Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

June 17, 2011

Back to the Island 1.24 – Exodus Part 1

Filed under: back to the island,friends,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 3:18 pm

Meagan has arrived, having single-handedly wrestled the controls of her ailing Virgin flight through the deathclouds of molten pumice billowing forth from the malignant heart of the Chilean Inferno-Mountain. Or something like that. I didn’t really catch all the details. The important part is that she is here for a couple of weeks of dinner parties, bad movies and discussing how good/bad our favourite television shows are. Just like old times. [1]

I am feeling dull-witted and out of sorts today. There are hockey fans rioting in Vancouver, the creator of Dilbert has gone screeching and flinging faeces off the brink of Misogyny Falls, and the Greek economy is collapsing so fast an event horizon has formed around it – but I couldn’t care less.

Help me manage my ennui: If something has you riled up or excited or pancreas-squeezingly bilious, tell us all about it in the comments. I crave novelty! Especially if it’s something good. Perhaps involving baby pandas or a new kind of caffeinated beverage. Or something good to read, perhaps?

I’ll be done with the Season One Lost reviews by tomorrow, so I will be looking for a new side project to supplement my other writing for the next month or so. I think I may solicit some writing challenges, or issue some myself, if anyone is up to a public game of ‘Write or dare’. Let me think about that.

Random wonderful thing from the internet for the day: here’s a 24 hour comic done by Australian artist Canaan Grall that mashes up Thor and the Muppets. He has some other long-running webcomics that I haven’t had time to check out yet, but based on how good this is I certainly will.

[1] Speaking of which, the Game of Thrones series is gloriously, sumptuously good, as long as you can keep up with the spectacularly vast cast and seemingly-disconnected plotting. It’s worth watching for the costuming alone. And the beheadings, of course (of which there have been at least four that I can recall). Man, they love them some decapitation in Westeros.

Behold now: the first half of the first season finale of Lost:

Back to the Island 1.24 – Exodus Part 1

“So I talked to Vincent. He’s a good listener. You can talk to him about Boone if you want.” – Walt Lloyd

Summary: Danielle Rousseau, the French castaway, walks into the Oceanic survivors camp and, after a long hard look in the direction of Claire’s crying baby, announces that “The Others are coming”. With everyone gathering around, she recounts how she came to the Island 16 years earlier, heavily pregnant. After she delivered her baby Alex, she saw a pillar of black smoke from inland. Then people she calls the Others came and took her baby. “You have only three choices,” she tells them. “Run, hide or die.” Locke takes the warning seriously, but Jack is less worried about the ranted backstory of a known loon and more concerned with getting the raft launched. He press-gangs all the extras into helping drag the raft to the waterline, but something breaks. While Michael is singling Sawyer out for blame – aren’t they going to be delightful shipmates? – black smoke begins rising from somewhere inland. Everyone looks worried in a wide-angled shot of the entire cast. Take a drink.

Jack leads Rousseau’s interrogation, but she doesn’t have much to add. She points out that she’s a jungle ninja who can slink off and hide whenever she likes, but where are they going to hide forty hapless survivors? They take her to the Hatch, hoping she has an explanation, but she claims never to have seen anything like it. It’s still sealed, of course, but Locke has the bright idea to ask Rousseau whether she has any more of the explosives she used to blow up her own camp. Why yes, there is more dynamite at the black rock in the middle of the dark territory, she informs them. Hurley correctly observes that this sounds like three excellent reasons to come up with another plan, but nobody does. Arzt the teacher wants to come along, claiming some knowledge of how to handle old sweaty dynamite.

Jack goes to find Sawyer, who is cutting a mast for the raft, and gives him one of the guns “just in case”. Expecting never to see Jack again, Sawyer tells him about meeting Christian in the bar in Sydney, and how proud he had been of his son. Jack chokes back some manly tears and they wish each other well. Walt asks Shannon to look after his dog Vincent, explaining that he was a good companion after his mother died. Sun gives Jin a handwritten phonetic Korean-English handbook and, tearfully forgiving each other, they reconcile. Sayyid gives Michael a jury-rigged radar which will help ships find them, if they use it sparingly. With fond farewells from the other survivors, Michael, Walt, Jin and Sawyer launch the raft and head out to sea.

