Australia bans all live cattle exports to Indonesia

Media caption,

Australia has suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia for six months

The Australian government has suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia until safeguards are adopted to end the brutal slaughter of animals.

The move follows an investigation into Indonesian abattoirs by Australia's ABC broadcaster, which showed graphic footage of animals being mistreated.

It prompted a public outcry and demands for the government to act.

Last week, Canberra suspended exports to abattoirs shown in the programme, but now it has issued a blanket ban.

Indonesian officials have rebuffed claims of widespread animal cruelty in their abattoirs.

Bayu Krisnamurti, the Vice Minister of Agriculture, told the BBC that the coverage had created a negative perception of Indonesia overseas.

"I think ABC practised unfair journalism, only the bad practices were portrayed. We see this as an isolated incident.

"It's against the law in Indonesia to be so harsh and cruel to animals. Indonesian regulations explicity say we must practise animal welfare in handling animals in the slaughterhouse."

He acknowledged that it could hurt the country's ability to procure cattle. He said that New Zealand and the US were being looked at as possible alternative suppliers, but Jakarta had not yet contacted either.

Farmers' warning

The ban is the result of public revulsion and outrage at the gruesome footage from Indonesia's abattoirs that was broadcast last week in an ABC TV documentary, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

It showed steers being whipped, beaten and slashed repeatedly, and suffering terrible pain before they are slaughtered.

Australia first announced a ban on live exports to the 12 abattoirs featured in the programme.

But the public demanded more, signing online petitions to halt the trade with Indonesia and pressing lawmakers in Canberra to bring in a complete ban, our correspondent says.

Australia's Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said Canberra would impose a six-month initial suspension on shipments to Indonesia.

"A sustainable live cattle export industry must be built on the ability to safeguard the welfare of the animals. The trade to Indonesia will only recommence when we are certain industry is able to comply with that."

Lyn White, who filmed the graphic images, and is the campaign director for Animals Australia, welcomed the move.

"There has been an extraordinary outpouring of rage that our cattle have been treated like this and have been supplied for such treatment. So this is a first step," she told Australian television.

An early indication that a blanket ban was about to come into effect came on Tuesday, when about 2,000 cattle were not allowed to board a ship in Western Australia that was about to set sail for Indonesia.

Australia exports more than 700,000 cattle each year - the vast majority to Indonesia.

Australian farmers have warned that a ban would destroy many rural livelihoods. Butchers have already reported that beef sales are down by up to 15%.

But Luke Bowen from the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association said he accepted the government's action, even though it would prove costly.

"It is going to hurt, we know that," he said. "There's tens of thousands of cattle in the supply chains now. But we have to stay focused on the animal welfare outcome, and we're very encouraged by the government's commitment to the trade in the long term."

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