Indonesia: Animal welfare issues exposed again by animal activists

THE live export industry is facing fresh pressure to clean up its act with new vision of cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs uncovered by animal activists, despite strict new rules for exporters being in place for nearly six months.
The fresh allegations will place pressure on Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig – who was criticised for mishandling the controversy last year – ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle.

The footage, seen by The Age, includes a slaughterman at Temur Petir stabbing at the face of a cow with a blunt metal file while it is in a restraint box. The animal jumps onto its hind legs as it attempts to climb out of the box. Animals Australia is confident the abattoir is part of an accredited supply chain.

The video, a complaint and a report from the RSPCA was handed to the agriculture department last Friday who are now investigating. RSPCA chief scientist Bidda Jones identified dozens of breaches of the new supply chain assurance rules, which were introduced to protect animal welfare following the crisis last year.

The breaches include; failing to check the animal is dead before processing its body, keeping the animal in restraint for too long, interfering with the wounds after the throat cut and hosing the animal with water prior to and just after the throat cut.

At a second, run-down, abattoir in Cakung an animal is put into the banned Mark I restraint box to be slaughtered, as workers restrain the animal it repeatedly bashes its head on a concrete plinth.

An Indonesian restraint box used for holding cattle supplied my MLA at the cost of millions and is quite useless.

“The idea that Australian cattle are being slaughtered in Mark I boxes, after they were proven to be inhumane last year, is appalling,” Dr Jones said.

The group does not believe Cakung could be part of an accredited supply chain given it is in a run down state and use of “appalling slaughter practices”, but has serious concerns that Australian cattle are going there anyway.

It has based this view on information from the investigator who saw ear tags that may relate to an Australian exporter as well as the slaughter of one animal that resembled an Australian breed of cattle – local cattle are much smaller.

Animals Australia’s campaign director Lyn White told The Age that it was clear the new regulatory system cannot and would not provide protection for Australian cattle.

“The government hoped that this new system would quell public concerns. It has failed its first independent test,” Ms White said.

She believes 62 abattoirs have been approved to slaughter and she said to suggest that there would be daily compliance with basic standards of welfare in all slaughterhouses was “ludicrous.”

Ms White said there needed to be more severe penalties.

A meat industry source said Caking was a large, old, government-owned abattoir in East Jakarta. It was highly unlikely that it was Australian cattle being slaughtered there, he said.

Temu Petir was a newer abattoir in north Jakarta. The source said he believed whatever wrongdoing the video showed were “not major animal welfare incidents, but they are things that are going to require corrective actions”.

Critic of the industry and Labor MP Melissa Parke agrees with Animals Australia that there needs to be harsher penalties for breaches.

“This will be a test for the new regulatory regime. I continue to hold the view that pre-slaughter stunning should be mandatory and that there should be clear and serious consequences for breaches of the exporter supply chain assurance system,” she said.

Senator Ludwig, the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council and the Cattle Council all acknowledged the investigation but declined to comment on the allegations until the inquiry was complete.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon last night seized on the fresh evidence saying it should be the responsibility of the Australian government to monitor and audit the abattoirs.

“Instead it is left to courageous and committed animal rights activists such as Animals Australia to expose the continuing cruelty in the live export industry,” she said.

Senator Rhiannon called on the government to put more resources into monitoring live exports.

“To maintain any public confidence in the system, the government needs to apply the full force of sanctions in this instance. Ultimately live exports should be banned.”

Last Friday, Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Phillip Glyde said officers in the department are reviewing footage of the alleged animal welfare issues and are checking if the abattoirs operate under an exporter supply chain assurance system.

He said the embassy had informed relevant officials in Indonesia of the receipt of the complaint.