Rousseau leads Jack’s group into dark territory. She tells them that this is where, 16 years earlier, her team became ‘infected’ and Montand lost his arm. Arzt chickens out at this and turns back, but comes running back a moment later, pursued by the Clanky-Stompy Monster. Everyone scatters, but a collected Locke convinces Hurley to hold still and the Monster passes them by, still unseen. Rousseau says that the Monster is a security system for the Island. Finally they arrive at the Black Rock, which turns out to be an overgrown three-masted sailing ship, halfway up the mountain.

Flashback: The morning of the Oceanic 815 flight from Sydney, Walt is a rebellious brat who doesn’t acknowledge Michael as his real father and doesn’t want to leave Sydney. Sawyer, whose real name is James Ford, is arrested and deported for getting into a bar fight and headbutting a Member of Parliament. At Sydney airport, Jack has a drink with a sympathetic woman, Ana Lucia, who overheard him losing it with the check-in attendant. To prove the point to Boone that she can orchestrate chaos without moral constraint, Shannon reports “some Arab guy” – Sayyid – to the authorities for leaving his bag unattended. Federal Marshall Mars is checking in his suitcase full of guns and, to explain why he needs so many, goads Kate into attacking him. A ghastly American woman bemoans Sun’s apparent subservience to Jin, unaware that Sun can understand her every word.

Highlights: One: the column of black smoke is an alarming visual underscore of Rousseau’s scary story about the Others – but in retrospect it is also a strange but clever piece of foreshadowing for the big revelation in the episode to follow. There is a great expression on Locke’s face during Rousseau’s story, when he realises that she is not talking about what he thought she was talking about.

Two: there’s a sailing ship in the jungle up the side of a mountain! What the hell? I love the payoff for all the misdirectional mentions of the “Black Rock”, which is nothing like what we assumed it would be. It’s a classic Lost moment – an utterly incongruous revelation that underscores the sheer weirdness of the Island and emphasises that for all their effort to come to grips with their situation and take control of their fate, the crash survivors are in over their heads.

Aside from that, ‘Exodus Part 1’ is replete with outstanding emotional moments. When Sawyer tells Jack about his father’s final days; when Walt explains to Shannon that Vincent was a good listener who helped him through the grief of his mother’s death; when Jin finally admits that he’s been a stubborn jerk and that he still loves Sun; when Vincent leaps into the water chasing after the departing raft. These are all beautifully realised tear-jerking scenes, which are only effective because we have come to know the characters so well and we have an appreciation for what it costs them to reach out to someone else. Well okay, not Vincent – that was just sheer gratuitous emotional manipulation, but that can work well too.

Mira Furlan as Rousseau has had a few good scenes in her previous appearances, but here her conjuration of a potent combination of authoritative command and abject despair recalls her more stirring performances as Ambassador Delenn back on Babylon 5. (Watching her talking about her first weeks on the Island, it’s easy to imagine dubbing the “They are called the Shadows. We have no other name for them” speech over the scene). Once again she is deployed to deliver a payload of exposition, but she disguises it with an honest, raw emotion.

Themes: The episode is replete with goodbyes. Immediately prior to the raft’s launch, there is a dialogue-free scene in which the crew farewell those they are leaving behind. You know exactly how each character feels about the others. It’s achingly well performed and directed with perhaps at least one eye on the possibility that the show would not be renewed for another season. It hits almost exactly the same emotional notes as you’d expect of the finale of some long-running teen drama along the lines of a Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill. Considering there’s another episode yet to come, it’s a sly hook of the heartstrings before the imminent action-packed cliffhanger ending.

