago.

A second formal complaint was lodged with the Department last week.

“We were shocked to see that the number of merchants selling Australian sheep at this cruel market has only increased. The exporter continues to blatantly disregard their legal obligation to ensure sheep are kept within approved supply chains,” said Animals Australia Campaign Director Lyn White.

At least 11 separate merchants were found to be selling Australian sheep at Al Rai last month. Many were being kept in outdoor pens with no access to shade, food or water. Other larger groups were confined indoors, in complete darkness, to restrict the ability to photograph them. Many of the merchants at the market offered slaughter onsite as an ’after sales’ service.

“The only notable change since the previous complaint in 2012 is that Australian sheep are now having their ear tags ripped out in what we can only assume is a deliberate attempt to rort the system. What merchants have failed to take into account is that Australian merinos are unique and easily distinguishable from other sheep in the region.”

Animals Australia has conducted a number of investigations at the notoriously cruel Al Rai livestock market in Kuwait city, each time documenting the brutal handling, transport and slaughter of Australian sheep.

“If there was one market that exporters should have been monitoring in the Middle East, it is Al Rai. The fact they have failed to do so, even after breaches were identified, shows how little they care and how prepared they are to flout the rules.

“This ongoing situation demands the strongest possible sanctions from DAFF. It is time to let exporters know that if protecting animals from cruelty is not enough to motivate compliance, then failing to do so will lead to severe repercussions.

“Preventing Australian sheep from being sold in such circumstances was a cornerstone of why ESCAS was implemented. If exporters are not prepared to comply with the new regulations, they should have their export licence removed.”

Animals Australia says it is unacceptable that investigations into ESCAS breaches are taking so long.

“During the five months since we first alerted DAFF to breaches in Kuwait, thousands of Australian sheep have continued to be sold and slaughtered in breach of regulations. If AQIS needs additional resources to allow them to investigate expediently – then they should be urgently provided with them.”

Background on Live Export

Live export from Brazil and Australia to the Islamic world is a controversial practice that sees thousands of animals crammed into small crates and transported by sea to their destination to be slaughtered for food.

Last year, some 3,000 of the cows died on a ship destined for Egypt after the Egyptian government refused to allow the ship to dock at a Red Sea port.

They were slaughtered as a “precaution,” the ministry said, outraging a number of Egyptians.

Animals Australia, the leading organization reporting on the controversial live export trade to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, said the incident was among the worst the industry had witnessed in years.

Animals Australia’s Campaign Director, Lyn White, said in a statement to that the ship was anchored at sea after being refused port in a number of countries, including Egypt, where the cattle were supposed to be offloaded.

It’s understood that ventilation problems on the converted livestock vessel, the MV Gracia Del Mar, had caused the deaths of more than half of the animals on board since the ship left South America for Egypt a few weeks ago. The ship was anchored in the Red Sea for weeks and saw more animals perish as a result.

“This is nothing short of an animal welfare disaster. If remaining cattle are not offloaded more of these animals will suffer appalling deaths at sea. We are appealing to authorities in Egypt to offload the remaining cattle at al-Sohkna, as was originally intended.

“This disaster is just another example of the inherent risks of transporting animals by sea. It was only nine years ago that 5,000 Australian sheep perished on board the MV Cormo Express after country after country refused to allow it to berth.

“And this isn’t the first time that mechanical issues have caused mass deaths on live export ships. We only need to look to the breakdown of the Al Messilah in Adelaide last year. Had that vessel broken down on the open ocean it would have caused a similar welfare catastrophe — as thousands of animals would have died.

“Australia also exports cattle to Al Sohkna Livestock company in Egypt. Whilst we have an MoU with Egypt which should ensure the offloading of our animals, it has never been put to the test. The Egyptians thus far have flatly refused to allow the MV Gracia Del Mar to dock despite the mass suffering of the animals on board.

“If they continue to refuse to allow the surviving animals to be unloaded it would provide little confidence that the non-binding agreement with Australia would be honored if a similar incident were to occur on an Australian livestock ship.

