BALLINA vet surgeon Peter Kerkenezov describes live animal export as "a story of corporate profiteering, politics, deceptive information and profound cruelty".
The former merchant mariner piloted a 50,000-tonne livestock vessel in 1983, which was bound for the Middle East, and served as a vet on a livestock vessel in 1982 on a three-week journey to Saudi Arabia.
Now a horse specialist, Mr Kerkenezov said conditions livestock were forced to endure on the long-haul voyages at sea, and the livestock's treatment on arrival, made the experience hellish for animals.
"The truth is that there is a very dark side to this trade and there is no way that live animal export can be ethical," he wrote in an article published last month in the Sydney University journal Control and Therapy.
The first leg of their journey to the dinner plate involved a gruelling voyage on relatively poorly equipped vessels staffed by foreign crews, which were rarely captained by an Australian, he wrote.
"In many instances the ventilation is grossly inadequate and heat stress is an ongoing issue in equatorial zones," Mr Kerkenezov wrote.
"Animal-based indicators and clinical evidence of disease obtained from veterinary examination, such as excessive panting, coughing, cleanliness, lameness, demeanour, injuries, skin lesions, nasal discharge, and diarrhoea, provide reliable signs that the welfare of the animals on board a ship is severely impaired."
Mr Kerkenezov cited photos documenting "repeat violations" of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock.
Only trips of more than 10 days required the services of a vet, some of whose employment was terminated "because they submitted disapproving voyage reports".
He described as a "sham" investigations by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, given they were responsible for both promoting and investigating the trade.
As a substitute for live export, Mr Kerkenezov has called for an increase in the chilled meat exports, which combines jobs in processing on home soil as well as total control over animal welfare.
"Australian boxed meat has a shelf life of four months and is the most efficient means of sending meat overseas," he wrote.