Did animal cruelty report lead to an over-reaction?

 
Australian cattle are uploaded at  Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta No Australian cattle will arrive in Indonesia for the next six months

More than a week after its broadcast, powerful reverberations are still being felt from the ABC Four Corners investigation into the mistreatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs.

An extraordinarily jolting piece of television journalism, the public response to the footage was immediate and visceral. Before the programme was over, distressed viewers had already started calling their lawmakers demanding an end to live cattle exports to Indonesia.

The following morning, the websites of animal welfare groups, like Animals Australia and RSPCA, could not cope with the number of people who wanted to sign their online petitions. Radio talkback shows were deluged with angry calls.

Australia's butchers have also experienced a backlash. The Australian Meat Industry Council says there has been a 15% drop in sales as consumers shunned beef. And this comes despite many consumers being aware than animals in Australia are slaughtered far more humanely.

Last week, the Australian government announced a ban on live cattle exports to the 12 abattoirs featured in the report. Labor MPs, who had also watched in horror, demanded nothing less.

But under pressure from the public and facing something of a backbench revolt on the issue, now the government has gone further and announced a temporary suspension on all live exports to Indonesia. The ban will remain in place for at least six months, in the hope that safeguards can be introduced at Indonesian abattoirs. Australia's Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the ban would remain in place until the government received assurances that animals would be treated with more care.

Peculiarly, the Four Corners programme - fronted by same journalist, Sarah Ferguson, who was behind the Code of Silence expose of rugby league in 2009 - received its lowest viewing of the year. However, no piece of television journalism aired in Australia in the past 12 months has had such an profound impact on the public and, more importantly, government policy.

There are fears within rural communities that a blanket ban could destroy livelihoods. Australia exports 900,000 cattle each year, and the vast majority go to Indonesia. As this report from the Northern Territory shows, even a temporary suspension will not only hit cattle farmers, but all the support industries, like trucking firms and, more curiously, helicopter mustering groups. There's another piece here about the reaction to the suspension.

The Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce has said the ban is an over-reaction. "We have over-reached and that will have consequences," he said.

There are voices in the cattle industry who believe that a short-term ban will save the Australian cattle export industry in the longer-term through the introduction of much-needed improvements to the slaughtering process in Indonesia.

So is this a proportionate response? Or will the cost for the rural economy simply be too much to bear?

By the way, for those interested in how the programme was put together, there is an interesting piece here.

Jonathan Holmes, the presenter of ABC's Media Watch, also offers some telling insights on this genre of reportage.

 
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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 49.

    Please don't believe the Australian government spin on this issue. The original decision to stop the live exports was a knee-jerk reaction by an inexperienced and lacklustre federal minister.
    To make way for this weekend's carbon tax announcement, Joe Ludwig reversed his decision..
    Meanwhile, Australian consumer sentiment keeps diving as we watch Labor spiral out of control.
    Election, please.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 48.

    We might talk about the pecking order of humans and animals when determining international, intercultural ethics when it comes to livestock and cattle. Indonesians in the cattle prodding and slaughter industry are not at the top of the pecking order. Therefore, they abuse or use reckless authority down. I think, maybe? May we beware of demonizing slaughterhouse Indonesians.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 47.

    #43 Mollypollyfolly - but I am not "going to be transported on a truck etc and have my throat slashed".
    I am a human...you are describing animals, bred to be eaten.
    Of course, the animals should be slaughtered humanely.
    It's when some people refer to other people or practises as "sub human" that I worry.
    Last time a people and their practises were described as sub-human was under the Nazis.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 46.

    to anyone who would like some information from a farmers perspective i suggest they read this letter http://community.cowhorse.com.au/profiles/blogs/letter-to-4-corners-by-scot
    this was sent to four corners and it shows the other side of the story

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 45.

    @32, The Moz: "If only they had of taken out the emotion and appointed livestock supply chain experts to assist the indonesian's to adhere to the licenses granted them."
    THE MEAT AND LIVESTOCK AUTHORITIES, SUCH AS LIVE CORP, HAVE AND DO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE.Why are you commenting on an issue you know nothing about? Maybe we should also take the emotion out of the issue of murder eh?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    @#2 The Moz:"argh, more Australian political garbage."

    More petty commentary from a pointless far away, completely out of touch perspective. This is why I question why there has to be a blog on issues that have nothing to do with the UK, when you get ill-educated, ill-informed, indifferent comments like this rubbish. Blogging is just a pointless time-waster for so many.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 43.

