Australians shun beef after Indonesia abattoir film

Australian cows are loaded onto a truck after arriving at the Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta May 31, 2011 Indonesia is Australia's largest market for live-cattle exports

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Australian butchers are reporting a slump in demand for beef after ABC broadcast an investigation into animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs.

Butchers are reporting a drop in beef sales of 10-15% since last week's programme featuring graphic footage of animals being slashed and whipped.

The Australian government has since suspended live animal exports to the abattoirs shown in the programme.

But there are growing calls for a blanket ban on exports to Indonesia.

The Australian Meat Industry Council said business had been dramatically affected by the outpouring of community concern.

Some customers had shunned beef completely, it said.

Others wanted assurances from butchers on how the meat was slaughtered.

Organic and what are known in the industry as ethical butchers are reporting a rise in sales.

Compromise

Last week, the Australian government suspended exports to the abattoirs featured in the report.

But the programme has had a profound effect on public opinion in Australia, and the Prime Minister Julia Gillard is facing increased demands for a blanket ban on all live animal exports to Indonesia.

One MP has sent her footage that was not shown in the programme to persuade her to support a total ban that would be phased in over the next three years.

Some 700,000 cattle are exported from Australia each year, the vast majority to Indonesia, and the meat and livestock industry fears that rural livelihoods could be destroyed if a blanket ban comes into effect.

It is therefore proposing a compromise, whereby Australian cattle would only be slaughtered at Indonesian abattoirs which met international standards.

Animal welfare groups, meanwhile, are planning a national day of action later in the month.

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