To cruel to keep them alive
Generations of Australians know their country as a land ‘of droughts and flooding rains’. Dorothea MacKellar recognized this when she wrote those words in 1904. More recently climate change has made droughts and floods, bushfires and cyclones more frequent and more destructive. Yet Australia’s graziers remain determined to stock—and over-stock—the ‘sweeping plains’ with cattle and sheep, knowing that droughts must cause multitudes of their animals to starve to death.
To run a successful business graziers must estimate how many of their sheep and cattle they can afford to allow to starve to death and yet still survive as graziers. As a result most of us have probably heard graziers asking for drought relief so they can keep on re-stocking, and simultaneously lamenting how upset they are at the death of their stock, concluding with ‘We care for our stock.’ They care for their lifestyle and their profits, but care for the welfare of their stock? No.
Graziers always try, no matter how long or severe the drought, to keep enough stock alive to breed up when rain arrives. And so the cycle of cruelty has gone on repeatedly for two centuries—except now it’s becoming worse. To quote another Australian poet, Judith Wright, who grew up and lived on stations in northern N.S.W and Queensland: it’s ‘cruel to keep them alive.’ Wright was referring, in South of My Days, to a drought in 1901 when the rivers turned to dust. It was ‘cruel’ then ‘to keep them alive’ she wrote, it is just as cruel now.
Instead of endlessly granting drought relief to graziers, governments should encourage them to leave drought prone lands: no grants for drought relief to restock but payments to allow graziers to move elsewhere and out of the livestock industry.
Tony Abbott criticized Aboriginal desires to live in the outback as a lifestyle choice—it wasn't. But to remain on drought prone lands is a grazier’s life style choice, a choice we pay for with our taxes, and their stock pays for in pain and death.