“It should not matter if these cattle aren’t Australian and if Brazil doesn’t have a similar piece of paper, they should not be abandoned to suffer and die at sea. We are appealing to Egyptian authorities to offload these cattle as a matter of urgency.”

Australia’s live sheep exports have fallen significantly over the past decade.

In 2010, three million sheep were exported compared with 6.3 million in 2001.

Australia’s government last year was to see a bill that would have banned live export to the world, but industry lobbyists fought back and forced the legislation off the table in a move that angered animal activists in the country and across the world, notably the Islamic world, which receives the lion’s share of live cattle and sheep from both Australia and Brazil.

The truth about sheep…

Sheep Behaviour sheep

Until they get to know them, many people see sheep as dull and uninteresting animals. The truth is very different.
It is often difficult for people to recognise and understand sheep behaviour, because most of us are not used to being around sheep and because their facial structure makes it difficult for us to read emotion on their faces, like most of us can with cats and dogs.
Sheep have uniquely individual natures and are social, intelligent animals. As prey animals, they have a highly-developed flocking instinct, and prefer to move in groups rather than as individuals. Much of the behaviour seen in sheep is governed by a fear instinct (common in all prey species), and they are dependent on their flock for safety and comfort. They become highly distressed when separated from their flock, their fear evident when they call out for other members of their group and they will strive to rejoin the group.

Fear and pain in sheep

Sheep have developed complex physiological ways to disguise pain and discomfort. A sheep with advanced footrot (a painful hoof condition) may have been suffering for a considerable time before showing any outward signs – such as limping – of being in pain. This is because, as prey animals, sheep must avoid being easily identified by predators as being weak and therefore an easy target. If you see a sheep in obvious pain, it is most likely that it has been suffering for some time and the pain has reached such a level that the animal is no longer able to mask its condition.

Treatment of sheep in the Middle East

For the same reasons, it is often difficult for us to identify fear or distress in sheep. Poor handling causes sheep to become highly stressed and puts them in a state of fear. Some of the footage taken during Animals Australia’s investigations shows sheep being lifted by their wool, horns, legs, head and ears, all of which – whilst causing obvious physical pain – will also result in high fear and distress levels. Of particular concern is the routine leg-binding of sheep in the Middle East; rendering a prey animal – or any animal for that matter – helpless puts that animal in a state of distress. In the Animals Australia footage you will see sheep panting and defecating; putting these gentle animals in such a state of fear as to cause panic and defecation can not be defended.

Sheep Intelligence

Facial recognition and emotional intelligence

During a study conducted at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge, England, Dr Keith Kendrick and his team determined that sheep are likely to experience emotion and are almost certainly capable of conscious thought.
Dr Kendrick’s conclusions are based on the ability of sheep to remember old faces, be it a member of the flock or a human. New studies have revealed that sheep can remember up to 50 sheep faces as well as familiar human faces, such as their carer. They do this using a similar neural mechanism, and a similar part of the brain, to that of humans. Memories only start to fade after about two years of absence. One inference is that sheep are capable of conscious thought at some level, says Dr Kendrick.
“The way the sheep’s brain is organised suggests they must have some kind of emotional response to what they see in the world,” said Dr Kendrick. “It does beg the question that sheep must potentially be able to think about individuals that are absent from their environment,” he said.
“We [humans] are obviously capable of conscious perception of faces using this exact same system in the brain as is present in the sheep. Therefore, it would be surprising if they were not capable of some level of consciousness using that same system.”
Old faces
The Cambridge team made their discovery by presenting sheep with 25 pairs of similar faces. The animals were trained to associate each of the pair with a food reward, learning to recognise individual faces. The scientists then measured activity in regions of the sheep’s brain associated with visual recognition. As in humans, these reside in the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain, including a greater involvement of the right hemisphere. They found that sheep could remember 50 other sheep faces, even in profile.
The sheep were then shown two old faces – a sheep and a shepherd. Even after two years apart, the sheep responded to the faces, calling out in recognition. The specialised face-processing system in the sheep brain offers advantages for long-term recognition of many individuals that are similar to those for humans, say the Babraham researchers.
“In humans, analogous brain regions and neural circuits are activated equivalently when we see or form mental images of the faces of specific individuals. This suggests that sheep may be capable of using the same system to remember and respond emotionally to individuals in their absence,” said the team.
Source: BBC News Online, 7 December 2001

Sheep defeat cattle grids

An amazing story emerged from England in 2004, when locals reported that they had been outsmarted by local sheep, who were escaping their paddocks by rolling over cattle grids!

