The Razor's Edge Transcript


The Razor's Edge - Transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 23 April, 2012

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I'm Caroline Jones. In a modern, complex world, there are few individuals capable of galvanizing a nation on a single issue. Lyn White is one such person. She first featured on this program ten years ago. Back then she was a former police officer embarking on a new career. No one could have guessed the drama and the headlines that would follow. Going where most would fear to tread, armed only with a small camera, Lyn White has ignited a fiery debate. This is her story.

LYN WHITE: I'm often told by people that they couldn't do what I do, but I don't believe that I'm any different from anyone else. Over the years the way that I think I've tried to heal from what I witnessed is by throwing all the love that I have into the dogs that have been in my life. They provide me with comfort and companionship, and just such a constant reminder of how they respond so beautifully to kindness, and all animals respond to kindness.

HOWARD SACRE, '60 MINUTES' PRODUCER: I think Lyn's a very caring woman, but I think she's seen here that there is a cause and she's out to fight it. If someone sees her or hears that she's on a particular case, they'll start to shiver in their boots.

DAVID INALL, CEO, CATTLE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: When Lyn White's name is mentioned amongst our membership you get a wide range of views. There are certainly some who are very, very upset and would just like to burn Lyn White at the stake.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: Lyn I think is willing to take as many risks as is necessary to get a story out to the public

HOWARD SACRE, '60 MINUTES' PRODUCER: It blows me away how gutsy she is because she's taking huge risks. She gets into these places with a hidden camera with men with big knives and axes who don't know her. I mean, she could disappear in an instant.

LYN WHITE: It was quite astonishing to attend the rallies in Melbourne and in Sydney and see the crowds there.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: I would have said that every tier of society would have been represented in that huge group of people. They were united in wanting change and that's a powerful place to be.

SEN. BARNABY JOYCE, QLD LNP: Of course overwhelmingly people were saying we've got to do something about this. And no one says that we shouldn't - obviously we should; it's the process of how we went about it that was all wrong. You don't conduct diplomatic affairs via the television.

PETER SINGER, AUTHOR 'ANIMAL LIBERATION' AND CO-FOUNDER 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA': I think Lyn White's achievements can compare with anything that has happened anywhere in the world. I think she probably is the most effective animal campaigner that I've seen in my 40 years in the Australian animal movement.

LYN WHITE: I would have been the last person that I would have ever imagined would be in a leadership role. My life certainly hasn't turned out in any way like I expected, but when I look back at where I've come from and my experiences and what I've learned along the way, everything now makes sense. I grew up at Seacombe Gardens in Adelaide and I had a family with three sisters, and I came number three.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: As a girl Lyn was quiet and shy. In the early days you probably would even have said that Lyn was introverted, just melded into the background, didn't like to be noticed

LYN WHITE: I always had a great love of animals even though we really didn't have animals in our lives.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: It was really obvious that Lyn had a special connection with them. Even as a little child I can still remember a moment where someone had trodden on an ant and she went absolutely boonter.

LYN WHITE: We all went to church every Sunday morning. I can even remember teaching Sunday school and playing the piano. I think our parents instilled in all of us a very strong sense of right and wrong. It was so clear-cut that right and wrong was black and white, and I very much strongly wanted to take the side of right in my life.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: I wasn't surprised when Lyn decided to join the police force. It seemed a right fit for her.

LYN WHITE: When I joined the police academy, I actually managed to get the nickname of "Hermie", short for Hermit. I was so under-confident that during the lunch breaks I'd actually go and hide in my room until the lessons started again. I'm not proud of the fact that actually putting a uniform on helped my self-confidence. In imany ways it was a shield - Lyn White had actually become someone, she'd become a police officer - and for me it came with a degree of self-worth, probably, for the first time in my life.

SGT ANDREW 'AUSSIE' AUSSERLECHNER, FMR COLLEAGUE: I first met Lyn White in the early '90s, and we joined up on a team together. Lyn was a very skilful police officer. She liked to get her teeth into investigating a crime. She would follow it up to the nth degree and she would never leave any stone unturned.

LYN WHITE: During my policing career I would have attended just about every possible crime - from murders, to suicides, to rapes, to abductions. I saw some horrendous things. One of the most important lessons that I learned in my time as a police officer was the need to focus on the task at hand and control your emotions and just put them to one side. Part of policing is learning the skills necessary to gather evidence, and at times that might be staking out a premises and sitting there and having to observe what's going on. I did work undercover at times in covert operations where you were needing to pretend that you were someone else.

SGT ANDREW 'AUSSIE' AUSSERLECHNER, FMR COLLEAGUE: She's got some sort of charisma, and I reckon she's able to just sort of get her way into places where perhaps Joe Average can't.

