As a midwesterner I grew up near, if not with, livestock. Semis carrying cows, horses, pigs and sheep were a fairly common sight on the Iowa highways – particularly during the late summer’s fair season.
I can easily imagine an article about an Iowan livestock expert traveling to the Arab Gulf to “explain” our livestock to handlers there being published in the Des Moines Register – and I hope it would be as enjoyable (and humorous, to the city folk) read as this Australian one below:
Bahrain-bound to explain the Aussie sheep
Daniel Lewis Regional Reporter
July 30, 2007
A FEMALE truckie from Coonamble is the livestock industry’s latest weapon in the battle to maintain live exports to the Middle East.
Sharon Dundon, 34, the mother of an eight-month-old boy, has just completed a masters in rural science looking at the impact of long-distance truck transport on cattle.
Mrs Dundon flew out of Sydney on Saturday for a three-year stint working with Middle Eastern stockmen to help them better understand and treat the millions of Australian sheep that are shipped into their care each year.
She will be based in Bahrain, representing Meat and Livestock Australia and LiveCorp, which co-ordinates Australia’s live export trade.
In her new job she will be working with stockmen in Middle Eastern feedlots, ports and quarantine facilities. She will be taking intensive Arabic lessons and teaching local truckies how best to load and unload livestock.
Mrs Dundon said her professional interest in animal welfare began when she started truck driving.
She said the disturbing images of livestock being mistreated by local stockmen arose because they did not understand Australian sheep.
“The biggest difference between our sheep and Arab sheep is [Arab sheep] are very domesticated,” she said. “They literally raise them in their backyards. [Australian sheep] appear wild to them because our sheep are run in vast grazing paddocks and have often only seen people once or twice.
“The way they work with their domesticated sheep won’t work with ours. Their domesticated sheep will walk past because they are used to people, but ours won’t walk past people.
“That’s why they get so frustrated, because they don’t understand why [Australian sheep] run away from them.”
Australia has been signing memorandums of understanding with Middle Eastern countries to get them to improve their treatment of Australian livestock.
They also oblige signatory nations to land any livestock suspected of being sick into quarantine facilities rather than force them to remain at sea.
That is designed to avoid a repeat of the Cormo Express incident of 2003, when Saudi Arabia refused to accept the ship’s 57,000 sheep, claiming they were diseased. When no alternative buyer could be found, thousands of the sheep died at sea.
The Australian livestock industry says live exports cannot be replaced by slaughter in Australia because refrigeration infrastructure is so poor in many export markets.
The RSPCA is opposed to live exports because of the suffering of animals on ships and because authorities have no control over how the animals are treated after landing.
Mrs Dundon travelled on a live export ship last year and said “the sheep are just so happy. They are just sitting down chewing their cuds and the standards are excellent.”