Live Exports: The Graziers Perspective

By Genevieve Hopkins, 15 June 2011

The shocking images of animal cruelty exposed by Animals Australia and aired on ABCs Four Corners[i] sparked outrage and horror around Australia. A strong campaign by Animals Australia, RSPCA and GetUp! to ban live exports was launched with massive public response. I was an active supporter of these bans, putting my name on the petition to ban live exports, writing to my parliamentary representatives and supporting the campaign on Facebook. However, after comments from graziers and farmers involved in the live export industry who are facing bankruptcy and with a whole industry facing devastation, I decided to explore a little further. I was curious to know why banning live exports would be so devastating for farmers/graziers and why weren’t alternative markets being considered.

The first article I wrote argued that despite over 30 years of Australian live export industry’s involvement, facilities in exporting countries still routinely and systematically abuse our animals in the process of slaughter. I was also concerned that farmers were being short-changed by live exports when exporting chilled/frozen meats is worth much more per kilo. I argued that Australia’s internationally recognised halal reputation provided us with an additional competitive advantage for our frozen/chilled meats. Live exports directly compete with Australian frozen and chilled meats in the same markets we export our products to. Live exports also compete against Australia’s lucrative meat processing industry by moving jobs and profits to importing countries. Finally, I argued that Australians are becoming more conscious consumers and the importance of animal welfare and best practice/standards cannot be underestimated.

Despite these arguments I was still puzzled why graziers weren’t accessing the market opportunities offered by value-adding (exporting meat slaughtered and processed here in Australia). After heated facebook discussions I realized I was missing an important part of the picture. I decided to speak directly to a grazier in the Northern Territory and to research the issues that came up. In the process I have changed my mind about banning live exports and I believe graziers and the live export industry is genuine in its attempts at ensuring the humane treatment of its animals from farm to slaughter.

Graziers universally condemn animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs

Graziers and the live export industry have universally condemned the cruel treatment of their animals in the exposed Indonesian abattoirs. Graziers commenting on Facebook and in the media have expressed their anger and horror at what they witnessed in the Four Corners expose. The Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association issued a press release on 7 June that stated, “The industry was devastated by the recent coverage and condemned without reservation the way animals had been treated by some Indonesian abattoirs… Families are distraught at what they have seen… They care for their cattle every inch of the way from their paddocks to ships to overseas feedlots.”[ii]

Most graziers and farmers care deeply about the land they farm and the animals they husband. Grazier’s organizations, including the MLA have strong animal welfare principles embedded in their standards. Workers agreements for farmhands also have animal welfare requirements. Australia has strong animal welfare legislation that all Australians, Australian organizations and organizations operating in Australia must abide by.

Why don’t Northern Territorian and Western Australian graziers sell their cattle to Australian markets?

The Australian market ‘favours the softer meat of the British and European’ breeds that are successfully farmed in the Southern regions of Australia.[iii] The tougher climate and harsher conditions of Northern and Western Australia make farming and grazing in these areas difficult. The cattle bred to cope with these conditions are hardy and resilient but not as well conditioned as their Southern cousins due to deficiencies in the soil and scarcity of food and water, they therefore fetch much lower prices on the Australian market.

Why don’t Northern Territorian and Western Australian graziers ‘process’ (slaughter, butcher and pack) their cattle in Australia?

It surprised me to learn that there are no abattoirs able to butcher more than 50 head of cattle per week further north than Townsville and Perth.[iv] This means that large numbers of cattle need to be transported thousands of kilometers South to be slaughtered then the packed (‘boxed’) meat is transported by cold chain back to northern markets. This is inefficient, expensive for graziers and adds to costs of meat sales in the North of Australia. Graziers have been calling for the establishment of Northern abattoirs, particularly in Darwin, which would open up the market for northern graziers to competitively sell boxed meat to the northern Australian market.

It also surprised me to learn that in 2000, 80% of abattoirs operating in Australia were not Australian owned.[v] Most are owned and operated by large multinational companies based in the UK and the USA. I have found it very difficult to obtain more recent information about foreign ownership of Australian food assets. National party representative, Warren Truss recently stated, “Foreign takeovers of Australian agribusiness have increased ten-fold since [2007]. In many sectors Australia has already lost effective control over its food supply chain and decisions about our food supply are being made in foreign boardrooms.”[vi] This is of great concern to our Australian farmers who are struggling to hold onto their farms and support Australian businesses in the face of these sometimes aggressive takeovers. The ban on live exports will see more farms sold for bargain prices to foreign agribusiness companies as graziers struggle to cope with the loss of income from live exports and heavy debt burdens.

Selling to abattoirs is not as competitive for Northern and Western Australian graziers because they are competing with Australian market preference for Southern beef. In addition, abattoirs only pay for the ‘dress weight’ of cattle (the weight of the meat off the bone) while live exports pay for the whole cattle (also called ‘live weight’) because importing markets use the whole cattle including offal, hooves, ears, heads etc. Graziers are also able to claim insurance for cattle sold to live export markets while they are unable to secure steady prices or sales of cattle at abattoirs.

Why do Indonesia and other importing countries need live animals, why don’t they just buy frozen/chilled meats?

Indonesia has a huge population on a relatively small land mass and struggles to supply its own food requirements, particularly animal proteins. While Indonesia is trying to increase its domestic cattle production in order to shore up food security, it is not economically or environmentally viable to take productive farmland to support and feed cattle rather than humans. Australia has vast tracts of land in the North and West that are unsuitable for any farming other than cattle grazing with the resilient and hardy Brahman and Droughtmaster cattle breeds. We supply the Asian market with healthy, disease-free and high quality animals within a relatively short distance compared to other animal exporting countries, making us the preferred provider for live cattle by far.