Getting back to the goodbyes, though, the episode does wrap up some relationship arc subplots in a way I didn’t notice the first time around. The attraction between Sun and Michael, which their individually distracting circumstances never permitted to become anything more significant, is drawn to a close here with an awkward hug, Sun having made the decision not to walk away from Jin. Walt and Michael have finally accepted each other as father and son. Jack gets some closure on his father, courtesy of Sawyer. And while Sawyer and Kate’s feisty romance hasn’t died out altogether, his searching look back from the raft assures us that it’s reached its nadir.

The flashbacks are all to the night before or the morning of the fateful Oceanic 815 flight, with about half of the cast getting a sendoff (Boone too). Nothing new is revealed in most of them, though we do learn that Sawyer has been deported not for murder but because he headbutted the Honourable Warren Truss in a Sydney bar! Would that we all had such opportunities – no wonder Lost gets labelled a fantasy. If you were confused about it, US Marshall Mars helpfully explains Kate’s backstory in chronological order – though he still makes no specific reference to the crime for which she was pursued. And we meet Ana Lucia, whose appearance in the bar with Jack seems to serve no purpose – which only serves to highlight its importance.

Just quickly, the Numbers make an ostentatious appearance – Rousseau’s crew were stranded 16 years ago (which we already knew, but it gets mentioned three times in this episode). Jack was sitting in seat 23A on the plane, and Ana Lucia was in 42F. Those Numbers really seem significant, don’t they?

Summary: For the first half of a two-part story, this story seems to spends very little time setting up the drama of the second half. Everyone is kicked into action with real economy: the Others are coming, so we need to hide, so we need dynamite; the monsoon is coming, so we need to get the raft into the water. Go! The rest of the episode is devoted to drawing the season to a close, clearing the decks of a few character arcs and plot threads, and putting a few new pieces on the board. And all without looking like the horrid clash of metaphors that comprised my last sentence.

‘Exodus Part 1’ is superb, though duplicitous. It’s much less the start of a short story than it is the conclusion of a much longer one, which is to say the entire season that has gone before. It doesn’t answer every question raised during the previous couple of dozen episodes – get used to that – but it does bring the whole show in for the softest of landings. If the show had been cancelled, ‘Exodus Part 1’ would have been a sweet, intriguing conclusion.

So where does that leave ‘Exodus Part 2’? Cue the Action Drums…

25 Comments »

  1. My ‘Borges by Chopper’ challenge is still out there… 😉

    Comment by Dr Clam — June 17, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

  2. Yeah, but I still scarcely know how to parse it, let alone meet it 🙂

    Comment by lexifab — June 18, 2011 @ 12:38 am

  3. You didn’t mention the live cattle trade to Indonesia. I think the decision to pause exports lacks fairness and proportion. It punishes equally the importers and exporters which have done the right thing. The desperation to source alternatives quickly will probably send the animal rights cause in Indonesia backwards.

    As far as the Australian farmers are concerned, it is impossible to fairly compensate them. In fact it makes no sense to. The live export ban punishes all the way along the supply chain, in proportion to exposure to the live export market to Indonesia. Essentially, if it is the live export industry of itself that is to blame for the animal rights abuses, then this is the way to punish it. If it is certain particular parts of Indonesia that are to blame, then a withdrawal of trade to just those areas would be the way to fairly punish. Other exporters do not have contracts that stipulate how livestock needs to be treated after they become the property of the importer. The fact that we do, and can collectively punish the whole country for the breach of these contracts seems to me at the very least constituting an unfair contract, and the halt to the live export trade may be in breach of WTO rules.

    Comment by Marco Parigi — June 19, 2011 @ 9:24 am

  4. Oh, those muppet cartoons are good. Lessee… novelty, novelty.

    How about some Narnia fanfic?

    Comment by Dr Clam — June 19, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  5. I reckon this is a good time for Indonesia to start a whaling industry to make up for the shortfall in animal protein.

