June 8, 2011


Australia suspends live cattle export to Indonesia



The federal government of Australia formally declared that it is stopping all live cattle exports to Indonesia temporarily until animal welfare safeguards are practiced.


Last week, the federal government announced a temporary ban on trade with 12 Indonesian abattoirs, after a Four Corners report revealed inhumane conditions.


The move to a blanket ban follows strong criticism from within government ranks and the wider community. The RSPCA's Dr Bidda Jones said they are relieved the federal government has finally understood the need to suspend live trade.


But she said Australians will still remain overwhelmingly angry that 6.5 million cattle were allowed to go into a country that had no protection for their welfare.


She is highly critical of the government for acting slowly and said RSPCA and Animals Australia will keep up the pressure for a total ban.


A north-west Queensland mayor said any ban on live exports to Indonesia will have enormous ramifications for northern Australia's economy and not just for the beef industry.


Richmond mayor John Wharton said it is a knee-jerk reaction and the north has been hung out to dry.


"It will send cattle breeders, transport operators and helicopter businesses to the wall," he said.


The Australian Beef Association said Meat and Livestock Australia failed its members by failing to stop a ban on live exports to Indonesia.


Association director John Carter said it is not surprising the government bowed to the growing public pressure.


"My anger at the incompetence of Meat and Livestock Australia over the last 10 years on this issue is not dissipated and we are very concerned for the northern cattlemen who are going to be stuck in dreadful mess," Carter said.


The ABA wants the compensation given to northern cattle producers who, he said, no longer have a market for their cattle.


Meat processors have been calling on the federal government to completely ban the live cattle trade until animal welfare issues are resolved in Indonesia.


Meanwhile, live cattle scheduled to be loaded onto a ship and exported from Western Australia's Pilbara region have been turned away from the port. It is understood the cattle were scheduled to go to Class A abattoirs in Indonesia.


"The cost of the cattle in our yards we are accruing, or the owner of the cattle, which are the exporter, are accruing a large bill for feeding these cattle probably indefinitely at the moment," Paul Brown, manager of the cattle yard where the stock is being held, said.


"This does not just affect the Top End of Australia with the cattle; if they have a suspension of trade, then that will affect all the southern producers as well.


Elders chief executive, Malcolm Jackman, said that the shipment was delayed for operational reasons, and denied any link with federal government enforcement orders banning cattle deliveries to some Indonesian abattoirs.


WA Farmers Federation president Mike Norton said the owners need answers.


Norton said he has no idea why the government ordered them not to load the cattle.


"I know there have been numerous people trying to contact Canberra from Monday and there is very little information flowing out of Canberra for the last 24 hours on this whole issue," he said.


"Obviously it is in a political abyss in Canberra at the moment.


"There is an animal welfare problem the federal government has created and the owners of the cattle and the ship owners have no idea as to what they are able to do."

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