More particularly, Indonesia and Asia in general use very different cuts of meat to those commonly seen in Western diets. For example, in Indonesia meat is sold by the kilo regardless of which part of the cattle is used, except for a few choice cuts like the tail and head. Our exported boxed meat distinguishes between many cuts of meat both in perceived quality and price. This is ok for those eating a western diet but it is culturally and financially inappropriate for traditional Indonesian tastes and diets. In addition, Asian food typically uses all parts of the animal from the tail, hooves, head, ears and offal. Australia’s export regulations do not allow the export of offal or any part of the animal that is not ‘dress meat,’ and therefore boxed (frozen/chilled) meats do not supply all the animal product requirements for traditional Asian diets.

Chilled and frozen meat storage is also an issue in places like Indonesia that have a large number of urban and rural poor. While many Indonesians do have access to some kind of refrigeration facilities, many of the poorest do not. These people and communities require live animals to be slaughtered daily to ensure the meat they buy and eat is as fresh and disease free as possible.

Why are Indonesian abattoirs so prone to animal cruelty?

 

Graziers and live export proponents argue that the footage shot by Animals Australia of animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs is not an accurate depiction of what happens in the majority of Indonesian abattoirs to which Australia exports. Indonesia has a number of grade A and B facilities that meet high standards of cleanliness, efficiency and animal welfare. Australian businesses and the live export industry have invested much time and money in Indonesia to improve animal welfare standards and have developed world-class facilities in Indonesia.[vii] They argue that the low Australian dollar a couple of years ago resulted in the proliferation of ‘fly-by-night’ operators who had little training and no regard for animal welfare. The live export industry has been actively working to prevent this situation from re-occurring.

Graziers welcome action such as freezing exports to non-compliant facilities until they improve their animal welfare standards. Many are calling for a ‘no stun no deal’ policy that would prevent Australian cattle from being processed in facilities that do not stun their animals before they are slaughtered. There are already facilities in Indonesia that stun all their animals before slaughter and they should not be penalized by a blanket ban on exports. Restricting Australian cattle to accredited facilities that use stunning will provide a direct incentive for other facilities in Indonesia to quickly change practices and invest in the equipment and training that would allow them to gain accreditation.

Why won’t banning live exports stop animal cruelty?

Concerns are growing for the welfare of those cattle still stuck in export holding yards at wharves in Darwin and Perth. The heat and lack of shade in the holding yards are causing cattle to lose condition. Feeding the cattle is extremely expensive and cannot be sustained by farmers who are crippled by the loss of income caused by live export bans to Indonesia. If these cattle are not exported in the next couple of weeks they will be too large to be accepted by Indonesia. It is too expensive for financially struggling graziers to truck the cattle back to their place of origin or down to southern abattoirs. The only options are to release them into the wild and hope that they are able to survive or shoot the cattle to prevent them from starving to death.[viii]

Australia is the only exporting country to have and invest in stringent animal welfare regulations for live exports. The Australian live export industry, Australian businesses in Indonesia and graziers involved in live exports, have spent large amounts of money, time and effort to improve animal welfare standards in Indonesian feedlots and slaughter houses. If there was no Australian involvement in Indonesia, there would be no ability for Australia to regulate or monitor animal welfare, the training and equipment Australia provides would stop and any incentives to improve animal welfare in Indonesia would be lost. This will result in a continuation and even deterioration of animal welfare issues for cattle sourced from other areas, domestically or from other exporters.

 

Why does banning live exports hurt our graziers?

 

The ban on live exports has resulted in a sudden loss of income for graziers already burdened with debt from years of drought, floods and cyclones on top of the usual costs of grazing cattle in harsh climates and in the most remote areas of Australia. Northern Territorian and Western Australian graziers are already being forced by banks to sell their land and businesses as they are unable to cover even the interest on their loans. Others see no future in grazing and are leaving their land to try their luck in town. Downriver, businesses supplying graziers are being affected by reduced custom and the same is happening to road transport businesses. The animal shipping businesses that have invested large amounts in the industry are suffering enormous losses as are the Australian businesses involved in the live export industry in Indonesia. It is hard to see the sense in decimating an entire industry in one fell swoop when there are better solutions.

Why will banning live exports hurt our economy?

Banning live exports is devastating a whole industry with flow on effects to other sectors of the economy. Graziers unable to afford their land and businesses are being forced to sell their farms at heavily discounted prices. There is a very real risk that this land will be bought wholesale by foreign investors and companies with profits sent overseas and control of another sector of our food industry in the hands of foreign executives. This means less employment opportunities in the rural north and west of Australia, particularly for Indigenous Australians. If Indonesia cannot access the live animals they need from Australia, they will look at importing from other countries. These other countries won’t have the same animal welfare standards and may pose serious health risks to Indonesia by increasing risk of exposure to diseases such as ‘mad cow’ etc. In addition the live export ban has already caused damage to Australia’s delicate political relationship with Indonesia and it risks endangering other areas of trade with Indonesia.

Conclusion

All graziers were shocked and angry at the cruelty witnessed on ABC’s Four Corners exposé of abattoirs in Indonesia and universally condemned those practices. Live exports are necessary for Northern and Western graziers for several reasons. Selling their cattle in Australia is not viable as they are unable to compete with southern breeds in Australian markets, there are no abattoirs with the capacity to process the cattle in the North and West of Australia and road transport to southern abattoirs is prohibitively expensive. Indonesia does not have the capacity to supply its population with animal proteins and requires live imports to supplement its domestic cattle. Australian boxed meat is not viable for most of the Indonesian population as the meat cuts are culturally and financially inappropriate. Australian regulations restrict meat exports to ‘dress meat’ and do not allow export of offal. This is another reason that boxed meat does not meet the requirements for traditional Indonesian diets.

