‘No fear, no pain’: What really happens to livestock when they leave Australian shores?

Feature Article by Olivia Nankivell

‘No fear, no pain’ is the mantra used by the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC). Yet the 60 Minutes investigation into live export negligence in early April shocked the nation, prompting calls for the brutal trade to be banned completely.

More than two thousand sheep died onboard the Awassi Express last August during an intense heat wave en route to the Middle East. Footage of livestock covered in filth, gasping for air and fighting for space will be forever etched into the mind of every Australian viewer – view here.

Many of us don’t often think about the plight of livestock onboard live export ships. In fact, many of us don’t really know what happens to them at all.

We would prefer to imagine them frolicking freely onboard the ships, smelling the fresh ocean air, and being blissfully unaware of what’s to come.

That idealistic image couldn’t be further from the truth. So, what really happens to livestock when they leave Australian shores?

Aimee Weir, spokesperson for Adelaide Against Live Export (AALE), has in-depth knowledge on the issue. Armed with a growing group of volunteers, AALE work tirelessly to create public awareness of the negligence of the live export industry.

Since 2014, AALE have monitored the process of live export: from the farm, the feedlot, and then the trucks to the ships – taking countless hours of video footage to report to the authorities.

Mrs Weir said the ships that depart Port Adelaide are extremely old and were initially designed as car carriers.

“They’re simply not equipped to have livestock onboard. The animals are housed in really cramped conditions; they have to stand for the entire journey, and there’s certainly not enough room to lay down or move around,” Weir said.

With one ship being able to carry up to 75,000 animals, many are unable to access an adequate supply of food and water. On a journey of up to five weeks, the weak livestock will inevitably die.

“The weak ones will die a slow, prolonged, cruel death. They’re not going to have a humane death,” Weir said.

Weir also commented on the lack of ventilation and the severe heat stress inflicted upon both livestock and crewmembers.

“Coming into winter, we watched the Bader III load in Port Adelaide. It arrived in Israel in 45 degree temperatures. It puts so much stress on their bodies.”.

Supporting this claim is PETA’s Media Officer, Emma Hurst; she says the livestock suffer from cramped conditions, poor ventilation, and heat stress.

“The animals are prodded, kicked, and herded onto crowded, filthy, multi-tiered, open-deck ships and forced to stand for long periods of time – in a sickening slurry of water, urine, and faeces.” Hurst said.

“A mortality rate of up to two per cent of the many thousands of sheep and one per cent of cattle during each journey is considered ‘acceptable’ by the Australian government.”

What happens to livestock when they reach their destination country?

Many Australians don’t know where our livestock is exported or what type of treatment they receive from the importing countries.

According to the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC), as an island nation, Australia utilises air and sea transport to move livestock to destination markets.

Kuwait, Qatar, Indonesia and Vietnam are the largest live export markets, valued at a total of $1.4 billion, despite suffering a forty percent drop of live exports in the last decade.

ALEC claims to accept the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of slaughter/feeder livestock through to the point of slaughter.

“That means Australian exporters, even after animals are discharged and sold, continue to trace animals, train staff and upgrade facilities along supply chains to the point of slaughter,” ALEC says on their website.

Despite these claims, the live export industry has endured severe controversy and countless scandals over the past decade.

According to Emma from World Animal Protection Australia, Since the Department of Agriculture created the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) in 2012, there have been nearly 150 complaints of non-compliance.

“Many of those that survive the journey are handled roughly at their destination and  killed while fully conscious. Too many suffer outright brutality,” she said.

The reputation of the industry has diminished due to media reports of breaches of animal welfare, both in Australia and overseas, including a 2011 Four Corners investigation into the treatment of Australian cattle, and a 2006 Animals Australia investigation into Egyptian slaughterhouse malpractice.

PETA’s Emma Hurst says that the Australian government has had ample opportunity to create meaningful action.

“A 2011 exposé by Four Corners revealed that the eyes of Australian cows exported to Indonesia were gouged out, and their limbs were cut open while they were still conscious. A joint investigation in 2006 by PETA and Animals Australia documented that workers in an Egyptian slaughterhouse stabbed Australian cows, gouged their eyes out, and disabled them by slashing their leg tendons,” Hurst said.

“After every high-profile incident politicians have expressed concern and then taken no meaningful action at all”.

Does the industry has any control over slaughterhouse malpractice in foreign importing countries?

