Where did your last swallow’s nest come from?


Curtain up for our newest tool:

The CSH Import Export Dashboard, another data visualization by our vis expert Wolfgang Knecht and his brother Martin.

The tool is based on data from Statistik Austria, carefully edited and updated by our research collaborator and newly gained Associate Faculty member Beate Conrady (born: Pinior) from the University of Veterinary Medicine.



These data are a box of wonders for curious people like me.

Who would have thought for instance, that Austria imported 5.5 tons of turtle eggs and “swallow’s nests” from France last year? (Why France is a question that remains open). Actually, I just learned that swallow’s nests are not at all swallow’s nests, but the nests of Mrs. Swallow’s bigger sisters, the Salanganes (admittedly I did not even know what a salangane is before I run an Ecosia search after having spotted the line “turtle eggs, salanganes nests etc.” in product group 4 of the dashboard…).

While still wondering about where all those turtles live whose eggs are plundered, I see another strange entry:

Wow, the amount of human hair we import! According to the dashboard, most of it comes from Italy and Singapore. Why on Earth is hair from Italy so much cheaper? The 7.6 tons we import from our southern neighbor is worth 4.1 million Euros, while Austrian hair importers have to pay 9.6 million for the 5 tons of hair shipped to Austria from Singapore.

I am sure I would find explanations for that, if I was not distracted by my next search.

I will never understand how it possibly can be in times of the climate crisis that countries import the very same kinds of goods they also export, sometimes even to and from the very same countries. Goods as wool fat for instance, that is exported, I learn, from Austria to Germany (9.3 tons) as well as imported from Germany to Austria (>42 tons).

Or all those living creatures we carry around! Cattle for instance: 20,000 tons (alive!) imported from the Czech Republic in 2019, more than 13,3000 tons exported to Italy. Or pigs: We do not only not object to the transport of 35,000 tons of squeaking future ham and sausages from Germany to Austria, a country with, I would think, more than enough pig farms, but also move more than 420 tons of squeaking pigs in the opposite direction.


The tool is fascinating, but it also makes me sad and angry. Its bars show crystal clear how far we are away from a truly sustainable, climate-conscious, and not to forget, a humane economy.

My only and most likely very naive hope is: Once people see all the oddities, they might start re-arranging the imports and exports in such a way that they eventually meet the requirements of a better, meaning: a far more sustainable, climate change adapted and animal friendly economy.

The shutdown due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic opened a window of opportunity to break up with old habits. I would hope that we try to make things much, much better in the future. This is an once in a lifetime opportunity. We must not let it pass.

(Verena Ahne; opinion my own)


Find out what goods Austria imports and exports from/to which countries.

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