Graziers argue that Indonesia has a number of world-class grade A and B facilities and operators in Indonesia that should be encouraged not penalised. They worry that shutting Australian businesses and industry out of the Indonesian market will stop the good work that has already been done, reduce training and equipment necessary for humane slaughter and allow cruelty to animals to continue and even deteriorate. Banning live exports has resulted in much hardship for graziers and has devastated the Northern Territorian and Western Australian cattle industries. This risks impacting on other parts of Australia’s economy and has already caused great damage to Indonesian/Australian bilateral relations.

Graziers and those who support the graziers want to see an end to cruelty towards their animals in Indonesia and in other exporting countries. They support a freeze on exports to facilities that do not meet Australian animal welfare standards, an increase in monitoring and assessment of facilities and more education and training in humane slaughter practices. Graziers support a ‘no stun no deal policy’ and want to see an end to animal cruelty not to live exports.


[i] Sarah Ferguson, 30 May 2011, ‘A Bloody Business,’ ABC Four Corners

[ii] Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association, 7 June 2011, ‘Media Release: Ban Animal Cruelty Not Live Exports,’ National Farmer’s Federation and Cattle Council of Australia

[iii] Amanda O’Brien and Michael McKenna, 9 June 2011, ‘Two options: pray for rain or shoot all the cattle,’ The Australian

[iv] Andrew Ferguson, 23 Oct 2010, ‘AAco mulls building Top End abattoir as Southeast Asian nations stop taking live cattle,’ The Australian,

[v] Dick Smith, ‘Why Buy Australian Owned?’ http://www.dicksmithfoods.com.au/index.php?d=main&p=why

[vii] Scott Braithwaite, June 2011, ‘Letter to Four Corners.’

[viii] Amanda O’Brien and Michael McKenna, 9 June 2011, ‘Two options: pray for rain or shoot all the cattle,’ The Australian

Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it,
tell a friend
about it, and subscribe to the blog RSS feed.

Comments

51 Responses to “Live Exports: The Graziers Perspective”
  1. Joanne Bloomfield says:

    Hi Genieve. (sorry if I’v spelt your name wrong)
    We are territroy pastoralists.
    This is an incredibly informative and simple explanation. thank you so much for putting it in a written format.
    I wish other people had gone to even an ounce of the effort to question the four corners program.
    Well done, I’ve even copied this out to place with my other references. thanks Jo

  2. Katy says:

    I understand you were initially in favour of the live export ban, and I just wanted to say I’m so impressed that you were happy to change your mind after reading the facts.
    Congratulations on the logical and well reasoned article, without bias. It’s a breath of fresh air to read something so sensible about this issue.
    Well done.
    =)

  3. Kylie says:

    I am not usually one with not much to say. In this instance all I can say is, THANKYOU.
    And my hope is all australians can make informed decisions for the good of all. Man and beast.

  4. Raelene Hall says:

    Thank you for taking the time to investigate the others side of the discussion and bring some balance to this article. I hope you can influence others to do as well. Congratulations to you.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for publishing such a well written, well researched article. As you said Australian cattle producers (of which I am one) are passionate about caring for their animals and contributing to the Australian economy. It is great to see that people outside the industry are recognising this. If anything good is to come out of this mess it will be better unity in the cattle industry and better understanding of the industry amongst the wider population. Thank you for helping achieve this.

  6. Annemarie says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

  7. Megan says:

    Well done. Well researched. Well written.

    On behalf of all cattle families in the NT and beyond, I am sending you a HUGE thumbs up!!

  8. Sal says:

    Dear Genevieve,

    Thank you and well done! So very well researched and written. I will be sharing. Thanks for asking why in the first place, I hope it makes some difference and those who are open minded, take the time to read and even research on their own.

    Warm Regards,
    Sal

  9. jenny says:

    AT last a more balanced look

  10. J Stabler says:

    Interesting article. “World class” has been used to describe the live ex industry since their PR strategy began years back. Now the industry claims it means OIE (world animal health) standards, which they will hesitate to admit are well below what we would accept in Australia. OIE doesn’t require stunning, for example. It permits the slaughter — knives to throats — of fully conscious animals which is precisely what outraged Australians earlier this month.

    I feel sorry for the graziers. They are being strung along by MLA and the Government like they have for years, into believing they can maintain high animal welfare in countries where, let’s be honest, we have no jurisdiction. When images come to light of these ‘world standards’ in the next expose, it will deal an even heavier blow to these people.

  11. Sara Giumelli says:

    Thank you so much for this article…factual and not driven by emotions.What I want in place is an organisation to ensure the cattles safety from ship to box,putting in place a “ban” was a horrible,lazy decision.

  12. Thankyou for sharing such a well researched article, like most I support the humane treatment of animals but I also support our aussie farmers and want to see an outcome achieved that isn’t going to destroy such a vital industry in Australia.

  13. Ann Britton says:

    I would just like to add to the Thank yous you have already received, it certainly means so much to beef producers and all those communities and business that connect in some way or another to the beef industry, thanks for your time and effort, your open mindedness and all that has been said before and also if you would like to have a look at this website http://www.asbf.com.au I’m sure it will interest you, I would encourage you to send your story to the site, thanks

  14. Adam says:

    Good work!!

    If only everyone would research a bit more before passing judgement and holding in contempt those that work so damned hard to provide the food supply for the millions of this country and others.

    Many Thanks!

  15. Nolene says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! for taking the time to inform yourself of the facts and then to share this well researched information with all. We are graziers and pray each day we will all come out the other end of this, stronger people and MAYBE one day our urban neighbours will believe we are HONEST, COMPASIONATE, HARD WORKING people trying to make a living and supply a source of protein to our fellow man both in Australia and overseas from the land we LOVE AND CARE for daily.

