Campaign group Animals Australia said it was “horrified” that Abbott, who was speaking at a business breakfast during his trip to Jakarta, was apologising to Indonesia for the incident.
It pointed out that the suspension had been put in place by the Labour government to prevent “heinous” animal cruelty in Indonesian slaughterhouses, with investigations resulting in a ban in the ‘Mark I’ slaughter box widely used throughout the country.
The group added that Abbott’s claim that a Liberal government would never have suspended live exports to Indonesia was undermined by the fact that the Howard government suspended live exports to Egypt after an Animals Australia investigation in 2006. “Sheep exports to Egypt remain banned to this day,” it said.
In response to Abbott’s remarks, Animals Australia has launched its own apology on behalf of the Australian people to the animals that suffer in live export. The groups said that the “people’s apology” had gone viral on social media channels, reaching over 350,000 people in less than 24 hours.
“As far as we are concerned, Mr Abbott’s ‘apology’ is merely a road bump on the path to ending live export,” it said.
“Animals Australia’s campaign against this cruel trade has continued through four changes of government. Over that time we have seen dramatic changes. Some of the cruellest practices we have documented have been banned and live export is now harder and more expensive, with fewer animals being exported as a result.”
Abbott’s visit to Indonesia came as negotiators for the two countries agreed a deal that will see a special quota for 53,000 additional “slaughter-ready” Australian cattle to be exported to Indonesia in addition to a December quota for 46,000 cattle for fattening in Indonesian feedlots.
The Australian Green party has slammed the agreement to increase live exports to Indonesia and said it would make ending live exports and establishing an independent office of animal welfare “a post-election priority”.
“I will reintroduce the Greens bills to end the live export trade and set up the independent Office of Animal Welfare when parliament resumes,” promised Greens spokesperson for animal welfare Senator Lee Rhiannon
“Hundreds of thousands of Australians are outraged by the cruelty animals endure in the live export trade. It is obscene that Tony Abbott has ignored the exposes of barbaric conditions inherent in the trade and the deep distress Australians feel about it.”
She added that the previous government had been unsuccessful in its attempt to regulate live exports, and argued that the only humane option was to substitute the trade with chilled box meat exports.
“A highly successful chilled meat export industry will serve to boost the Australian cattle industry by providing greater market certainty, increased employment, as well as improved animal welfare,” she said.