Live Export Ban Could Bankrupt Farmers
The Federal Government has suspended live cattle exports to 11 Indonesian abattoirs after a disturbing Four Corners exposé of slaughter practises in Sumatra aired on Monday night.
The report revealed cows in some Sumatran slaughterhouses were severely brutalised before death, with tails or limbs broken, eyes gouged and tendons slashed. Some cattle were pictured being slaughtered with blunt knives. Live exports to Indonesia are worth about $300 million each year to the Australian economy.
The Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig announced the suspension saying no one can accept the mistreatment of animals. “It’s shocking in the extreme.” Some independent MPs, backbenchers and the Greens have urged the government to go further and ban live export altogether. “What we’ve seen in Indonesia is systemic, the system is so broken, the animal cruelty so widespread there doesn’t seem to be another choice,” Senator Nick Xenophon said. “It’s bad for Australia’s international reputation.”
But graziers and industry officials have complained an export ban would decimate the northern Australian cattle industry. The domestic market would be flooded with cattle previously bound for export, resulting in a drop of up to 20 cents per kilogram in the prices for domestic beef, according to Australian Beef Association Chairman Brad Bellinger.
Industry officials say a ban is not the answer, and Indonesian abattoir workers need better education to ensure responsible slaughtering practices. Graziers already pay levies to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to train Indonesian workers in animal welfare. However, it is clear protocols are not being followed, as four out of the 11 abattoirs investigated by Four Corners had been visited by MLA just the week before.
In Australia, cows are stunned before slaughter to minimise pain and distress in death. This is accepted as Halal. However, the practise is not widely accepted in Indonesia.
Australia’s main live export consortium, LiveCorp, says the industry is committed to preventing animal torture occurring in Indonesia. “The industry has been working hard to introduce stunning into Indonesian abattoirs for some time, and we are accelerating this work so that stunning is adopted in more facilities by the end of the year,” CEO Cameron Hall stated.
Grazier Rick Britton, who also serves on the Agforce cattle board and as Boulia Shire Mayor said a ban would destroy the Australian cattle industry, and Australia would waste an opportunity to educate Indonesian workers in better animal handling practices. “The government needs to have a cool, calm and collective look at this with the MLA and be proactive, not reactive. If we don’t give Indonesia our beef, then someone else will and then the whole situation will be totally out of our control.”