    Warm regards,

    Nolene

  16. Tim says:

    This is a really poorly researched article.
    Nothing in it justifies live exports in the current environment.
    Australia doesn’t have world class animal welfare standards. We have low standards and we abide by them. Big deal, our standards are amongst the lowest in the western world.
    Nothing in the four corners article was new. It’s been like this for a long time. Animals Australia have been talking about it for years. Surely no farmers were surprised. It’s not new info for the MLA or Wellard Rural Exports.

    There used to be lots of northern abattoirs. They were closed because there’s more money in live exports.

    If laws can be changed to allow meat products that Indonesians want to be exported, then change the laws. We should’t just accept it as is and continue with live exports.

    And if graziers don’t have a viable business model (which curerently they don’t), the government should not compromise on animal welfare standards to help them, they should help them move into a business that is viable.

    I feel sorry for all graziers. They are in an industry where the big exporters rule and the government does what those big players want.

    Maybe the MLA or Wellards can give the graziers some compensation to help them in this difficult time.

    • Genevieve says:

      Dear Tim,

      Thank you for commenting. I agree the scenes we all witnessed last month showing cruelty inflicted on cattle were horrendous. Australian graziers are just as upset and disgusted at the unnecessarily cruel treatment of cattle during their slaughter. I do however think that you missed many of the important points that the article was trying to convey. I would like to clarify that this article was written to capture the perspectives of the Australian graziers most affected by the ban and therefore the research was entirely appropriate.

      Of more concern to me are the inaccuracies in the arguments you have made against live exports. For example, Australia’s animal welfare standards are not the worst in the western world, not by a long mile (take a look at the US or eastern European countries in the EU). There are always improvements that can be made of course and we must continue to ensure we are doing all we can. Australia has strong animal welfare legislation, an active animal rights movement and we are the only country in the world that invests any money in the welfare of our export animals.

      Your comments about the closure of northern abattoirs being related to live exports are also inaccurate. The Australian meat industry was in serious decline by the 1980s. 35 abattoirs closed across Australia between 1971 and 1982. This was due in part to decreased cattle production because of culling to eradicate an outbreak of brucellosis and tuberculosis. More importantly, industrial relations disputes with meatworks unions had serious financial consequences for abattoirs. In addition, as mentioned in my article, those abattoirs that were left, have been bought by large foreign-owned multinational corporations that carried out a process of economic rationalisation, buying and closing all the small operators in regional areas and centralising operations in large abattoir complexes in the southern regions. As a result of these events, there were no functioning abattoirs in the Northern Territory by 1998. Rather than live exports causing the decline in abattoirs as you have argued, it was the this decline that led graziers to look for more viable market opportunities for their produce.

      Your comments that graziers need to find ‘viable business models’ reflects a lack of understanding of the issues faced by graziers. Please re-read the article as I explain why there are no other viable models for Northern graziers. As mentioned already, there are no abattoirs able to process the cattle in the North of Australia. There is no market in Australia for Northern cattle, even Coles and Woolworths do not accept cattle with Brahman breeding because the Australian market prefers the ‘softer’ Southern breeds from the more fertile areas of Australia. No other type of farming is suitable in the Northern regions of Australia except for large-hectare grazing of drought hardy cattle because the climate is so harsh, distances are so vast and locations are so remote. Responsible cattle grazing is the best way to use this otherwise unproductive and arid land.

      Indonesia doesn’t just want to import meat products, they want to import live animals so they can value-add. It is part of a well-thought out plan to reduce Indonesia’s reliance on boxed meat imports from other countries and provide employment for its population. Indonesia will import from other countries if they aren’t able to import from Australia. This will be an animal welfare disaster. It means that cattle will have to be shipped huge distances from places like Argentina, Brazil or America. These countries do not invest in animal welfare and we will lose our ability to influence change in animal slaughter practices and animal welfare standards in Indonesia.

      Live exports from countries other than Australia pose a very serious threat to all Australian meat producers. If Indonesia starts importing animals from other countries there is a very high risk that some will be carrying highly infectious diseases such as ‘mad cow’ and foot and mouth disease. It would not take long for these diseases to infiltrate Australia through Cape York via Indonesia and PNG. This will devastate Australian meat farmers, we will see scenes of mass animal cullings, distraught farmers and it will endanger the health of Australians. Once these diseases are in the country they will be very hard if not impossible to eradicate. That is one of the main reasons we have such strict quarantine rules.

      In addition, what is going to happen to the animals that were destined to be shipped to Indonesia? They are currently stuck in feedlots that were not set up for long term housing of animals. Graziers who no longer have an income cannot afford to keep feeding them, or transport them to abattoirs that are already booked out. Australians don’t want the meat and the graziers who’s land has suffered through droughts and floods, cannot support these animals on their farms without putting their other livestock at risk of starvation. The alternatives are to let the animals loose in the wild and hope that they survive, which will increase the environmental burden on these areas or shoot the animals to prevent them from starving to death.

      We have also done serious damage to bilateral relations with Indonesia and they are becoming increasingly reluctant to work with us even if we did lift the bans. What is going to happen to the animals already in Indonesia, the animals that will be shipped to Indonesia from countries other than Australia? This issue is far from black and white. We may have caused more damage to animal welfare by imposing blanket bans on animal exports and we need to be careful that we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture because of inflamed emotions.

      • Kevin says:

        Genevieve,

        Congratulations for all the effort and research.

        There are alot of myths out there against live export, many driven from those who have vested interests. Most of these myths can be refuted but the detractors do not wish to hear balanced arguement or do the home work as you have done.

        It is just to easy for these anti live export groups to sit back and spectate on the issue without getting involved.

        If they were truely concerned with animal welfare they would be in Indonesia working to help improve slaughter methodologies. Not sitting back and videoing bad pratices.