    This also seems to be an illustration of a complete inversion of domestic and foreign policy priorities: the government keeps doing rash and unhelpful things to our neighbours to score domestic political points, while driving through a major domestic ‘reform’ whose only coherent justification is the cultural-cringey one that it is what all the other 2nd-rate White countries are doing.

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — June 20, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  6. What a great idea. Or even angle for a humanitarian donation of excess Minke meat off the Japanese once they have finished their scientific experiments. Surely Australia doesn’t have a leg to stand on if Australia decides to block such a humanitarian move. I wish I was joking or trying to be funny.

    I assume the major reform with no coherent justification you are talking about is the PV feed in tariff regime that has been popularly rammed in in several states? That’s what the same 2nd rate white countries have done too.

    Ok with the second point I am being facetious. I know that you are talking about the carbon tax, but I think the increase in fossil energy retail prices coincident with the feed-ins seem to have done all the legwork already – albeit in a horribly inefficient and unfair way. Now is the worst time (for people to be satisfied with the tax) to introduce the tax, because the tax will get the blame for the dysfunction caused by the feed-ins.

    Comment by Marco Parigi — June 20, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

  7. Yes, politically it is an insane time to do it. (Not the Minke donation, for which the time has never been better, but the carbon tax). My contrarian plan if the tax comes in is to see if I can flexify my hours to save 100 km worth of petrol a week, buy less of whatever is more expensive, but maintain my carbon footprint by cutting down trees on my property and beginning intensive ‘slash and burn’ agriculture to replace the food I won’t be buying. By cutting spending sharply in this way, I hope to help the economy nosedive, which we all know is the only effective way to stop emissions! 😛

    Comment by Dr Clam — June 20, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

  8. ‘Write or dare’, you say?

    Comment by emmajeans — June 20, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  9. Emma – I think that’s what I said, but since whatever I said set off the Statler and Waldorf of Australian political debate, I’m not sure if I said what I meant 😉

    Clam and Marco – Too much to respond to, except to run with the thread and change the subject again: how classy was it when Mumma Julia and Poppa Tony continued their idiotic domestic spat in front of Mr Key from next door? (Addendum: I despair of the dismal quality of parliamentary performance at the moment. On the one hand we have the government, who are incapable of demonstrating the slightest competence no matter how well they actually perform, and on the other, we have the Opposition, whose only active policy is to push for an election that won’t actually happen. Gah. Things should start to get interesting from next week, when the Senate finally loses that lazy imbecile Fielding and gets taken over by the Greens instead. Not better, probably, but certainly interesting).

    Clam – I’m not actually a fan of Narnia (beyond the first book, which itself pushes the friendship on occasion) so that might be tricky. I could probably do a juvenile and obvious satire, but I’m trying to be less mean in my old age.

    Comment by lexifab — June 21, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  10. By first book, do you mean “The Magician’s Nephew”? Or “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”? It’s important…

    I wasn’t so much suggesting a Narnia fanfic comp, as responding to your I-am-a-child-of-the-Nineties “here we are now, entertain us” plea in the manner of a big rambunctious dog welcoming you home: ‘Here’s-something-for-you-to-read-do-you-like-it-huh-huh-huh?’

    November or December last year I was contacted by Newspoll (scary, eh?) and actually said that I thought both the PM and the federal Opposition Leader were doing a good job… I’m not sure what I would say today. You’re right, not very classy at all. The government seems to be lurching from pillar to post in a populist random walk designed to alienate anyone who might have actually voted for them on the basis that they would carry out particular you know, sort of centre-lefty policies. While Tony seems to be drifting to wackier and wackier Energizer Bunny stunts the longer he goes on. Perhaps the health of our democracy would be improved if political polling were made a capital crime? Now *that’s* a good topic for a plebiscite!

