Australia lifts ban on cattle exports to Indonesia


  • Business
  • Thursday, 07 Jul 2011

SYDNEY (AP) - Australia will resume exporting live cattle to Indonesia within weeks after a ban on the $350 million per year trade was lifted, with the federal government saying new rules for exporters will help ensure the animals are treated humanely.

The government banned exports to Indonesia last month after an outcry over a video that aired in Australia showing animals crying out and writhing as they were slaughtered. The footage also showed cattle being beaten and taking minutes to bleed to death as their throats were repeatedly slashed.

"The Australian community made it clear it would not support a trade in which these things occurred," Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig told reporters on Wednesday. "I want to make it clear the decision to suspend the trade was not an easy decision to make, but it was the right decision."

Under the new system, slaughterhouses will have to prove they meet animal welfare guidelines. Ludwig said tracking and transparency in the cattle supply chain will also be improved.

"The exporter is required to trace the animals from the domestic supply chain into the feedlot, from the feedlot into the abattoir," he said. "The abattoir will be independently audited."

In Jakarta, Indonesian officials greeted the revocation as a good news.

"It's good if they lifted the ban," deputy minister of agriculture Bayu Krisnamurti told The Associated Press. "In principle, we are always open to imports to cover our shortages at home."

The ban was a reminder of the need for awareness of how cattle should be treated, said Thomas Sembiring, chairman of Indonesia's Beef Importers Association.

Malcolm Jackman, managing director of Elders Ltd. which supplies 60 percent of the Australian cattle exported to Indonesia and owner of an Indonesia slaughterhouse, said he aimed to send the first shipment to Indonesia on Aug. 1.

"I think you'll see that some of the larger exporters such as ourselves will be up and running fairly quickly," Jackman told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television late Wednesday.

"But I suspect it's going to take a couple of months to get the industry up to full speed," he added.

The animal welfare agencies that video taped and analyzed the scenes of cruelty broadcast on Australian television, Animals Australia and the RSPCA, said there was no guarantee that Indonesian slaughterhouses would use the Australian-standard technique of stunning - a process of rendering cattle temporarily unconscious with a device that causes a brain hemorrhage - before they are killed.

"They could still suffer the pain and distress of throat cutting while fully conscious, and that's not only unacceptable to the RSPCA, it's going to be unacceptable to the Australian community," RSPCA Australia chief executive Heather Neil said in a statement.

The minor Greens party says they will continue with plans to introduce legislation to the Australian parliament that would permanently ban all live animal exports.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of livestock. Exports of live Australian cattle account for up to 40 percent of the beef eaten in Indonesia.

The government's decision to halt exports was met with outrage by the Australian cattle industry, which blamed the ban for a sharp drop in income.

Last month, Australia's best-known Outback cattle ranch, the iconic Bullo River Station in the Northern Territory, was put on the market after its owner said the ban destroyed her livelihood.

Lang Coppin, who owns a cattle station in Western Australia's Pilbara region, said the lifting of the ban came just in time. About half of the 4,000 cattle Coppin exports each year go to Indonesia, and his business has been struggling since the exports were halted.

"All of a sudden they were just going to shut us all down, and I think they thought, 'Bloody hell, I guess we better do something about this,"' Coppin told The Associated Press. "(The ban) was just a very bad political decision and the ramifications, I think, between the two countries have been very damaging."

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