    • jenny says:

      Tim yes thank you for feeling sorry for graziers. We are in an industry where the big MEATWORK owners rule and the public are easily lead by a biased report.
      Who wins in all this – well pretty easily seen when the meatworks can now buy cheap cattle and now will no doubt be able to sell their glut of beef overseas more competitively and earn more money for their foreign owners. As a very high percentage of meatworkers are bought in overseas labour(Brazilian, Vietnam and Irish), this money will also go overseas whereas our money kept little Australian industries going.
      Tim you also need to see what happens when cows die in the bush – Do you know that in phosphate poor country like NT, a cow dies if it doesn’t get mustered and have their calf weaned? Do you know without enough phosphate, cows do not look pretty – they look like members of Jew concentration camp, their eyes sunken dull orbs, their uteri fall out, they break their legs easily.
      And they die – not quickly not with other cows keeping them company sympathetically as you might like to believe.
      The other cows are there – they eat them. If they are nutritionally deficient enough they start before they are even dead as the crows have exposed so much – you see the crows eat their eyes, uterus, anus and vagina out.

      And these cows are known to us. Often we know the cow’s mother, her sister and her calves.

      Ever watched a cow vainly try to hunt the crows and know it is only a matter of hours before they just lay quietly and know it is then only a matter of hours before they lie still. And know that while you have found this cow down, blind and near death and are able to kill her, you are certainly not going to be able to help all the others

      And why won’t we
      – we won’t be able to afford to muster,
      – we won’t be able to afford to drive around and kill the buggered ones every day
      – we won’t be able to afford phosphate.
      – we won’t be able to run our business or even donate to the community

      So instead of thinking of how animals die in a few slaughterhouses in Indonesia, you can now rest in peace knowing that compared to the few you have saved in Indonesia, you have directly caused many more cows to die in Australia

      And Tim, younger cattle don’t have it easier. We have to spend money controlling wild dogs. Ever come across a calf with no tongue, no nose, no ears, no tail, no anus and usually opened into the gut in the udder area? Maggots already crawling and yet it still isn’t dead.
      Believe me it isn’t pretty either.

      So with bills of 150g for wages, the same for phosphate, the same for fuel, at least half for mustering, and large interest bills, tell me how does $3million even scratch the surface of what it is going to take to get our businesses going. You keep saying the MLA should pay, well for what is needed, doubt it’s funds would go over the first week, so what is your suggestion after that?

      Without our businesses, the community also starves.

      And the stupid thing is, Australia is so ignorant they didn’t even know the Australian abattoirs kill cattle without stun guns for halal/kosher so how come we can demand Indonesia to change?

      Indonesia must be thinking ignorant hypocrites.

      • Linda of Qld says:

        Halal or Kosher slaughter in Australia for cattle has reverse stunning due to the size of the animals. Sheep and goats are the only animals not stunned.

    • Ben says:

      Tim ignorance is bliss for you, you can’t see the Forrest for the tree’s. my family were involved in Nthn & Sthn meat works. The Nthn works did do halal and sold into Indonesia but to a very limited market due to lack of money(affordability) for the product and refrigeration (have a go at living with out your fridge , hand to mouth I suspect). LE Closed that down because the vast majority of the middle eastern and Sth East Asians cannot afford what you get on black trays in your supermarket they live hand to mouth. LE provides these people with cheap safe source of protein, which your mob do not seem to understand. Set up a meat works yourself ???? And get subsidised to operate at a loss by your mate Julia.
      We have some of the best animal handling set ups in the world but because you live in a utopian bubble we will always be wrong.

  17. elle says:

    It takes a big heart to do an about-face like that Geneveive, and real intelligence to ask the questions and write the answers. Well done, and thank you very much.

  18. Sheila says:

    what a pity Juliar nad the rest of the Canberra crew don’t research like this before legislating, Well done

  19. Jane says:

    Thank you Genevieve for a well-thought out, well-researched and unbiased article. We’ve got a group together to help share the messages in your post to Australians, http://www.saveaustralianfarming.org.
    Thanks again, & look forward to sharing this link.
    Jane

    • Genevieve says:

      Thanks Jane. I’ve added my name to your website. Let me know when it is launched and I’ll post an announcement on GreenFoodie.

  20. roger says:

    Well done Genevieve on opening your mind and taking the trouble to finsd out a bit more.
    However there are still some misconceptions in the story.
    1. Describing the meat processing industry as “lucrative” is laughable. Aussie abattoirs have a revolving door ownership as one player invests and others get out. There is no serious UK ownership at present to my knowledge. The dominant owner, JBS, is Brazilian, followed by Cargill, (US), and Nippon (Japan).
    2. The trouble with operating a’toirs in NT is the inconsistent supply because of the wet season, low quality cattle, and high Australian labour and compliance costs. Very hard to justify building infrastructure and a workforce and then close for 6 months of the year.
    3. The cattle in holding yards do have a market option. Freight to Roma store sale for example would be about $120/head, where they would make about $500/head. Talk of letting cattle go into the wild is ridiculous.
    The feedlot sector in Indo is quickly setting up systems where they can guarantee cattle go to “stunning” a’toirs. Once all parties agree to the auditing system the trade should resume. Give it 8 weeks.

    • Genevieve says:

      Thank you Roger. I appreciate your comments and it is important to know the facts. Do you know how foreign owned businesses can still operate if profit margins are not as ‘lucrative’ as I had read? Considering what you have said about the problems with operating abattoirs in the NT it makes sense that they have gone out of business. If all graziers affected by the ban were to send their cattle to Roma would they still get $500 a head or would the markets be saturated and cause the prices to drop? Thanks for clarifying my questions.

      • Alonso says:

        Very impressive article Genevieve, well done!