    Parenthetically, I also told Newspoll that I thought both the Premier and the state Opposition Leader were hopeless. …I guess that’s not so parenthetic, really, since once you live in NSW long enough all Federal politicians start to look like shining paragons of Jeffersonian virtue. One thing that riles me as a conservatively-inclined rural person is that *every one* of the 712 or so Coalition leaders in the years I’ve lived here has come from the same self-absorbed sliver of North Eastern Sydney that could fit onto your average Western NSW pastoral lease with plenty of room to spare.

    And… one more thing that riles me up is this report that the ACT is the first Australian state or territory where the majority of students attend private schools. WTF? What sort of commitment to this magnificent social democratic experiment are your consistently ALP-voting fellow Canberrans showing? Public schools are the only place in your life – except the voting booth – where you will ever interact with a representative cross section of your community as an equal. 🙁

    Hmm… and you’re right… I have a lot of terribly urgent work that I should be doing right now. Must… finish… comment…

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — June 21, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  11. – I meant The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I can’t even remember what happens in The Magician’s Nephew, though I’m pretty sure I’ve read it at least once. I do plan to plough through the series again one of these days, just to see if I like it any better than I did before, but I think it can wait until the kids are old enough to enjoy having it read to them.

    – Federal Parliament looks like a complete shambles at the moment. I think the PM is safe in her job simply because the minority government will collapse. The Coalition is doing very well in polling, but it surely can’t be escaping the parties’ notice that the leadership team have no policies (apart from fucking Nauru again, which doesn’t exactly position them on the moral high ground of that particular debate). If Abbott starts to slide, he won’t be able to hear himself think for all the knives coming out.

    – I try to pay as little attention to NSW state politics as possible, for the obvious reasons 🙂

    – I don’t know what is going on here with public versus private schools. We certainly have every intention of sending our kids to one of the two apparently-excellent public schools within walking distance of our house. Working in the public service, you do occasionally get a whiff of the Canberra-old-boys-school-tie syndrome, but not enough to get bothered about unless you want to be a Departmental Secretary or something. I suppose it may become clearer to me in time, but I agree with you that it’s bizarre on the surface.

    Comment by lexifab — June 21, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

  12. If something has you riled up or excited or pancreas-squeezingly bilious, tell us all about it in the comments.

    This is what you said first. I’m taking your first suggestion. Something has me riled and it either the stupidity of the trade minister or torturous sleep deprivation, and since the sources of sleep deprivation reward me with smiles every other time, I’ll have to blame the trade minister.

    Comment by Statler — June 23, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

  13. Yeah, I know I asked for it 🙂 I was just teasing because of the high rate of changes of subject between you and Clam. To be clear, I have a high regard for Statler and Waldorf.

    I haven’t had too much to say about the Indonesia live cattle export issue for two reason, the primary one being that I was travelling while it was all blowing up so I missed a lot of the finer details. The other reason is that I’m just not sure what to think about it.

    Without any special insight, it seems clear to me that it was absolutely the correct decision to suspend exports to the 11 or 12 abbatoirs named in the Four Corners program. The Government was clearly going to need to be seen to respond, given the overwhelmingly negative outcry (even from within the cattle farming community). The Government really would not have had a leg to stand on had it not gone ahead with the suspension of trade.

    What I didn’t (and still don’t) understand was the decision to suspend all live cattle exports to Indonesia. Notwithstanding the opportunistic calls to end all live exports – which I sympathise with to some extent but don’t agree makes good policy – there seems to me to be no reason to lump all meat processing facilities in an entire country in with the demonstrably bad ones. I gather that the majority of Indonesian facilities comply with the standards we require, or at least I haven’t heard anything to contradict that, which I heard early on in the debate.

    So yes, it seems stupid to me too. And in its inimitable fashion the Government have managed to, if not bungle then at least handle clumsily the entire affair since then. The Minister can’t get assurances from Indonesia that satisfy either side, nor can they rip the Meat and Livestock Association the new arse that it clearly seems to deserve (if they were taking money from every live export transaction to specifically fund animal welfare programs, and they didn’t know that this was going on, then they can take their pick from criminal negligence or incompetence).