The sheep, from the county of Kirklees in West Yorkshire, perfected the art of rolling over the 3m wide cattle grid to get to tastier pastures – such as the village bowling green, cricket field and graveyard – on the other side. The same sheep have also been known to scale 1.5 metre walls.

Local councillor Dorothy Lindley says this new commando technique has led to havoc in local gardens and on the highway!

“They lie down on their side, or sometimes their back, and just roll over and over the grids until they are clear. I’ve seen them doing it. It is quite clever, but they are a big nuisance to villagers,” said Councillor Lindley.

Source: BBC News Online, 30 July 2004

Maze Test

Research conducted during 2005 at the F D McMaster Laboratory in Australia has shown that sheep can learn and remember tasks. Researchers developed a complex maze test to measure intelligence and learning in sheep, similar to those used for rats and mice. The time it initially takes an animal to rejoin its flock indicates smartness, while subsequent improvement in times over consecutive days of testing measures learning and memory.

“Using the maze, we have already shown that sheep have excellent spatial memory and are able to learn and improve their performance. And they can retain this information for a six-week period”, said researcher Dr Caroline Lee.


The research outlined above reveals to us the complex social, intellectual, and emotional abilities of these animals. Yet, every year, more than 4 million sheep are exported live to the Middle East, enduring long, uncomfortable journeys before being unloaded into a totally alien environment, many then being bound, transported and slaughtered whilst fully conscious. We can only imagine the fear and distress experienced by these animals, and it is all done in the name of profit.

Parke will keep live ex role

FREMANTLE MP Melissa Parke will remain on the Federal ALP Caucus Live Animal Export Working Group, despite her ministerial elevation.

Ms Parke was recently appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Homelessness and Social Housing and Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health. Another Working Group member and outspoken live export critic, Victorian MP Kelvin Thomson, was promoted to the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Trade following a cabinet reshuffle last month, but indicated he’ll step down from the working group to focus on government policy.

“There was a unanimous Caucus resolution late last year that the Live Animal Working Party present a model for an independent office of Animal Welfare to the Caucus by the end of February’ Mr Thomson said.

“Like other Caucus members, I await the Working Party’s report with interest.”

Ms Parke’s office also rejected suggestions of a potential conflict of interest in potentially hiring a well-known live export critic and one of the consultants used to design the proposed Independent Office of Animal Welfare.

In her speech updating the House of Representatives on the proposal earlier this month, Ms Parke acknowledged the work of RSPCA policy officer Jed Goodfellow and former WA State Government Manager Animal Welfare Dr Jeni Hood, in assisting with the proposed model.

Ms Parke’s office was contacted to clarify an online comment made last week in response to an article by Fairfax Agricultural Media about the new Office.

The comment said Ms Hood was now working for Ms Parke as an Assistant Advisor – but the WA Federal MP’s office went to great lengths to clarify the issue.

“While it is not our practice to comment on staffing matters, I can confirm that Jennifer Hood is being considered for a position on our staff,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“That position will be dedicated to assisting the Parliamentary Secretary’s work in the areas of mental health, homelessness and social housing.”

With only a short time to adjust to the new portfolios and only about six months before the federal election, critics questioned the motives behind Ms Parke’s potential staffing appointment.

One well placed source, who declined to be named, said the conflict of interest was obvious as Ms Hood was “vehemently opposed to live exports and shutting the industry down”.

WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association spokesman Sheldon Mumby said questions had to be answered by Ms Parke.

“Why is one of the strongest advocates for ending the live export trade, as demonstrated by her involvement in developing this new animal welfare office model, now working for the mental health, homelessness and social housing?” he said.

