'Fair go' on live exports please

In a letter to Four Corners, long-time live cattle trade supply chain expert calls for the ‘real’ Indonesian story to be told

'Fair go' on live exports please
'Fair go' on live exports

By Anna Game-Lopata | June 10, 2011

An Indonesian-based live cattle supply chain
expert has written to Four Corners today to demand the other side of the story be heard.

In his letter, obtained by SCR, Wellard Rural Exports Marketing Manager Scot Braithwaite explains that his life has revolved around live exports since he was 10 years old.

"I was unloading cattle boats in Malaysia at the age of 13,"
Braithwaite writes. "I have worked for all the major cattle companies including as a Head Stockman in the Northern Territory."

With a degree in economics from the Queensland University, Braithwaite says he has personally sold more than 1.5 million head of cattle into Indonesia since 1991.

While he abhors the treatment of the animals shown in the For Corners program, Braithwaite labels the approach taken "one-sided".

"Your report makes out that close to 100 percent of Australian cattle are treated as was shown on TV," Braithwaite writes.

"In Australia there used to be thing about ‘a fair go’.
I would like to have the same time as those who denigrated my life to show you the other side of our industry. To show you what is really going on."

Braithwaite claims the ship that appears in the footage "for less than 30 seconds" is a vessel that cost tens of millions of dollars to build.

"We have had 3 separate media groups sail with this ship and it can in no uncertain terms be described as best in class," he says. "The Wellard group has another 3 vessels of the same standard with another 2 being built in China.

"This is a total investment of 400 million dollars to ensure that livestock exports from Australia are undertaken at the utmost levels of cow comfort and animal welfare."

Braithwaite also argues the feedlot filmed is world class.

"Viewers should have at least had the opportunity to
see the
large numbers of cattle eating and sleeping comfortably in a fantastic facility," he writes.

"This company has in addition moved to kill all
its cattle through a stunning system that
the owner controls.

"This owner has spent 20 years of his life in the industry, has built his business from nothing, has done all that is required of him from an animal welfare point of view yet your reporter makes no mention of these things."

Braithwaite points out within three hour drive or a 15 minute helicopter ride of the feedlot portrayed there are another three world class facilities.

"All three feedlots including the one filmed, are at, or better than, what can be found in Australia," he argues. "The cattle and the ration being fed leads to a lot less animal health issues then a similar size operation in Australia."

According to Braithwaite one of these facilities is operated and owned by a large Australian pastoral house.

"The operation is run by a North Queensland man who, through his absolute dedication to excellence has built a feedlot and slaughtering system that his company, the industry and he can be very proud of," he writes.

"The system is closed, all the cattle are already killed through their own abattoir. They import 20 to 25000 cattle year. They have been doing this for at least five years. Why should they be shut down?

Another feedlot, owned by a listed Indonesian company has 50,000 cattle and imports about 120,000 cattle a year.

"They have recently built an abattoir, the one briefly shown on the program, as they knew modern methods must come to Indonesia and they were willing to make the investment to make it happen."

Braithwaite says these three importers in Sumatra alone handle 45 percent of total imports.

"The total investment from these three feedlotters alone in infrastructure and stock is over 100 million dollars," he writes.

"Add to that the hundreds of millions that Wellard have recently invested in ships and do you really believe that these people would leave the final product to a murderous bastard with a blunt knife?"

"They not only have tried to ensure the welfare of the animal but have made investments to make the changes all along the chain.

"These people deserve to have their side of the story heard. If the system is not perfect, and it isn’t, they have the wherewithal and the incentive to make it happen in a very short time."

Braithwaite argues all feedlotters in Indonesia practice social responsibility.

"Their operations are in relatively isolated poor areas; the feedlots provide employment opportunity, advancement through effort, and a market for thousands of tons of feedstuffs grown for the cattle.

"My understanding is that 8000 people are directly employed by the feedlots and over one million people are reliant on the regular income made from supplying corn silage and other feedstuffs.

"It is very easy to sit in your comfortable chair and criticise but is it really worth the human cost to ban something that can be fixed and fixed reasonable quickly?"

Braithwaite argues a similar situation in Jakarta where the largest privately owned abattoir, which kills about four to 6000 head a month is a "well-run facility that has no welfare issues."

"In addition it was working on getting a stun system in place well before the Four Corners report.
No photos from here, yet this is another who has been doing the right thing and who will lose his business if the trade is banned."

Importantly, Braithwaite says the Four Corners program failed to mention abattoirs in Indonesia are operated by any number of individual ‘wholesalers’ who control the space temporarily. Each team kills their number for the night and hands over to the next team.

"In any one night eight to ten separate operators can be using the same facility," Braithwaite explains.

"In the case of the footage of the head-slapping, the camera panned to the cattle waiting and the tags of AA, Newcastle Waters and his company were made very prominent.

"Yes, they were there but the team that handled was different to one being filmed."

AA, Newcastle Waters and his company protest their crews are well trained, no head slapping occurs and very large and sharp knives are used to ensure a bloody but quick end.

"I have no reason to doubt them because I have seen a lot of their cattle handled at point of slaughter and their crews are well trained with immediate results," Braithwaite says. "Where can their case be heard?"

Braithwaite says he has watched literally thousands of cattle slaughtered in the boxes in Indonesia.

"Yes there are problems, as there are at every point of slaughter on every type of animal in the world, but 98 percent of the cattle I watched killed was quick and without fuss.

"Why is there not one shot of what happens 98 percent of the time?
The shots of outright cruelty are totally unacceptable and the slaughter of cattle is still gruesome and confronting but is not as prevalent as portrayed in the report.

"We are already taking steps to improve the system and we have the ability to ensure all animals are stunned in a very short time.

Yes there are a couple of operators who in the short term will not be able to handle the new way. But they will be dropped, no commitment to stunning, no supply. No negotiation."

Braithwaite says most privately owned operators who were asked to supply through the boxes have done so.

"They will be asked to only supply though a stunning facility and they will," he says. "They have far too much invested in the whole industry over many years to not do as we ask."

"The possible effect of a ban on live exports is too big a price to pay. Hear the actual other side of the story let the Australian public see both sides."

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