Australia is suspending cattle exports to Indonesia after an outcry over video footage showing inhumane treatment of animals in Indonesian slaughterhouses. The ban could impact both countries.
Australia’s Labor government has been under pressure to halt the export of cattle after television footage showed animals being beaten, eyes gouged and maimed prior to slaughter in some Indonesian abattoirs.
Following public outcry over the footage, Canberra is to impose a six-month initial suspension on shipments to Indonesia. Officials will also review the live export trade to all overseas markets, including the Middle East.
Australia’s Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig says the ban will stay in place until the government is confident the abuse of exported animals will not happen again.
“This suspension will be in place until the government and industry establishes sufficient safeguards which provide a verifiable and transparent supply chain assurance up to and including the point of slaughter for every consignment that leaves Australia,” he said.
Australia’s cattle industry calls the decision an overreaction that could jeopardize trade worth $342 million per year.
Indonesia is Australia's largest live cattle market. Some 500,000 animals are exported there each year.
Queensland cattle producer Alex Stubbs says the suspension of trade will not just hurt the livestock industry.
“I don't want to go and predict doom and gloom but it's going to make it very, very hard for them and the economic fallout of this is yet to be seen. And once that happens, it has a multiplying effect. I just heard there where a helicopter pilot has just stood down three operators. Truckies are being told that, you know, forget it. So it has a multiplying effect through the community, not just the cattle industry itself,” said Stubbs.
Indonesia’s Agriculture Ministry says it will seek urgent talks with its Australian counterpart. Other Indonesian government officials have defended some slaughterhouse practices as part of Islamic slaughtering requirements, although some producers insist that it was against religious teachings to cause suffering to animals before they were killed.
Australia’s ban on shipments to its giant northern neighbor comes at a time when Indonesia is seeking to limit imports of foreign livestock to promote domestic production. Other reports say Indonesia will look to ship live animals for slaughter from New Zealand, a country with a strong farming tradition.
Independent lawmakers and members of the Greens in Australia are expected to introduce legislation to parliament later this month to permanently stop all live exports to both Asia and the Middle East.