Australia halts “six month” suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia after 30 days

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2011:
CANBERRA–Australian agriculture minister
Joe Ludwig on July 7, 2011 lifted a 38-day
suspension of live cattle exports to 11 specific
Indonesian slaughterhouses and a 30-day
suspension of live cattle exports to anywhere in
Indonesia without visibly and demonstrably
accomplishing anything to improve animal welfare.
Ludwig on June 8, 2011 announced a
six-month suspension of livestock exports to
Indonesia, and a review of live exports to all
overseas buyers, including those in the Middle
East. Ludwig had suspended exports to the 11
specific slaughterhouses on June 1, 2011, hours
after the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
program Four Corners aired video documentation of
alleged halal slaughtering procedures in Jakarta,
Bogor, Bandar Lampung, and Medan which “crossed
the boundaries of ignorance and cultural
difference into the realm of sadistic brutality,”
assessed Penelope Debelle of the Adelaide Advertiser.


Said Colorado State University slaughter
expert Temple Grandin to the Four Corners team,
“That violates every humane standard there is all
around the world.” The video evidence was
collected by Animals Australia campaign director
Lyn White, a former police officer, during
March 2011.
As well as documenting extensive
deliberately inflicted animal suffering, White
documented routine and habitual violations of
halal slaughter law, prescribed by the Q’ran.
Halal slaughter done according to Islamic law is
supposed to be done with a single cut, using an
extremely sharp blade. Killing animals within
sight of others is haram–forbidden–as is
harming animals in any way before slaughter.
Ludwig promised that slaughterhouses
receiving Australian livestock will now have to
meet animal welfare guidelines, but such
promises have repeatedly been issued before.
They have not been enforced.
The closest Ludwig came to introducing an
enforcement mechanism in ending the latest of
many temporary suspensions of livestock exports
to various nations was to state that now,
“Supply chains will be verified by commercial
independent auditors with the entire process to
be independently audited on a regular basis.
These audit reports will be made public
“The supply chain assurances mean,”
Ludwig explained, “that the exporter is required
to trace the animals from the domestic supply
chain into the feedlot, from the feedlot into
the abattoir. Each abattoir will be
independently audited.”
Exporters will now be required to collect
and publish data pertaining to where animals were
fattened, how they were transported, and where
they were slaughtered.
Indonesian deputy agriculture minister
Bayu Krishnamurti told Esther Samboh of the
Jakarta Post that Indonesian slaughter standards
are now compatible with those set by the World
Organization for Animal Health (OIE). But while
improved tracking procedures permit more
effective disease control, as required by the
OIE, and in theory might permit investigators to
identify specific individual animals who have
been victims of extreme cruelty, better tracking
does nothing to prevent cruelty from occurring.
“This system the minister has put in
place will still allow cattle to be slaughtered
while fully conscious in Indonesian abattoirs,”
White told ABC Radio.
Failure to require pre-stunning is “a
really big flaw in the system,” Australian Royal
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
chief executive Heather Neil told the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation.
White and Grandin were both especially
critical of the Indonesian use of slaughtering
equipment provided by Meat & Livestock Australia,
an arm of the Australian government whose
operations are funded by levies on livestock
producers.
‘ “We will improve all of our abattoirs,'”
Indonesian co-ordinating minister for the economy
Hatta Rajas told a news conference attended by
Australian foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd.
“We, of course, would welcome the use of new
devices that meet the halal standard. This is
what we emphasized” in discussions with Rudd,
Rajas emphasized.
“This looks to me very much like back to
self-regulation, with some assurances from
industry they will meet standards,” Australian
Green Party senator Rachel Siewert told
Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Stunning before slaughter “has to be a
critical part of any new process in Indonesia,”
Siewert said.
Green Party member of the Australian
parliament Adam Bandt and independents Andrew
Wilkie and Nick Xenophon pledged to introduce
private member’s bills seeking either to halt
live exports or phase them out. But prime
minister Julia Gillard indicated that she would
not allow any of the bills to reach the floor for
free votes following members’ own consciences.

