Monday, June 20, 2011
How Should We Respond to Australia’s Live Export Ban or Its End?
The recent ban on live export of cows from Australia to Indonesia, due to some gory and disturbing video footage of “mistreatment” of cows in Indonesia, has been big news lately.
The unstated assumption supporting this ban is that cows aren’t “mistreated” (read: tortured) in Australia. But this assumption is absurd. Regardless of their species, beings who are considered legal chattel property and economic commodities will be “mistreated” as a matter of routine in every place where they are property and commodities. Do you doubt it? Then you should also doubt that human chattel slaves, who were also property and commodities, were “mistreated” as a matter of routine. (And perhaps adopt the view that slavery is generally a just and noble human institution, regardless of the species.)
Australia’s live export ban is equivalent to Alabama banning human slave exports to Mississippi in the 1860s. Alabamans in the 1860s would have rightly laughed at such a hypocritical ban, and Australians should laugh at today’s ban for its hypocrisy.
What most Alabamans did not recognize was their own prejudice and injustice in supporting slavery, and most Australians won’t recognize their prejudice and injustice either. We see others’ prejudices and injustices quite well from a distance in culture or time, but we so often fail miserably to see our own prejudices and injustices or act sufficiently against them.
Speciesism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism are all different forms of the same underlying moral wrong of denying the (often crucial) interests of others on the basis of some irrelevant criterion such as species, race, sex, or sexual orientation.
The appropriate response to the live export ban is to go vegan if you’re not already. And if you are vegan, encourage others to do so. There are so many excellent resources on the Web for information on everything from vegan cooking to vegan health and nutrition. There is really no excuse.