August 7, 2022

Australia Suspends Live Cattle Exports to Indonesia

CANBERRA — Australia said Wednesday that it was suspending cattle exports to Indonesia, its top market, after an outcry over video footage showing inhumane treatment of cattle there.

Animal rights groups also called for an outright ban on the trade to other countries.

The minority Labor government has been under pressure to halt the 320 million Australian dollar, or $342 million, live cattle business with Indonesia after television footage showed cattle being beaten, whipped and maimed prior to slaughter in some Indonesian abattoirs.

Canberra will impose a six-month initial suspension on shipments to Indonesia, and the government will also review the live export trade to all overseas markets, including the Middle East, the Australian agriculture minister, Joe Ludwig, said.

“A sustainable live cattle export industry must be built on the ability to safeguard the welfare of the animals. The trade to Indonesia will only recommence when we are certain industry is able to comply with that,” he said.

Lyn White, who shot the graphic footage and is the campaign director for Animals Australia, said that the suspension should have come sooner and that the industry had been aware of problems in Indonesia for years.

“There has been an extraordinary outpouring of rage that our cattle have been treated like this and have been supplied for such treatment. So this is a first step,” Ms. White said in an Australian television interview.

Australia exports about 500,000 head of cattle a year to Indonesia, representing 60 percent of its live cattle trade. The country’s main competitor in the global livestock trade is Brazil.

Australia’s livestock trade to all countries is valued at 730 million dollars, with sheep exported to Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Israel, and cattle shipped to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Jordan, Japan and Brunei.

Adam Bandt, a Green Party lawmaker who provides a critical one-seat buffer for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s governing Labor Party, said he would bring legislation to Parliament to stop all live exports immediately, to both Asia and the Middle East.

“There can be no halfway house on this issue. I think we have a real opportunity in the next few weeks to end what is an inhumane and unethical practice,” Mr. Bandt said.

Indonesia’s deputy Agriculture minister, Bayu Krisnamurthi, said Jakarta had not been formally told of the ban, but it would spark intensive talks between the two Group of 20 members, who for years have been trying to reach an agreement on a free-trade pact.

“Indonesia has communicated intensively with Australia and will continue to do so. We have agreed to keep trying to seek the best solution to all parties involved,” he said.

Indonesia and Australia had two-way trade in merchandise and services worth 11.3 billion dollars in 2009, and two-way investment worth around 4.5 billion dollars in 2008.

Australia’s cattle industry put forward a plan on Monday aimed at reducing the suffering of animals sent to Indonesia and said the sudden suspension would cause “huge dislocation” to the cattle industry in northern Australia.

The industry group Meat Livestock Australia said under its plan, cattle would only be supplied to 25 accredited Indonesian slaughter houses currently meeting World Organization for Animal Health standards.

The conservative opposition in Parliament, which has strong support from farmers, said the suspension was a blunt instrument that would hit all Indonesian abattoir workers, as well as risk trade and security retaliation from Indonesia.

“We’ve made a statement also about our nearest neighbor Indonesia, who we are totally reliant on for other things like border control,” said Barnaby Joyce, the National Party’s Senate leader. “I don’t think we have thought through the ramifications.”

The previous conservative government under Prime Minister John Howard banned live cattle and sheep exports to Saudi Arabia between 1991 and 2000 after hundreds of animals died from heat stress en route to the Persian Gulf.

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