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Exporting kids and cows

  • 09 June 2011

On Tuesday the Federal Government 'suspended' transport of Australian live cattle to Indonesia for 'up to six months'. This was not, as some claim, a ban. It was a grudging response to domestic political outrage over the proven — seen, heard, admitted — cruelty to our cows being slaughtered within shambolic Indonesian abattoirs.

Clearly some abattoir workers couldn't be fagged to sharpen their knives. Equally, although Indonesian laws prohibit cruel treatment, those laws are unenforced and unenforceable.

For most people, especially those who live in cities and towns, our closest contact with animals (other than domestic pets) is on a plate. We don't much question our right to eat them, and usually prefer not to see how they are raised, and how they are killed.

But our fastidious evasion of the reality of the end of lives of gentle, vegetarian, domestic beasts is not shared by the meat industry in Australia which has known about these practices for more than a decade, nor for the owners and operators of slaughterhouses throughout this secular Islamic nation.

Somehow, because we have not witnessed it directly, the notion of protecting doomed animals from fear, pain and horror is an exotic notion. There are even some folk who believe that beating an animal before slaughter improves the final result: tenderised, adrenalised, and tastier.

Between the Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig's initial, pallid response to the Four Corners report  calling for an 'investigation' (there are now seven), and Julia Gillard's current 'ban', there was a torrent of outrage, tears and hypocrisy about the program's depictions.

Personally I was a little off-put by Bob Katter's remarkable assurances that slicing a bellowing Brahman more than 40 times with a blunt machete was a 'religious practice' we would, at our peril, disrespect. In fact the notion that the practices we saw were halal was publicly refuted by spokesmen for Islam, within and outside Australia.

The Australian live animal export industry has long been aware that standards of humane treatment in Indonesia, and elsewhere, have been abysmal. So have the RSPCA and a large number of not for profit animal welfare industries. What is truly embarrassing is that at least some of the exporters can set aside the callous torture and terrorising of captive animals because