        Despite that some people might be on the other side of the debate (like Ollie). She aswell as most of people here used reasonable arguments. It’s the best debate I’ve seen so far. Unfortunately, because there are no insults and fanatic comments; it does not atract as many people as other forums do. Like the ratings of that TV show. This is very sad. I really hope they didn’t pay people in Indonesia to do it.

        A few points to support Genevieve response to Roger:
        – Meat processing is lucrative, it relies on scale economies as any other commodity.
        – Ownership of meatworks in Australia is right – Brasil, US and Japan. As far as I know, not much UK in the game.
        – To add to Roger’s relevant comments re the wet season issue – one of the key issues is to get cattle out of the properties during the wet seasson (roads closed).
        – In the balance 500 -120 = $380 / head for a 350Kg beast is not much a very atractive option. Besides, after the first 70,000 hit the saleyard, the market would be saturated.
        – Dear Genevieve, in relation to cattle running into the wild. I am afraid I have to agree with Roger. Those cattle already live in the wild. It’s illegal to over graze the land (due to environmental issues) and they would die by thousands anyway.

        Hope this add some value to the discussion.

        Cheers,

        • Genevieve says:

          Thanks for your comments Alonso. It has been a good debate and you’ve raised some good points. Unfortunately I have had to block a couple of comments that contained insulting and hurtful language directed at graziers and their supporters. It was a shame because they had some great points that would have added to the robustness of the debate. Cheers, Genevieve

  21. Jody says:

    Thank you Genevieve,

    Just want you to know that this article has been immensely helpful, and that I am circulating it via email and facebook. Hopefully others will follow suit, and help to make a difference.

    Thanks again
    Jody

  22. Fiona Lake says:

    Another thank you to add. Well researched, clearly explained, a brilliant summary. I will be directing everyone I can to read what you have written.

    If only you were able to comment on the rest of the tide of media-driven negativity regarding rural producers. The live export issue is just one of many innaccurate but populist beliefs – ranging from soil erosion to cattle causing global warming to eating red meat being bad for the environment – that Australian food producers are trying to counter.

    Thank you again for the time you have invested in countering on one of the inaccurately reported issues, it is much appreciated.

    • Genevieve says:

      Thanks Fiona. Food producers have received a bad rap in Australia. There are many misconceptions about food production and many people in Australia have no idea where their food comes from. Farmers need support not vitriol. I truly believe they agriculture is the most important industry in Australia. However, I do have some serious issues with the current agro-industrial model of farming because it does have negative environmental and social impacts. This is caused by reliance on fossil fuels, pesticides, fertilisers, mono-cropping, expensive equipment, intensive farming, and especially the patenting of seeds and use of genetic modification. This also includes losing our productive farmland to foreign multi-nationals that are making decisions about our food security in board rooms outside of Australia. These and other unsustainable farming practices leads to environmental devastation (chemical run-off etc), land degradation and economic hardships for farmers that are working very hard to produce food for Australia and have to take out increasingly large loans to cover the costs. More people need to be encouraged back onto the land, we need more farmers, using sustainable farming methods, and we need to support and value the farmers we still have left.

  23. Becky says:

    Thank you for a wonderful post!

  24. Robyn says:

    Thank you to the lady who has done this extensive research, to show how you can have one view ,…with questions,…and go looking for the appropriate answers, job well done. I am sure there are many other people who haven’t read this, who are greatful as well.

  25. Cherry says:

    thankyou so much from someone who is directly affected.
    It is a pity everyone doesnt do their own research and get the balanced perspective.
    It seems animal welfare has become more important than human welfare in this issue.
    I hope people have read the Animals australia webpage and followed through what is happening with their donations..to quote:
    “We use donations wisely” (2nd paragrapgh in Animals australia donor charter)
    “Aniomals Australia is known for its strategic campaign initiatives, and multi-faceted approah to fighting annimal crelty which includes tactical investigations, television exposes, attention-grabbing public awareness campaigns, and ongoing grassroots programs. Operations are conducted from one small head office which we ensure runs as efficiently and cost-effictively as possible at all times”

    …..NOWHERE does is say donations are used to alleviate the suffering, or improve conditions, or provide necessary equipment, vetinerary help etc etc for the animals.
    It seems to be a ploy for gaining advertising dollars only,
    Australians wake up.
    Dont be conned anymore.
    What sort of government, regardless of the issue they are dealing with, decides to ban based on
    1 hour’s unsubstantiated footage
    without proof that the previous ban imposed on egypt has resulted in nno more animal cruelty (check that the first method worked before implementing the same again)
    How can their solution fix the problem
    it is the same as if the aussie govt banned all incoming airlines as a result of the issues they had with Tiger Airways…they suspended the offending section, not the entire industry…
    if they haave done it to live export, then they ccould apply the same logic to any other governmental decisions.

  26. Geoff says:

    Very well written , Thank you for your research . The question , that Kerry Obrien and the 4 cornors team didn’t ask of Lyn White was,

    When you stand on an animal welfare platform , why did you sit on this cruel footage for 4 months , before lauching onto the australia media , allowing this cruelty to go on during that 4 month period ? The RSPCA keeo saying during the 4 cornors program ‘ ‘it’s happening tonight’, when they knew it had been happening for the past 4 months .

