By Lynn Simpson
Lynn famously blew the whistle on Australia's live export trade, an industry she became all too familiar with after her work as a veterinarian on a number of journeys across the Indian Ocean. In this contribution to the Voiceless blog, Lynn reflects on her time at sea and encourages readers to become part of the change.
We must be careful what we wish for in life.
I dedicated my life to becoming a Vet so I could help animals when they needed it most. Little did I know, that’s exactly what my career would entail. My career varied from general practice, specialized orthopedic surgery, to being the sole Vet on Live Export Ships carrying up to 120,000 sheep, 20,000 cattle or any combination in between. I sailed with these animals as they were transported from Australia to the Middle East, Turkey, Libya, Madagascar and Russia.
I had certainly found where help was most needed.
Animals are not designed to travel in floating ships, built like multi story car-parks, vulnerable to mechanical breakdowns, environmental extremes and at the whim of the sea. I sailed on 57 of these voyages. 57 times the ships crew and myself were the equivalent of caretakers for the biggest floating ‘death row’ in the world.
This was a sometimes exciting, exhilarating, challenging, scary, and boring job. However; it was always, the most frustrating, meaningful and unnecessary job in the world.
The animals should never have been at sea. There are ways to transport animals or ‘animal products’ that provide a much greater animal welfare experience. But for a vet, being present, in an animals greatest time of need, is the most meaningful experience and way to use our training that our career provides.
57 voyages, I must be nuts right? Why not get off, get a ‘real job?’, make it stop?
It was a real job, too real. I repeatedly tried raising awareness of animal welfare issues from my first voyage in 2001, no one wanted to hear my complaints. I was so nauseated by how ‘interesting’ people found my job at outings that I took a friends advice and told strangers I worked in a bank. I couldn’t believe they couldn’t see that this “adventurous lifestyle of cruising the world for a living” sucked! There was too much I couldn’t ‘un-see’, and frighteningly, peoples lack of understanding or care was one of the most alarming.
Only when I shared images, or delved into descriptions that made them want to puke did they consider the ramifications of this ‘legal’ trade and treatment of lives. Animals literally cooking to death; horrendous injuries, starvation, and unnecessary suffering, stress and fear on every voyage.
The ultimate contract; life in return for body parts.
If society is going to blindly accept this contract, at least don’t torture them first. Use the highest welfare possible from birth to death. Don’t drag an unsuspecting animal sometimes thousands of kilometers by road, only to send them thousands of nautical miles by sea through storms and pirates, then possibly thousands of kilometers by truck in a foreign country, to be killed.
Photo: Lynn Simpson on board a live export ship
My message; never turn away, bare witness and be part of the change. This is why I stayed working at sea for over a decade, for 57 voyages. How was I going to change the score from the sidelines? Exposing the reality in images for long overdue legislative reform with so much experience behind me empowered me with credibility and leverage. Enabled me to write the ‘witness statements’ for animals trapped in this trade, speak on their behalf and hopefully contribute to bringing about an end to this unnecessary cruelty.
I advise anyone now who can; If you don’t like something, get involved, learn more about it, why it happens, what are the alternatives, what can you do to replace cruel practice with kindness.
Every vet on the planet is taught about ‘industrial’ animal farming and its consequences; ask them what they are doing about it? Encourage those with access to help from within the sidelines. Many are desperate to do just that, but scared.
Society is rapidly learning what is kept behind shed doors or out of sight at sea.
The secrets are out; we know what is going on, who is looking on. Hold them to account.
Its time to open the gates; literally and figuratively.
Photo credit: Joanne McArthur/We Animals