LYN WHITE: My colleagues knew that I was passionate about animal welfare, so if any issues arose in regards to animal cruelty they would usually direct that particular incident towards me.

SGT ANDREW 'AUSSIE' AUSSERLECHNER, FMR COLLEAGUE: She was always very much in love with animals, and she had a couple of border collies and she loved walking them. I know that she was walking dogs at the local animal shelter.

LYN WHITE: When I was I think around 37, I went through a period where I really started questioning my life. I guess I found that I wasn't getting the same fulfilment from policing that I had in previous years. Whilst I had a couple of great loves in my life, I realised that marriage and children wasn't meant to be for me, and therefore again it made me search for what I really was meant to be doing with my life. One day sitting in my house in Woodside, I was just flicking through a magazine and I saw a photograph of a bear in a cage. The bear was there to have bile milked from its gall bladder in China. I realised I could either sit there and weep tears of grief or I could actually try and do something about it.

SGT ANDREW 'AUSSIE' AUSSERLECHNER, FMR COLLEAGUE: On night shift, when it's quiet, sometimes you have deep and meaningful conversations, and Lyn was one that was really struggling with where she was at - there was just something really gnawing at her. She felt that animals couldn't speak for themselves and she could be an advocate for them.

LYN WHITE: I left the police force after a 20 year career to become an animal advocate. I didn't look back from the moment that I made that decision.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: When Lyn joined us I'd been working in the movement for 20 years, and live export was one of the main issues. We'd gone to politicians, we'd taken information, we'd done the research, but it wasn't having a great effect - they weren't listening to us. Initially I didn't see the advantages of having a former police officer join us, but within a year of Lyn joining us, we'd undertaken our first investigation and it really did have an immediate effect.

LYN WHITE: I realised that no one had ever documented how Australian exported animals were being treated in the Middle East, and so I went to Kuwait in November 2003 along with a co-investigator from the UK, and we filmed the unloading of a livestock vessel and then followed those animals through to slaughter.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: With that first footage we didn't think taking it to the government would be effective. We thought that exposing it to the community was the first thing to do.

(Excerpt from '60 MINUTES', Channel 9 2004)

RICHARD CARLETON, PRESENTER: Now tonight you too will have a rare opportunity to see what happens to these Australian sheep after they arrive in the Middle East.

(End of excerpt)

HOWARD SACRE, '60 MINUTES' PRODUCER: It's a very difficult decision for a producer to say, "Right we're about to to shock the pants off you."

LYN WHITE: The cruelty that we documented shocked the Australian public, but the industry, of course, came out swinging and said that these were isolated incidents. So we realised that we needed to continue to investigate.

HOWARD SACRE, '60 MINUTES' PRODUCER: In 2006, Lyn came to us with footage of the Bassertine abbatoir, which is a hell on earth in the middle of Cairo. And that I think was probably the worst footage I'd seen, and probably the riskiest footage for her to get.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: It's a dangerous place with many, many butchers with huge knives, and we already knew they were doing terrible things because we had eyewitness accounts.

LYN WHITE: Prior to going into Bassertine we knew that we would have to use a hidden camera, the covert, camera before we went in. There are always unknowns on entering facilities. It's difficult not to feel some level of anxiety. We went into the facility with a cousin of an advocate in Egypt, and he explained that we were leather merchants. One worker, as we went to enter the slaughter area, actually made this gesture across his throat, which was a bit intimidating but we kept going. We knew the importance of being there. I went back to the hotel room in Cairo after that morning in Bassertine, and there was actually an earthquake, and I clearly recall sitting there and thinking that maybe the earth was about to swallow up Bassertine, and that this was God's revenge on the terrible things that were happening there. Bassertine abattoir is a a really disturbing place to enter. It really is like walking into the underworld. I saw so many things that I knew were never going to leave me, and the only way I could make sense of them was actually being able to expose it and creating change.

(Excerpt from ABC News, 2006)

PRESENTER: Australia has suspended cattle exports to Egypt after a television report showing inhumane treatment of animals at an abbatoir. Channel Nine's Sixty Minutes program detailed animal cruelty including the cutting of tendons.

(End of excerpt)

LYN WHITE: Our work in Egypt in the end resulted in a permanent ban on the export of sheep to Egypt.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: Lyn's very good at hiding the emotional toll that her work takes on her, but every single thing that she sees that affects an animal affects her emotionally.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: After that trip she was really changed, and when she got back the way she turned that around was to work even harder.