    This isn’t strictly a problem of the Government’s making, but they have still found a way to make it worse than it should have been.

    Comment by lexifab — June 24, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  14. Since this started I have kept thinking about the scene in ‘The Green Mile’ where the prison guards are discussing the bungled execution:

    Hal: Okay, boys, what in the hell happened?
    Paul Edgecomb: An execution. A successful one.
    Hal: How in the name of Christ can you call that a success?
    Paul Edgecomb: Eduard Delacroix is dead.

    Paul Edgecomb: Isn’t he?

    The cattle are dead, aren’t they? Whatever they thought their lives were about, they were wrong. A few minutes, hours, or days of agony and terror are neither here nor there in the context of the overall industrial project of horror we are perpetrating on the poor bastards. Carnivory involves being horrible to animals. End of story. If you can’t take the meat, get out of the kitchen…

    Comment by Dr Clam — June 25, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  15. I’m a carnivore and have reconciled myself to the inherent cruelty of it. That doesn’t mean I grant license for greater cruelty to be enacted in my name. I think you and I have disagreed before about the nature and acceptability of suffering, but for the life of me I can’t think what the subject was. Suffice to say that in this case, I vehemently dispute your handwaving dismissal of “a few minutes, hours or days of agony”. I mean, I see your point, but it has no resonance because it’s nothing to do with where my line of tolerance is drawn.

    Is there even any way to debate this point?

    Comment by lexifab — June 26, 2011 @ 1:38 am

  16. The following page – Dr Temple Grandin’s web page goes into meticulous detail about every practical issue in relation to animal handling before during and after slaughter. Meat quality is also an issue with animal suffering, and in general, the less suffering caused to an animal, the better the resultant meat.

    The main issue in many Indonesian abbatoirs is the severe lack of education and training in this respect. Also the incredibly poor budgets allocated to building the equipment. We are talking about a country that is dragging itself out of third world status, and relies hugely on aid. Live trade, especially for these areas that have the worst reputations for humane practices, is incredibly more effective at pulling people out of poverty and hunger than aid is. The expectation that punishing even these abbatoirs by halting supply is fair is a dubious assertion unless one is to heap aid, training and education on those areas.

    The reason I am so angry at the trade minister is that he should know this, and the halting of trade, even temporarily is a sign of weakness, as well as being damaging to trade. Reversing the halt would show even more weakness, so it would probably be better that he resign or the government change.

    I disagree with the assertion that he had no choice but to halt the trade to even some areas. He had plenty of technical reasons/excuses he could garner. If halting trade was a good idea, it would have been a good idea after previous live trade disasters such as that sheep shipment to Saudi Arabia that went horribly wrong, among other boat disasters. New Zealand (and Tasmania) halted trade after one of those events, for instance, but they now have no financial incentive to improve animal welfare in foreign countries at all.

    Comment by Statler — June 26, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  17. I admit my statement was rather incoherent and over the top, but all this consternation over an additional 0.000001% suffering associated with cow-slaughter irritates me as another illustration of our civilisation’s total lack of a sense of proportion. Either carnivory is immoral or it is not. If it’s not, the suffering of animals is irrelevant. If it is, like great sages have been telling us for 3000+ years, we should bloody well stop it.

    Comment by Dr Clam — June 26, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  18. There is an element of veganism in the opposition to live trade, but most of it is the result of the vast majority of western meat eaters not wanting nor being able to see their food being killed. There is such a disconnect when it is able to and put on their tv screens that suddenly everybody gets that temporary sense of moral veganism. It is also linked with a sense of “ownership” of the cattle. So many times it is discussed as “our” cattle. Like as if it was our children being sent to the land of savages. I have heard the term “barbarians” used as a generalisation of the Indonesian purchaser of the cattle – so a lot of the opposition is plain prejudice as well. A third tier of the opposition is a pure protectionism of jobs in (exporting or import replacing) abbatoirs. This is in fact exacerbated by Indonesian graziers that believe they can supply the cattle themselves if only the importation stopped, but they don’t realise that the lack of Indonesian infrastructure makes that close to impossible.