Economic leverage

Indonesian President Susilo Bam-bang
Yudhoyono initially responded to the short-lived
suspension of Australian cattle exports by
ordering an investigation of slaughterhouses.
“We have to highly respect animal welfare. The
agriculture minister and health minister must
visit the abattoirs,” Yudhoyono told a June 10,
2011 news conference.
Yudhoyono told the ministers “to act
immediately to prevent a possible increase in
meat price, as the mainly Muslim country will
celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in July and
the Eid al-Fitr holiday in August,” reported
Agence France-Presse.
“We have to make a maximum effort to
ensure our domestic meat supply,” Yudhoyono
concluded, suggesting that the Australian action
should encourage efforts to make Indonesia
self-sufficient in meat production. Currently
about 40% of the Indonesian meat supply come as
live shipments from Australia.
“Indonesian officials said the Australian
cattle could be replaced with imports from other
countries, such as Brazil and Canada,” wrote
Samboh of the Jakarta Post. “The local cattle
industry saw the ban as an opportunity to reduce
Indonesia’s dependence on Australian imports,
with the Central Statistics Agency showing
current stocks of at least 14.5 million cattle
for meat in Indonesia.”
But because comparable numbers of cattle
were not immediately available, the Indonesian
slaughter volume reportedly dropped by about 15%.
“We learned a good lesson: being largely
dependent on an international trade carries huge
risk for us,” Indonesian deputy agriculture
minister Krishnamurti told Amy Coopes of Agence
France-Presse.
Two days after Australian agriculture
minister Ludwig reauthorized cattle exports to
Indonesia, Krishnamurti issued import permits
for 180,000 cattle from various sources,
including Australia.
Australia is the world’s largest exporter
of livestock. Sheep are shipped alive to Kuwait,
Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates,
Qatar and Israel. Cattle are shipped alive to
Malaysia, the Philippines, Jordan, Japan and
Brunei, but Indonesia is by far the largest
purchaser, buying about half a million
Australian cattle per year. This accounts for
about 60% of the Australian cattle export trade.
The temporary suspension of exports
reportedly cost the Australian government more
than $30 million in compensation to live cattle
exporters, while frustrated ranchers threatened
to shoot their animals rather than continue to
feed them when they could not be sold. “The
episode has left Meat & Livestock Australia,
which takes $5 for each head of livestock to
represent the industry’s interests and safeguard
animal welfare overseas, embarrassed and
exposed,” wrote Debelle of the Advertiser.
But as Debelle detailed, Animals
Australia investigator Lyn White has several
times previously produced videos that exposed
similar abuses and produced similar government
responses.
“In 2005,” Debelle recalled, White and
a British colleague visited Kuwait, Oman, Qatar
and Bahrain on a 14-day investigation that
documented appalling treatment of sheep,” and
extensive abuse of cattle at the Bassateen
slaughtering complex near Cairo, Egypt.
“Australia had sent nearly a million cattle to
Egypt to die in this way,” Debelle continued.
“The footage of the sheep went to 60 Minutes and
the live trade with Egypt was suspended for most
of 2006. When the sheep trade was reopened,
White again was there, documenting sheep being
trussed and carried on the roof racks of cars.
The additional evidence stopped the trade,”
again temporarily.
“Within 10 minutes in the Indones-ian
abattoir,” Debelle wrote, “White knew she had
enough footageĆ What was particularly chilling was
that she was able to film openly. It was a
terrible sign that the workers felt there was
nothing wrong with their conduct because it had
tacit Australian approval.
“White did not go [directly] to Joe
Ludwig,” Debelle explained, but immediately
went public instead, because when White
approached Ludwig in 2010 about “mistreatment of
sheep in Kuwait, Ludwig turned the issue over to
the industry and White is still awaiting a
response. The problem, she says, is that
animal welfare sits under the same minister as
agriculture, whose primary stakeholders are the
meat and livestock industry. The interests of
animals will always come second.”

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