LYN WHITE: My determination my stubborness probably helps me. I'm not willing to give up because I believe things are meant to change and that we can change them.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: Lyn is totally dedicated, and that means all hours, weekends, whatever it takes - and of course that means she's effective. It also means it takes a huge toll on her. There's not a lot of work/home balance going on here.

LYN WHITE: I'm fortunate that I live in a little shack near the beach and therefore can walk along the beach and just dwell on the beauty that is still in the world and not necessarily the horrors that I've witnessed. I certainly believe in a higher power, in a force of goodness in this universe, and I truly believe that when you work with pure motive to create change that something kicks in to help you.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: From my perspective I think her guardian angels need long service leave at this point, because they would have had to look after her in so many situations.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: In late 2010 we became aware of a report commissioned by the Meat and Livestock Australia into Indonesia.

LYN WHITE: Meat and Livestock Australia had been installing Australian-designed restraint devices in Indonesia. I realised that all that they did was facilitate the brutal method of Indonesian roping slaughter. The RSPCA raised their concerns with government and got nowher,e and it was decided that an investigation was needed.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: We had to look at where our animals were going: what ports, what feed lots and what abattoirs.

LYN WHITE: On the very first night, when I saw an animal having its leg tendon slashed and being terribly abused in what was an Australian-designed restraint box, I knew that we had really the evidence necessary to potentially stop the trade to Indonesia.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: When Lyn came back from Indonesia I have never seen her as thin and gaunt, and her eyes seemed to be haunted. It affected her so very badly, and it was hard for me to think how she could even continue on with what we knew we had to do next.

(Excerpt from Four Corners, May 2011)

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Welcome to Four Corners. Tonight we present a program that will shock you.

(End of excerpt)

LYN WHITE: I don't think any of us could have predicted the tidal wave of public outrage and distress that resulted from that program.

SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER, FOUR CORNERS (2011): The question now in the Government's hands is whether they, and whether the Australian public, will allow this trade to continue.

LYN WHITE: The morning after Four Corners aired I started doing interviews from six o'clock in the morning.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: We knew it would be big, but the reaction after was seismic.

DAVID KOCH, PRESENTER, SUNRISE (2011): Lyn good morning to you Lyn we are being swamped on the soapbox by viewers expressing their shock at the treatment of cattle.

NEWSREADER, CNN (2011): To sum it up, it showed cattle being kicked, hit, their eyes gouged, and tails broken.

LYN WHITE: People were bombarding their local MPS as well, we heard from them that they had never received correspondence to this level on any other issue in their history.

MELISSA PARKE, LABOUR MP (2011): So we want to see all trade to Indonesia ceasing at this moment.

ANDREW WILKIE, INDEPENDENT MP (2011): We've got to immediately stop the export of animals to Indonesia, and we've got to wind up the industry in three years.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: It took a week before the Minister decided that he had to suspend trade.

JOE LUDWIG, AGRICULTURE MINISTER (2011): This suspension will be in place until the Government and industry establishes sufficient safeguards.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: And then there was so much backlash from all the cattle producers, as if we the messengers had done something wrong.

(Excerpt from Talkback Radio)

CALLER: She's an animal activist and she's just stood there and watched this calmly being filmed and not reacting and telling them to stop doing this awful thing that he was doing to this beast.

CALLER II: They will get a Gold Walkely for this.


CALLER II: They will!

RADIO PRESENTER: If they do, the bloody cattlemen should be in the process, and the primary producers should be at the awards and booing the hell out of them.

CALLER II: It was a failure in journalism, mate.

(End of excerpt)

SEN. BARNABY JOYCE, QLD LNP: The results of this report devastated the cattle industry. Farmers feel deeply about the welfare of their animals - they live for them, they help bring them into the world, they help calve them in many instances - but we always know that at the end of the day the animals are going to be eaten.

DAVID INALL, CATTLE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA CEO: There are some people that think she really did the industry over by taking this footage to the press rather than bringing it to the industry. Nobody really knew where this was going to end up - but it wasn't just cattle producers, it was transport operators. I heard a story about the lady who was cutting sandwiches for the truckies in Katherine, she had gone out of business. There was a very wide ripple effect.

(Excerpt continues)

CALLER III: There's a lot of farmers drivers a lot of infrastructure people who are in debt who are going to be hanging from trees in a month or two.

(End of excerpt)

LYN WHITE: I don't feel a sense of responsibility for their loss. I feel sympathy for the fact that they did lose their jobs. The first people to call on the Government to provide compensation for people involved in this trade that might suffer financial loss was Animals Australian and the RSPCA.

LYN WHITE: A Senate inquiry was announced into the live trade, and I and colleagues had to appear before it.