    Therefore the single biggest mistake that the inexperienced and poor Indonesian abbatoirs made (and the easiest one for the MLA to have trained them not to do) was to allow cameras onto their workplace. Not a singe abbatoir in Australia with the best practices in the world would give permission for the slaughter of cattle to be televised. This is best practice. And if a system that entrusts inspector’s word (and the occasional leak) works to ensure humane practices in Australia, we should not expect any more assurance than that from the Indonesians.

    Comment by Statler — June 26, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  19. “Therefore the single biggest mistake that the inexperienced and poor Indonesian abbatoirs made (and the easiest one for the MLA to have trained them not to do) was to allow cameras onto their workplace.”

    This is a bit cynical, surely? And perhaps I am wrong, but I got the impression anyway that the documentary producers used hidden cameras.

    But even so, an abbatoir with managers who are sufficiently expert to exercise judicious media management might well exercise better practise in other areas, so I suspect the lack of good judgment on the one hand is correlated with the lax compliance with Indonesia’s own laws on the other. It takes resources to exercise good quality control through sound managers, and if they aren’t there for whatever reason, then bribing inspectors becomes the next simplest solution. The MLA sits outside of the Indonesian meat industry, so it may not have had the wherewithal to influence good practise, but it is inconceivable to me that they were unaware of the problem areas. If they were not working closely with Government to make them aware of the problems – as it still apears that they weren’t, although I could be wrong on that – then they have failed in their duty of care to their own clients (i.e. cattle producers who pay them a levy to ensure that their stock are handled well).

    I don’t know if I’ve said that clearly. I am operating on too little sleep again.

    Comment by lexifab — June 28, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  20. Truthfully – It is not cynical. Cameras were voluntarily allowed onto these abbatoirs by the Indonesian operators. I didn’t see all of the footage, but I heard that the camera operators were even on some of it. Its entirely likely and proper for a payment to made to the abbatoir managers as well, which although peanuts in terms of the money the documenters make, would have been a big deal for the abbatoir operators, and they would have been happy to get some money at that point not realising that the results would have essentially been their businesses’ funeral. I think you are probably the one being naive on this point. Those Indonesian areas have little or no electricity, so therefore no TV’s, fridges, or for that matter any idea about the world outside that part of the Archipelago, let alone the power of media. The cattle imports there meant jobs and proteins for tens of thousands of them where opportunities are limited, and aid limited to non-protein staples. As for the MLA, they can hardly be criticised for poor moral judgement if they were finding more markets for the cattle, and were helping Indonesians at no cost (in fact negative cost) to Australia’s aid budget. There is at least a conflict (for the MLA) of interest between supplying such an obvious demand and improving things as they went, or drawing a line in the sand.

    What I am most angry about is the narrative of the documentary implying that the fault lies with the fact that we export live cattle for slaughter to what can only be described as savagery.

    Comment by Statler — June 28, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

  21. No naivety on my part, I assure you. I was simply trying to make the point that a management body media-savvy enough to anticipate the likely outcome of media interest would probably have been sufficiently well-informed and organised not to have the livestock handing problems depicted in the first place. What was shown in the documentary – which I don’t at all assume is a complete picture of the situation – is a lack of sophistication which is entirely fixable with a modest amount of training (which is, according to my understanding, what the MLA was taking money from cattle producers for, charged to provide by its members and claimed to be providing, so fuck ’em if they lied about it).

    As an aside: You’re right that the Australian aid program doesn’t have a specific program about this – it’s not one of the priority areas under the Millennium Development Goals – but I could see an argument being made for some form of development assistance to support industry reform in Indonesia. I don’t know how politically palatable it would be, but the case could be made.

