The Australian government launched the investigation after new footage of alleged animal cruelty in an Indonesian abattoir emerged. The footage was given to ABC1’s Lateline programme by animal welfare organisation Animals Australia, which claimed that it showed “routine breaches of export slaughter standards” in three Indonesian abattoirs.
Animal experts from DAFF are now reviewing the footage to assess whether it proves that the abattoirs breached World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) animal welfare guidelines. Additionally, DAFF said it was trying to establish whether the animals in the video were exported to Indonesia from Australia, and whether the abuse had taken place at accredited abattoirs.
“The Australian and Indonesian governments are cooperating closely to ensure that the investigation process is followed according to the mutual understanding between the two governments,” said Phillip Glyde, DAFF deputy secretary.
Reaction to the footage among Australian cattle exporters has been mixed. Queensland farm lobby group AgForce said the footage was “unacceptable” and welcomed the government investigation.
AgForce cattle president Grant Maudsley said: “The footage raises questions that can only be answered by a thorough review so let’s allow that review to take place.”
Maudsley added that exporters had made real progress towards improving animal welfare in Indonesian abattoirs since the new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) was introduced last year.
“The live export industry has never pretended it could transform the processing practices employed in a foreign country overnight and there would be challenges. We appreciate the ongoing support of the Federal government, Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig and the general public in allowing us the time to effect real change,” he said.
However, the Pastorialists and Graziers Association (PGA) claimed the footage was “misleading” and dismissed it as an attempt to attack the Australian live export industry.
“At no time during the footage shown on ABC Lateline could Animals Australia clearly identify the cattle as Australian or that the abattoir in question was part of the new export compliance assurance scheme,” said PGA president Rob Gillam.
He added that Animals Australia should focus on engaging with Australian livestock producers rather than paying investigators to carry out undercover filming in Indonesia.
The Australian government suspended all live exports to Indonesia in June 2011 after a similar video footage showing animal welfare abuse in an Indonesian abattoir was released. The ban was lifted in July after the Australian government issued revised export control orders, although Indonesia decided in December to slash Australian cattle imports from 510,000 to 283,000 a year.
Since then, animal welfare activists have released footage of alleged abuse in two Australian abattoirs, with LE Giles abattoir in Victoria losing its licence in 2011 for animal cruelty and Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors’ abattoir in western Sydney currently under investigation for alleged abuse.