    @23, Greg Warner: "Also, as you know I eat the beef in question...I believe I have a right to make probably the most pertinent comment in this debate."
    Your arrogance and complete denial of the issue at hand is mind-boggling. How would you like to be transported on a truck for hundreds of kms, then put on a ship for a few days, and then to have your throat slashed upwards of 30 times?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 42.

    As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields (Tolstoy). Someone who is capable of butchering a bovine so thoughtlessly is arguably able to do the same with a human. If we must eat meat, let it be processed at home, and exported in packaged form. Halal meat can be processed in Australia. End of story.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 41.

    We Australians have a right to decide where, or if, live export should be undertaken. If animal protection laws are lacking in the destination countries, such as Indonesia, Egypt, and the Middle East, then it must be stopped regardless of socalled religious slaughter practices. If animals must continue to be commodified, they must be given due respect up to the final moment.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 40.

    #35, the entire meat processing industry in Australia was modified 20 years ago to allow for live export. All of the abattoirs in the Northern Territory, where I grew up, were closed. Jobs for seasonal workers disappeared overnight. Did that upset you as much? Did you even know about the restructuring of the industry in the 1980s?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    #36: "#31...because some religious practices involve specific dietary laws, you refer to them as "sub-human"."
    You clearly did not read my post contextually. I was not referring to religious practices being "sub-human," but the blatant act of CRUELTY displayed by many of the Indonesian slaughterers. These beautiful creatures should not be exported to countries that do not animal protection.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 38.

    It has been quoted on a number of occasions that any northern producers stand to lose a great deal of money due to this "temp" market closure. Given their proximity to their market and economic exposure had any of them taken an interest and visited their markets?? Did they see anything?? Did they report any concers?? If not how were Meat and Livestock Australia. Did everybody go together??

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    I still say i've seen worse in Australia (see earlier post). However if Australia has to use a few people to make a hypocrytical and self ritceous statement about a whole country while still suckin down whatever we choose to import irrespective of how much cruelty both human or animal has occurred to make it. Well darn arent we just the self righteous ones.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 36.

    #31...because some religious practices involve specific dietary laws, you refer to them as "sub-human".
    Very Nazi - ish POV.
    Just because one religion's practises are different to yours, they are "sub-human"?
    PeterD...many people DO take their religion seriously, as in Indonesia.
    And where is the evidence of "lowlifes who take pleasure in gratuitous violence when slaughtering animals"?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 35.

    mollypollyfolly
    i am sorry if i don't follow your views however this doesn't make me ignorant. i do not see why the government should and has done this outright ban when it will destroy the cattle industry in the north and have a ripple effect that will effect all areas. all because the government has tried to show they are taking a hard line to win votes not what is best for the country

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    Jack3377, a bit of common sense tells us that if workers a paid the equivalent of AU$2 a day for slaughterhouse work, that no amount of education is going to have much of an impact on the welfare and consideration of beautiful, innocent and petrified bovines. I do wish people who have little knowledge of matters would just read and not comment for their ignorance is hard to swallow.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 33.

    24 Greg Warner
    If you need to refer to 2000 plus year old mythologies to know the difference between humans and animals, the problem’s yours not mine. Like many others, I’m not a vegetarian but I do oppose gratuitous violence when slaughtering animals, particularly those lowlifes who take pleasure in such acts.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    23 Greg Warner
    Western ideas and concepts like bull-fighting, dog-fighting and foxhunting? Asian ideas and concepts such as certain Hindu sects that eschew the killing of any form of animal life? Or consider those Asian Thais abusing elephants and those Asian Thais creating sanctuaries for such elephants.
    You have the right to post and others have the right to contest what your post.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    The Australian Meat and Livestock authority do provide funding to the Indonesian slaughterhouses, to help them provide better training, and supposedly more humane "support" equipment. Go watch ABC's 4 Corners program, and you'll see that training is not the issue, but removing intended brute force and cruelty is at the core of these sub-human slaughter practices. Stop live export worldwide.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 30.

    The title of this article is disgusting. How can the words "animal cruelty" and "over-reaction" ever be placed in the same sentence? This article comes nowhere near close enough to highlighting the rampant abuse that defines live export. Instead, it takes a half-hearted view of an important decision to protect animal rights in that if animals are to be commodified, humane laws must apply.

 

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