I am deeply concerned at the turmoil caused in Northern Australia by the suspension of the live cattle trade to Indonesia.
Nobody would condone the animal cruelty witnessed in the Four Corners programme. And nobody would contend that what we witnessed was representative of the whole Indonesian abattoir scene. The cruelty must be stopped, but to do that by suspending the entire export trade is surely using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and creating more problems than it solves.
What we are now witnessing is a Government reacting to an extreme television expose stirred up by animal liberation extremists, with apparently no understanding or real concern for the massive impact upon northern Australian beef producers,Indonesian farmers and all of the ancillary services which support Northern Australia's major agricultural industry, at the height of their selling season.
Industry experts, many of whom have visited Indonesian abattoirs, say that they have never witnessed such cruelty. Whilst any cruelty is unacceptable,there is no doubt the Four Corners producers dug deep and hard to find footage to meet their chosen angle.
Industry experts also say that it would be a relatively simple matter to immediately make export sales conditional upon ultimate slaughter in Australian approved abattoirs only. The Indonesian President has personally advocated this solution.
Most of the Australian public would not know of how exports of weaner cattle to Indonesia have in recent years dominated the beef industry in our North. Station programmes,transport (road and shipping), marshalling yards,feed production etc. all represent significant investment and employment to service this trade. At the Indonesian end,local investment in feedlots, abattoirs and small farmer production of feed for the feedlots, all represent very important economic activity and employment for a developing country.
If our Government has any real concern for human and animal welfare, rather than pandering to noisy extremists,it would immediately move to resolve this matter now,not in six months time.
(This post, minus the fourth and fifth paragraphs, was published as a letter in The Australian on 14th June.)