    I have no strong opinions about the tenor of the documentary. There were clearly several agendas going on at once, at least one of which you’ve described. That wasn’t my impression of the overall aim, but vibes do vary.

    Comment by lexifab — June 29, 2011 @ 12:11 am

  22. I beg to differ on the training side of things. Training people to say no is cheap, easy and legal. Training people who are not your employees, who speak a different language, with unknown priority between cost, time and practicality, is virtually impossible in comparison. To make a comparison, it is like expecting an employee union to ensure no workplace bullying occurs. Sure, union influence and resources can improve things, but in the end , they cannot control people who they don’t employ. Whether it was in the remit of the MLA to guarantee certain standards or not, it is unreasonable to suggest that any amount of money could actually do that.

    Comment by Marco parigi — June 29, 2011 @ 1:58 am

  23. This is true but an incomplete approach. Training should occur at multiple levels – of management, supervisory and killing floor employees and of those with external inspection responsibilities. Governments can be persuaded to tighten laws and strengthen bodies charged with their monitoring and enforcement. Whether the MLA has the responsibility for all of this (or the resources to even attempt it) is beside the point, which is that it failed in their duty of care to its own members to bring the matter to their attention or to that of the Government. It must have known what the reaction would be of Australian cattlemen, who do hold themselves to a generally high standard of animal welfare, let alone that of the general public.

    For me this comes down to a personal beef (ha!) about failures in standards of governance. Organisations should hold themselves and be held to the highest practical standards of ethical behaviour and should cop the blame when they fail to meet them. It is obvious that there are limits to the influence one can have when operating in and dealing with foreign nations (especially where you have no sovereign status yourself, like the MLA) but you sure as fuck can be open and honest about the problems you can’t control.

    This documentary *should not* have been a surprise to anyone in the industry. The fact that it came as a clear shock to some cattle farmers is a searing indictment of the MLA’s handling of the matter. Quite possibly also that of the Department of Primary Industry and the Minister, although it’s still not clear to me what they knew and when they knew it (and if they knew about it, whether or not they were already doing anything about it).

    So to be clear, I think there is quite a lot of blame to go around, but the only body that I am certain should wear some responsibility is the MLA. If there’s an equivalent Indonesian government body with animal welfare responsibilities, then they are in it too – but I haven’t heard anything yet about any such group.

    Comment by lexifab — June 29, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  24. There is a bit of a constant raising of the bar of expectations of the live trade ever since we first started to export live a few decades ago. I remember there was a huge uproar because of the high disease and mortality rates on the ships back in the early 90’s. Not a single mention of how they would be treated at the receiving/slaughter point. It was completely off the radar, and certainly not the responsibility of any Australian delegation.

    Quite truthfully, if anyone had asked me about what I thought was the standard of treatment of animals was in Indonesia, I would have told them that it was way worse than in Australia. There was no real denial of what was happening by anyone, including the MLA. What I was most surprised about was how millions of Australians were living in denial about it until the show. I don’t fault the MLA for not overly publicising the problems that it could see, but I fault people for having the naivety to assume that cruelty standards in Indonesia didn’t vary that much from eachother or our standards.

    In a legal sense, I tend to agree with you, though. If the MLA are judged to be a party at fault, they should be fined. If there is evidence against them as far as negligence of duty, court proceedings could take place to replace them. Certainly, the only good thing to come out of the halt in trade was the knowledge of how halting trade is bad for absolutely everybody, including Indonesian cattle and Australian cattle welfare.

    Comment by Statler — June 29, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  25. Well, I think bars of expectations are there to be raised, especially when it comes to standards of ethical behaviour [1], but aside from that I’m pretty much in agreement with you.

    [1] I even think that Clam’s preference for more-or-less universal vegetarianism is likely to eventuate as a cultural norm in the Western world, though perhaps not in our lifetimes.

    Comment by lexifab — June 29, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

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