(Excerpt from Senate Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee, August 2011)

BILL HEFFERNAN, LIBERAL SENATOR: A lot of your passionate supporters actually want to end the killing of animals. Is that your position?

LYN WHITE: Senator, our position as an organisation is about improving animal welfare and preventing cruelty, and our position on this trade has always been to work towards the replacement of...

BILL HEFFERNAN: My question is, do you want to end the killing of animals?

LYN WHITE: Does our organisation want to end the killing of animals? Our organisation wants to end animal cruelty.

BILL HEFFERNAN: Do you, Lyn White, want to end the killing of animals - not Animals Australia?

LYN WHITE: Senator what I want to do is protect animals from cruelty.

BILL HEFFERNAN: This is double dutch.

LYN WHITE: I have been working in Jordan in slaughterhouses in the middle of the night to actually improve the killing process...

BILL HEFFERNAN: You've done some wonderful work.

(End of excerpt)

LYN WHITE: I guess I knew that politics could be a dirty game, but nothing prepared me for the allegations made by Senator Chris Back.

SEN CHRIS BACK, WA LIBERAL, 2011: It has been put to me today, by sources I consider credible, that payment was actually made to those slaughtermen to enact and to exact the level of cruelty we saw.

LYN WHITE: I was so appalled because it was so obviously a pre-determined strategy to try and undermine the evidence.

GLENYS OOGJES, 'ANIMALS AUSTRALIA' CEO: Last year Lyn learned a lot about Parliament House. She walked those corridors and she needed to be talking to all of the parties all of the players. It was really difficult. This might sound strange - she's not a public person. She has become a public person.

ANDREW WILKIE, INDEPENDENT MP: Lyn and I have met on many occasions since the Four Corners episode. I think that Lyn is very powerful, politically, now. I'd be very surprised now if any politician would not take her call or schedule a meeting with her.

GLEN OOGJES: When Lyn approaches politicians now they know they have to meet with us, they know we have something of importance to say - and if they don't take us seriously it's going to come back to bite them on the bum.

SEN. BARNABY JOYCE, QLD LNP: I think that Lyn White will have a role to play whether we want her to play it or not. Ours is the quiet consultation option. Lyn White's view, to be honest, is the nuclear bomb option, where we basically blow the whole show up. I think Lyn White is a very good person, a decent person. I think she's very driven and what drives her is earnest, but I think people have to have an honest statement at sometimes about whether they believe, honestly, in the consumption of meat.

LYN WHITE: I was a meat eater and a police officer when I found out about the lives that animals were enduring on factory farms. As an animal advocate, the ultimate choice that anyone who cares about animals can make is to not eat them. We're about to launch into a major consumer campaign. Just recently, Missy Higgins has come to us after seeing our work last year and wanting to support our work.

MISSY HIGGINS, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I first heard about Lyn actually through my followers on Twitter. And I wanted to find out about the factory farming industry in Australia and how it compares.

LYN WHITE: She's very passionate about the issues that we're working on, and Missy is voicing a radio ad that we'll be launching shortly.

MISSY HIGGINS, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I was thrilled to meet her. There are not many people who can singlehandedly say that they've made such a difference in one area.

LYN WHITE: Last month I conducted a national speaking tour. I spoke in five different cities, and astonishingly each venue was sold out and with waiting lists.

SGT ANDREW 'AUSSIE' AUSSERLECHNER, FMR COLLEAGUE: Recently, I attended the Adelaide Town Hall to hear her speak. While we were in the hall I reflected back on our time in the patrol car on night shift when she spoke about her dream, and now 10 or so years later there she is in a packed audience telling them about her passion. Yeah, I was a little bit in awe watching her up there, but it was still the same Lyn White that I worked with all those years ago.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: I think it's amazing to see my little sister, who was shy and quiet, ending up in a situation in life where she is standing up in front of huge crowds of people or going in front of cameras or talking to politicians.

LYN WHITE: Where my life is at this stage is a point that I never thought that it would reach. I'm really pleased that our work has had such impact, but really all I'm doing is shining light on issues that desperately needed to have that light shone on them.

ROBYN LONGDEN, SISTER: She is a fantastic example of how, as long as you're prepared to step out of your comfort zone, you never know where your life will go.

LYN WHITE: I don't think I will ever retire from this career. I firmly believe that there is a reason behind everything, and that I'm now working where I'm needed and where I'm meant to be.


The Cattle Council of Australia says that pre-slaughter stunning rates in Indonesia have risen from 15 per cent to 85 per cent in the last year.

Federal Parliament will soon debate new legislation mandating pre-slaughter stunning in all importing countries.

Senator Chris Back declined to be interviewed for this program

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