June 6, 2011


Australia to restrict cattle exports to Indonesia



The live cattle trade to Indonesia will be limited drastically under a scheme being considered by the Australian and Indonesian governments, with exports allowed only to a number of feedlots and slaughterhouses.


The measures, to be announced as early as today (Jun 6), follow widespread outrage in Australia after the broadcast of disturbing footage of the brutal treatment of cattle in Indonesia taken by animal welfare group Animals Australia.


Under the new proposal, export permits would only be issued for Australian cattle sent to as few as 10 Indonesian abattoirs, deemed as class A facilities that use modern restraining boxes and stunning to render an animal unconscious before it is killed.


It also calls for animal welfare officers to be permanently placed at slaughterhouses, as well as a strict accreditation regime for Indonesian feedlots and the introduction as soon as practicable of an electronic monitoring system of Australian cattle.


According to the audit, a further 15 or so Indonesian slaughterhouses were deemed class B facilities. They meet standards laid down by the World Organisation for Animal Health and have clean facilities and trained staff. But they do not have stunning and some use restraint boxes provided by Meat and Livestock Australia that have been criticised for causing distress to the cattle.


While the industry is keen for these abattoirs to be accredited, it is understood that only class A slaughterhouses will be certified in the short term. The class B abattoirs may be certified later after an assessment by an independent expert, assistance to improve their restraint boxes and encouragement to adopt stun guns. The remaining abattoirs would be encouraged to raise standards with funding and training from Australia. Indonesia, which relies on Australia for 25% of its beef and is anxious to avoid a long-term ban, has been informed of the proposed new restrictions and plans for significant Australian investment in its abattoirs.


According to industry sources, the new restrictions are likely to slash the number of Australian cattle going to Indonesia, hitting the AUD300 million (US$ 322 million) industry hard. The new regime will be costly and will have to be funded predominantly by industry.


Indonesia requires all exported cattle to be fattened at its feedlots before slaughter; therefore, ensuring that feedlot operators not only provide good facilities but can track where cattle are being slaughtered will be critical to improving animal welfare.


Under the proposed scheme, export permits will only be issued to Australian cattle producers if they sell to accredited feedlots, which will be subject to ongoing monitoring. Any failure to ensure cattle are killed at the designated abattoir would see the certification revoked.


Electronic tagging will be introduced. Cattle will have barcoded ear tags, so they can be tracked from the farm to the slaughterhouse. Some Indonesian feedlots already use the system, but it is not mandatory.


A spokesman for Ludwig said the minister was considering all regulatory and legislative options and that further bans and suspensions to facilities have not been ruled out.

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