    Then the solution Lyn White offered in banning live exports , actually prevented the slaughter of cattle in 4 months time , after they would have been fed for 100 days . Therefore she was happy to allow 8 months of this treatment . Her hypocracy and unashamed vendictive nature , makes her actions as dispicable as the people directly involved

    • Genevieve says:

      Hi Geoff,

      Thanks for the comment. I did find Lyn White’s behaviour hard to understand but I don’t believe she is vindictive. While I don’t personally agree with how things were done I do believe that she is extremely passionate about animal welfare and this is blinding her to the other side of the coin. Sometimes you can’t act straight away (like any person that witnesses atrocities but can’t act without endangering themselves or the purpose of the mission, think peace-keepers, Amnesty International, International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent) and sometimes its important to plan a strategy for biggest impact. I don’t like the fact that she waited but I can guarantee that she felt awful about it. In order for her mission to be accomplished she had to make a decision to remain logical and strategic. Doing what she did would have been traumatic for anyone, let alone a dedicated animal liberationist. Obviously my opinion would change if rumours about payment of the Indonesian slaughter workers prove true. Its not easy for all of you affected by the actions of this lady to be forgiving of her character but I think it is important to try and understand her and the reasons for her actions. Let me know your thoughts!

  27. Linda of Qld says:

    I have seen many comments from cattle producers. Some have stated they are against the cruelty witnessed on 4 corners.

    The minute you bring ethics into the conversation, overwhelmingly, most have said “Mind Your Own Bloody Business”.

    Hardly the kind of reponse you would expect from ethical, responsible cattlle producers who care about their animals.

    • Genevieve says:

      Hi Linda,

      I’ve had many and sometimes heated conversations with cattle producers, including phone conversations about this topic. My experience has been opposite to yours. They have been understandably upset by the sudden loss of income (it would be the same if you were fired from your job without warning or reason) but they have always maintained their love for their animals and way of life and not one of them has ever said the cruelty was acceptable. Ethics are very important to cattle producers but they have different priorities and views on the world than city-dwellers. I have never had a cattle producer or farmer say to me ‘mind your own bloody business’ (although I understand if farmers are defensive). Farmers and graziers have had to put up with a lot of stress over the years, from droughts, floods, cyclones, financial hardship and ill-founded negative press (plus sometimes extremely vitriolic public opinion). There is always more than one side to a story and it is important that everyone is heard. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Ollie says:

    Hi Genevieve.

    I found this article very informative and would like to thank you for taking the time to carry out your research and put forth an unbiased article. However, I still support the bill that Nick Xenophon has put before parliament to phase out live export. I believe Australia needs to begin investing more time and money in developing an alternative. Even though there is a lot of information in your article that is helping me to understanding this issue, I have a few more questions that hopefully you might be able to help answer.

    First, I am interested to know exactly what our live export stock consists of. I have been having difficulty finding this information and hope you may be able to enlighten me. In our trade with Indonesia in particular, are the only animals we export the northern-farmed stock that are unsuitable for the Australian market? How much is the export of northern-stock stock worth annually? One website states the entire live export industry contributes $1.8 billion each year to our GDP; how much of this money goes to our farmers?

    I understand that cattle produced in the northern regions are not well suited to the Australian market. I also understand that this would mean their value on the Australian market would be lower than cattle grown in southern regions. However, I do not understand how meat is worth more overseas than it is here. I have been having difficulty finding any facts and figures on this topic, but I was hoping perhaps you might know. How is it that poor people in Indonesia can still afford to pay more for this meat than people in Australia and other overseas markets would be willing to pay? I know that you have mentioned that in Indonesia the whole of the cow is used, and there is a standard price per kilo, but even though this means that the meat would go further I can’t understand how it can be worth more. I have read in a Senate Inquiry Submission by Kelsey Neilson (ASBF Chairperson)
    that the beef produced from northern region farmed cattle is “only suitable for the grinding beef trade into the US which is the lowest price for returns”. I do not like the idea of farmers being paying the bare minimum for their stock; however, if anyone has an actual market value price comparison I am very interested in seeing it.

    On the subject of cost to farmers, I am also interested to learn more about the process that would involve farmers in the Northern Territory needing to transport their cattle over long distances to access Australian slaughterhouses. I have also heard that this is necessary because building new slaughterhouses in the Northern Territory is too impractical to be considered due to the wet season. In your article you mention that graziers have been calling for more abattoirs to be opened in the Northern Territory, and this suggests that the farmers believe this is in fact practical. If this is true then I think Australia should be investing in these abattoirs and that it would be better for our industry in the long term. If there is no way that any slaughterhouses could be built in Darwin or areas affected by the wet season, for example, is there anyway closer to the northern farming areas where slaughterhouses could be put that would allow for shorter transport distances?

    While mentioning transport, I also have a few questions about our export to countries beside Indonesia. How do the farmers you spoke to feel about exporting animals to countries like those in the Middle East? The journey apparently takes over two weeks and there seem to be inherent welfare issues in this process of transport alone. Even if Australia is not to ban live export to all countries, do you believe it would be viable to stop export to countries such as these?

    Back to the situation with Indonesia, I would also like to know what plans cattle farmers have for their produce if/once Indonesia becomes self-sufficient in their beef production. From what I have come to understand, Indonesia is already working on decreasing the number of cattle it imports from Australia. Even if they are not entirely self-sufficient by 2014 as they intend, wouldn’t it make sense for Australia to begin planning for if this happens? While three years may not be enough time for Australia to seamlessly phase out live export and introduce an alternative, I think that we should begin preparing for this as soon as possible.

    Since this issue has been brought to attention in mainstream media, I have also noticed that there have been calls for part of our foreign aid budget to Indonesia to be spent on supply chain upgrades and help invest in raising their animal welfare standards. I believe that even if Australia reduces and eventually ceases our supply of cattle to Indonesia then we will continue to be involved in assuring proper welfare standards. Our countries have a good relationship and I think we would still be able to use our influence to further education on the importance of these issues.

    It is generally agreed by scientists and veterinarians that it is best for animal welfare is the animals are slaughtered as close as possible to where they are raised. Based on this I believe that we should be encouraging Indonesia in their attempts to become self- sufficient. This will reduce the suffering of animals by transport and hopefully in the years leading up to their self-sufficiency we can help Indonesia to understand and have access to proper equipment and methods for handling and slaughtering their animals.