AALE’s Aimee Weir certainly doesn’t think so: “There’s no way we can have eyes on what’s happening to our animals once they reach their destination country,” she said.

“No matter what the Australian government says, we have absolutely no control over what other countries do. We simply don’t have the legal jurisdiction”.

It’s reasonable to say that Australians are out of touch with the live export process.

“The live export industry operates on a lack of transparency; it’s completely hidden from the public,” said Mrs Weir.

“In terms of factory farming and live export, the common person thinks Australia has high welfare standards for animals – it couldn’t be further from the truth,” she concluded.

Looking to the future, Emma from World Animal Protection believes the live export trade isn’t the only option for the Australian meat industry.

“We’re calling on the government to grow the more humane chilled and frozen meat industry in place of live export,” Emma said.

“Transitioning to the chilled meat trade would ensure that animals are slaughtered and processed in Australia under our regulations, and protected from arduous sea voyages and inhumane slaughter overseas”.

Thanks for reading,

Liv x

Is A Cruelty-Free Future Possible?

It’s an issue we refrain from thinking about when possible. We, as consumers, like to distance ourselves from the dark process behind the shiny products on the shelf. Convincing labels, innovative packaging and clever marketing often distract from the grim reality behind closed doors.

LUSH – Fighting Animal Testing Campaign.

According to Humane Society International, approximately 100,000-200,000 animals die every year due to cosmetic animal testing alone. This number rises significantly when we consider animal testing for skincare, household cleaners, medical training, and drug testing. Overall, millions of rats, mice, cats, rabbits, dogs, monkeys, fish and birds suffer and die during these gruelling tests.

According to a PETA, big brands such as L’Oréal, Avon, Revlon and Estée Lauder (and many others) still test their products on animals before releasing them to the public.

These animals are burned, poisoned and left to die in horrific conditions. Read more here. Two problems arise when considering the authenticity of animal testing.

  1. Animals are not human.

    They will react differently to humans when exposed to the same poisonous substance.

  2. They cannot put pain into words. They can’t tell you how much it hurts, if they’re dizzy, or if they feel nothing at all.

So, why do companies still do it? Well, it’s simple. If a company is sued by an injured customer, the company can provide data from approved animal experimentations as defence.

However, change is happening and companies are noticing. 

In 2013, the European Union implemented a law that made it illegal to sell animal tested cosmetics within Europe. A whole host of countries followed suit, including Australia (as of July 2017).

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is the growing popularity of newer, cruelty free brands of cosmetics; Tarte, Too Faced, Kat Von D, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Becca and Charlotte Tilbury just to name a few. Beauty gurus of YouTube are also getting on the cruelty free campaign, with many posting videos including their favourite cruelty free brands and makeup tutorials. Top to bottom, Rhian HYRachelleea & Dani Mansutti.


Two of my favourite go-to companies, including skincare, makeup and toiletries, are LUSH and The Body Shop. Surprise surprise. Aésop and Grown Alchemist are also top contenders.


LUSH is simply amazing. Slightly out of the box, LUSH create uniquely awesome products for the face, hair and body. The best thing about LUSH is that every product is hand made with fresh ingredients. How cool is that? Often, some of their products smell bad. Trust me, this is actually a good thing. It means there are no artificial or harsh fragrances that can irritate the skin.

ULTRABLAND facial cleanser + OCEAN SALT face and body scrub.
LUSH Christmas Collection.


The Body Shop has been a go-to cruelty free brand for many people over many years. With their classic body butters and fluffy loofas, The Body Shop makes an effort with each and every product to enrich, not exploit. Currently, The Body Shop has 26 Community Trade suppliers in 21 countries of the world.

Lots of ingredients are featured on their website with extensive information behind where they come from, who harvests it, and how it benefits the supplier. I think this type of knowledge helps consumers decide why they want to buy cruelty free and fair trade products.

Enrich, Not Exploit – Body Shop Commitment Video. 

The future is uncertain for the cosmetic and skincare companies that still test on animals. What we do know is that change is occurring on a global scale. Governments are recognising the out-dated, cruel and unnecessary nature of animal testing. We, as consumers, hold all the power. We need to be armed with knowledge when we enter the supermarket or the makeup counter. I believe that if we begin to spend our money on products that we know are ethically produced, testing on animals may indeed be a thing of the past.







Thanks for reading,

Liv x