The ‘reported’ slaughtering of Australian sheep in Pakistan today has “sparked fresh calls for the trade to be outlawed,” according to the the Sydney Morning Herald’s Richard Wellingham. What type of calls? Telephone calls? How fresh is your call, sir? This type of statement frustrates me greatly. The calls are certainly not fresh, the calls are part of a cyclical process established by the media ten or so years ago designed at framing a particular debate that will doubtless tug at the heart strings of most people but what is, in essence, something that is unavoidable. Think of the live export trade debate in the Australian media as a large bit of frozen trout that is repeatedly taken out of the freezer. Each time it is part defrosted the taste of the trout deteriorates. The same goes for Australian media coverage of the live export trade. The liberal media in Australia has created a commercial niche for itself whereby it can continue to re-visit issues that it knows will create public interest, animal welfare being the case in point. You could argue the media organizations are reporting ethical issues their readers will be interested in which would be correct, the point I am trying to make is that nobody likes rotten trout. Media coverage of the issue is a best one-dimensional, journalists speak of ‘balance’ but there is no real attempt to provide balance in the majority of articles on this particular issue. The ‘balance’ generally consists of an Agriculture minister defending the trade or a farmer relating the live exports back to his livelihood. No deeper issues of why they were slaughtered are explored. Issues such as how the animals could deteriorate whilst travelling to a new location. Sheep too could get ‘Delhi belly’ or contract irreparable diseases. What about the social status of animals in different cultures? Could this explain the inhumane treatment of Australian livestock exports? The coverage barely scratches the surface on what is a complicated issue, but an issue that will never go away because of the profitability of the export market. It is the classic battle between ethics and money, with a subplot of cultural vagaries and a bit of trout. I am not condoning the way Australian cattle are treated overseas, I think perhaps Australia’s geographical and social isolation from Asia contributes to the one-dimensional coverage.