Cattle trade suspended

The Government has suspended the export of live cattle to Indonesia until new safeguards are established for the trade

Cattle trade suspended
Cattle trade suspended

By Anna Game-Lopata | June 8, 2011

The Government has suspended the export of live cattle to Indonesia until new safeguards are established for the trade.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig says he has ordered a complete suspension of all livestock exports to Indonesia.

"This suspension will be in place until the Government establishes sufficient safeguards to ensure there is verifiable and transparent supply chain assurance up to and including the point of slaughter for every consignment that leaves Australia," Ludwig says.

While Minister Ludwig was initially against a total ban, outrage and pressure from the ALP backbench and the community has resulted in last night’s compromise.

"The decision to suspend the trade was made following serious consideration of the advice and evidence that has been presented to the Government since last Monday," the Minister says.

An independent reviewer will be appointed to undertake a complete supply chain review of the live export trade for all markets. The independent reviewer will now also inform both the design and application of the new safeguards.

Minister Ludwig says the Indonesian and Australian governments have agreed to work closely together, and with industry, to bring about improvements in practices in abattoirs and to make this important trade sustainable in the longer term.

"The Australian Government is committed to reaching the best possible outcome for the livestock, the industry and our important relationship with Indonesia," Ludwig says.

"The introduction of safeguards to foster a verifiable and transparent supply chain assurance system is the best way to achieve this.

"After meetings held in Jakarta yesterday, both governments have agreed that Australia and Indonesia will implement an immediate and a longer-term plan.

"Experts from both countries will work together to identify abattoirs that adhere to good practices that could form part of an approved supply chain, and to identify those that still need to be improved."

However the industry is concerned the ban will have a severe impact on Australian export producers.

MLA Chairman Don Heatley says even the temporary suspension of the trade will most certainly have an impact on cattle producers and communities in the north and this needs to be acknowledged.

"However industry is confident it can work with the Australian and Indonesian Governments to deliver the solution," he says.

"This decision gives industry sufficient time to implement the controlled system - which will ensure the appropriate treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesia."

"We are pleased that the Government has indicated that it will work with the Indonesian Government, and the Australian and Indonesian industries to implement a solution.

A workshop on the issue held in Katherine yesterday was attended by 100 pastoralists from across the Top End, including the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association President Rohan Sullivan
says the
industry was devastated by the recent coverage and condemned without reservation the way animals had been treated by some Indonesian abattoirs.

"Families are distraught at what they have seen. The welfare of these families affects the welfare of their animals," Sullivan says.

However pastoralists agree animal welfare improvements in Indonesia will not be achieved by banning live exports.

"Pastoralists care for their cattle every inch of the way from their paddocks to ships to overseas feedlots," Sullivan says. "Producers want to get control of the whole process, right to the very end. We have a problem and we need help.

"If we are serious about stopping animal cruelty, we need to work in a culturally sensitive way with the Australian and Indonesian Governments to address the part of the system that’s not working."

Sullivan says stopping exports will simply devastate the Australian cattle industry, farming families, regional areas and damage Australia’s trade relations with Indonesia.

"Indonesian families also depend on the cattle industry and Australian food without making any difference to the issue that is at the heart of this whole debate,"
Sullivan says.

"Nor should it be forgotten that the pastoral industry is one of the few employers for Aboriginal people in remote areas.

"If we stop exports to Indonesian, we are walking away from the millions of dollars that Australian producers have invested in infrastructure, training and improved animal husbandry.

"We won’t fix the problem by walking away from our Indonesian relationships," he says.

Sullivan says the workshop heard from a number of religious leaders that suffering to animals is not ‘halal’, it is just a reflection of the different stage of economic and social development in Indonesia.

"Rather than being judgmental, we need to build on the efforts of the Northern Territory Government and our own producers to build good relations with Indonesia," he says.

"There is no Plan B for this industry. If live exports to Indonesia are closed, families will be bankrupted and for what purpose? It won’t make the slightest bit of difference to the welfare of animals being slaughtered in Indonesia."

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