Australia suspends live cattle trade to Indonesia

image captionIndonesia is Australia's largest export market for live cattle

The Australian government has suspended the live export of cattle to 11 abattoirs in Indonesia, after a TV documentary showed brutal treatment of animals at the facilities.

The footage, broadcast on ABC, showed cattle being flogged and taking minutes to die after their necks were slashed.

Some MPs have called for a total ban on the trade with Indonesia, worth more than A$300m (£200m; $320m) a year.

But Indonesian officials have asked Australia not to rush into a decision.

The head of animal welfare at Indonesia's agriculture ministry, Sri Mukartini, said: "Animal welfare is a relatively new issue in Indonesia. We're still developing regulations."

'Systemic problem'

Australia's Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said he had found the images in ABC's Four Corners programme "shocking in the extreme".

"I have decided to halt the trade of live animals to the facilities identified by the footage," he said.

"Further, I will appoint an independent reviewer to investigate the complete supply chain for live exports up to and including the point of slaughter.

"I reserve the right to add further facilities to the banned list, if required."

The lobby group Animals Australia first uncovered cruel treatment in the abattoirs in March.

The ABC documentary showed cattle being whipped, kicked, slashed with knives and banging their heads against concrete floors.

One official from the animal welfare group, the RSPCA, said some steers might still have been conscious when they were dismembered.

The BBC's Sydney correspondent, Nick Bryant, says that many viewers who saw the gruesome footage said they were physically sick at the sight of Australian cattle being treated so cruelly.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said he would immediately introduce a bill to ban the live export of cattle to Indonesia completely.

"We have cattle going to Indonesia which are being mistreated by numerous slaughterhouses on a scale that proves it is a systemic problem, not only in Indonesia... but it's a systemic problem in Australia's whole live-export industry," Mr Wilkie told reporters.

The Australian live-export industry has shipped more than 6.5 million head of cattle to Indonesia for slaughter over the last 20 years.

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