Mr Mumby said the “divorce” of the ALP and Greens federally, as announced by Greens leader Christine Milne recently, could now also signal an end to the “appeasement” of minor factions in the ALP over live exports.

He said he was pleased that Mr Thomson, who was involved in setting up the Office with Ms Parke as a backbencher and outspoken live export critic, stood down from the working group after his promotion last month.

But he asked what the ALP MP was now doing to help try and resume the live sheep trade to Iran and Egypt, and create access for other markets, in accordance with ESCAS, to assist WA livestock producers.

Animal rights group protest at PM meeting

About 50 people opposed to live animal exports provided a noisy greeting for Prime Minister Julia Gillard ahead of the federal government’s community cabinet meeting in Adelaide.

The group staged their peaceful protest outside the Aberfoyle Park High School, where several hundred people gathered on Wednesday to ask questions of the prime minister and her cabinet colleagues.

The meeting was the fifth community cabinet to be held in South Australia where individuals and community groups also get the opportunity for private meetings with ministers.

It was being held in the federal electorate of Boothby, a marginal Liberal seat currently held by Andrew Southcott.

Earlier on Wednesday Ms Gillard toured Adelaide’s Techport maritime precinct where Australia’s new air warfare destroyers are under construction and where much of the work will be done on the next generation of submarines.

MP calls for review of live exports

ANGER on Labor’s backbenchers over live exports is building, with one outraged MP tabling a motion in federal parliament that calls for an immediate review of the government’s animal welfare rules.

Just days after The Australian revealed that more sheep had been allegedly spotted for sale and slaughter in unaccredited markets in Kuwait – the second time in six months – Steve Georganas introduced a private members motion to condemn continual breaches of the export regulations.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie also expressed his anger over the $1 billion trade yesterday in parliament, saying he received “countless email, letters and phone calls” about the issue.

“The concern expressed is urgent and genuine and the community is sick to death of this government treating animal welfare as a persistent nuisance and paying it only passing concern,” he said.

Mr Georganas called on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to speed up its five investigations into claimed animal cruelty in Kuwait, Pakistan, Israel and Mauritius.

“Enough is enough. Time to end the cruelty,” the South Australian MP, who wants to ban live exports in favour of a domestic processing market, said yesterday.

His motion asks the House of Representatives to note “the sustained level of public concern in the community” about live animal exports.

“(I call) on the minister … to review the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System to ensure its integrity, efficacy and adequacy,” the motion reads. “(And) support the urgent finalisation of all investigations into live exports being currently conducted by DAFF.”

The motion also “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the inhumane slaughter of Australian sheep in Kuwait.

The government confirmed this week it was assessing information and photographs provided by Animals Australia showing Australian sheep being sold at Kuwait City’s al-Rai livestock market and the Friday local market on January 17-18.

The claims come amid another investigation that sheep were mistreated at the same market last August. They also follow the suspicious deaths in Mauritius of 65 cattle, some of which were pregnant, and the brutal culling of thousands of sheep in Pakistan amid a trade dispute last September.

Julia Gillard and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig have faced a revolt in their ranks over the live export issue since their decision to reopen the trade to Indonesia after a month-long suspension in June 2011.

The temporary ban – which devastated the live cattle industry in northern Australia – followed the release of disturbing footage showing Australian cattle being abused in Indonesian abattoirs.

DAFF told a Senate committee hearing this week they could not give a date for the conclusion of the five investigations.

WA Jewish community condemns Iran live export push

Western Australia’s Jewish community has described calls for the reopening of a live export market to Iran as “unethical”.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) has called for an end to the 30-year boycott of exporting live sheep and cattle to Iran.

The Middle Eastern country was one of Australia’s biggest markets before the trade was stopped in the 1980s and the PGA says its resumption would be a massive help to producers.

However, the Jewish Community Council’s Steve Lieblich says, given Iran’s hostile attitude towards Israel and other nations, resuming the trade would be “shameful”.

“I just ask them to look at the bigger picture and look at the wellbeing of the entire free world, rather than just profit,” he said.

“I hope there’s plenty of other markets for our agricultural produce.”