Doing Right by Sheep

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Australia exports about 2 million live sheep per year, 95% of them to the Middle East. Demand peaks before Eid-ul-Fitr, when devout Muslims slaughter animals in imitation of Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb in place of his son Ishmael (Quran: Surah 37, verses 99–109) or Isaac (Bible: Genesis 22, verses 1–2). It’s a gruesome story, so don’t read it if you’re at all squeamish; in fact, don’t even look at the picture below.

Transporting live animals across large expanses of ocean is a gruesome business too. Every so often the Australian public is shown evidence of extreme cruelty to animals, whereupon government agencies and lobbyists express outrage and give assurances that rules will be tightened, enforcement will be strengthened and it will never happen again. And then it does.

The latest shock-horror story is about a shipload of sheep bound for the Middle East. We are told that more than 2,000 of them died of heatstroke and thirst.

I will not lapse into a diatribe against archaic, barbaric and horrific practices in the name of religion, which might attract accusations of antisemitism and islamophobia. I will simply draw a parallel between the export of live animals in appalling conditions, just so that they can be killed somewhere else, and the slave trade.

An interviewee from the livestock industry conceded that there was inevitable cruelty in the raising, transporting and slaughter of animals people like to eat, but pointed out that many Australian jobs depend on this economic activity. I imagine that slave traders were making similar statements 200 years ago.

Name-Calling

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If you want to put someone in a really bad light, call them a racist. This is what’s happening in Australia (and elsewhere) to people who express criticism of Islam.  I don’t get it.  Anyone can be a Muslim, regardless of their race.  Islam is an ideology, not an ethnicity.

A lot of people, especially people in advanced secular societies, don’t much like the beliefs and values that followers of the various branches of Islam adhere to. As an atheist I can understand why. What I can’t understand is why people should be howled down or insulted for expressing an honest opinion.

Muslim Takeover of Australia?

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I get a lot of emails expressing fear that Australia, or the Western world in general, will be taken over by Muslims because of a) immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, b) Muslims’ high fertility rate or c) both.

Obviously, if Muslims do breed faster then non-Muslims they will inevitably achieve a majority one day. But is it imminent? I constructed a small Excel model and put in some simple assumptions for Australia. Here they are:

  1. Muslims represent 3% of the Australian population now.
  2. Muslims’ natural rate of increase is 1.5%pa while that of non-Muslims is 0.5%pa.
  3. Annual net immigration is equivalent to 1% of the population.
  4. Muslims represent 30% of net immigration.
  5. Anyone born to Muslim parents adopts their faith.
  6. Nobody converts to or from Islam.

This set of assumptions produces a Muslim majority in the year 2289, at which time the total population of Australia will be 3.6 billion.

I’d be happy to receive evidence-based data to replace my crude assumptions; or to send out my little model to be played with by you or anyone else.

As an atheist myself I earnestly hope that nobody follows any religion at all by 2289, rendering this a pointless exercise. Fun, though.