    I believe that you, and Australia’s farmers, want what is best for our animals, our people and our country. I want the same things. However, I also believe that all other possible alternatives to live export should be explored and researched thoroughly before deciding that an indefinite continuation of this export is the only viable future for Australia.

    • Genevieve says:

      Hi Ollie,

      Thank you for your response and wow that is a lot of questions! Many of them I don’t have the answers for but you could try approaching the facebook site for Save Live Exports and ask some of those questions directly to farmers. There’s also http://www.saveaustralianfarming.org that has some great info and links and they may be able to answer your questions. I think the biggest problem was the knee-jerk reaction of a sudden ban leaving farmers with nothing and no options as many of them were reliant on live exports for their livelihood. It wouldn’t have been too bad if the government had stopped exports to the offending slaughter-houses and a gradual phase out would have been a much more appropriate and considered response. The farmers affected would be better able to explain how they feel and how it affected them.

      Slaughter is never a nice thing to watch, I certainly can’t watch an animal being killed but I still eat meat. We definitely should be doing our utmost to be humane in our treatment of animals ‘from paddock to plate’ but I do worry that people have become disassociated with the fact that an animal has to die in order for us to eat meat. I am also worried by extremism on any side and that includes extremism from animal rights activists some of who believe that all farming of animals is a form of slavery and that we should stop farming and eating meat all together (I respect vegans for their choices, my sister is a vegan, but imposing these views on others isn’t a solution either as the issue is more complex).

      Thanks again and good luck in your fact finding. Let us know how you go.

      Genevieve

      • Ollie says:

        Thanks for such a quick reply, Genevieve. I really appreciate the time taken to read through my long post. Sorry for such a bombardment of questions, but with so many different website I have been having difficulty separating facts from fiction. I will definitely check out the ones you have recommended and hopefully I will find some answers there.

        As a long term advocate of an eventual phasing out of live export, I too was appalled at the government’s reaction to suddenly halt trade. I think some people, even though they have the interests of the animals at heart, have difficulty understanding how much suffering has been caused by the mismanagment of this situation. I can of course understand the general public outrage and why so many people have thrown their support behind an immediate ban, but it is a harsh reality that this was never going to achieve anything. With all the emotions and misinformation fuelled by the media I only hope that this will not set back the development of a long term solution.

        I really would like to believe that, eventually, organisations like RSPCA, the Australian government and our farmers will work together and our live export trade will become redundant. I do not really believe that the bill currently before parliament will be passed, and that it is most likely trade will recommence as before with one or two of the governments ‘quick-fix’ supply chain monitoring plans in place. I have no doubts that animal welfare will continue to be compromised while a long term solution is discussed and cultivated; however I think that this is just the reality of life. Even though so many things have gone wrong in these past few months, hopefully it will have helped impress the seriousness of these issues and importance of such a solution

        I agree that people have become completely disassociated with concept of meat production; most would probably be put off meat for a while if they saw slaughter in even the best of abattoirs. I also think that even these people understand that there is a huge difference between a properly managed slaughterhouse and what we have recently seen in Indonesia. I think the knowledge that animals are being sent to slaughterhouses where workers are poorly trained, are mishandling and mistreating animals, and are using inhumane methods and equipment funded by coorporations like LiveCorp, has been such a huge shock to the system that it really has driven everything else from people’s minds. This seems furthered by the lack of any real plan of action from our government.

        I think that most animal rights activists understand that people are never going to stop eating meat and that farming is a necessary part of life. I have read some rather extreme comments on the internet from what I am sure is a very small minority of people on both sides of the debate. Some people opposed to live export have been calling farmers cruel and sick, while some people supporting live export have been calling for the Indonesian slaughter house workers to be strung up. I think we have to remember that, while such suggestions are ill-informed, frightening and make us angry, these people are a minority, and I fear that focus on such opinions is undermining the real issues.

        Thank you again for taking the time to read my comments and share your own views. People like you really help restore my faith that proper reasoning and an understanding of both sides of the debate will eventually result in a better future.

  29. John says:

    It’s about price! It is cheaper to process things were labour and compliance costs are low.

    • Genevieve says:

      Hi John, thanks for the comment. It would be great if things were that simple, but as I found in the course of my research, the answers aren’t as straight forward as we would like.

  30. Faye says:

    Congratulations Genevieve, wonderful to find an educated unbiased view of a very hot topic. I have read all of the posts and they create an opportunity to pass on some information for thought.

    Quite some time before the televised documentary by Lyn White (well before the last federal election) I was told by a very astute person in the financial and political world that unless the beef industry were very pro-active they would lose their live export industry.

    Why? Because there was talk of a deal between labor and the greens for preferential votes for the next ( now last) election, and one of the commitments of that deal was to close down the live export industry.

    On further exploration of this live export industry warning, it appears that Australia has an ongoing agreement with Indonesia via the UN-REDD scheme. Here are some websites to familiarise yourself with the program
    http://www.climatechange.gov.au/government/initiatives/international-forest-carbon-initiative/~/media/publications/international/indonesia-australia.ashx
    http://www.un-redd.org/PublicationsResources/tabid/587/Default.aspx
    http://redd-plus.com/drupal/country-network/indonesia/sumatra-forest-carbon-partnership-launched

    13 June 2008: IAFCP Agreement was Signed
    On 13 June 2008 the Government of
    Indonesia and Australia signed a bilateral
    agreement on the Indonesia-Australia Forest
    Carbon Partnership (IAFCP). The agreement
    was signed by the Indonesian President
    (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) and the
    Australian Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) and
    sets a framework for co-operation on reducing
    emissions from deforestation and forest
    degradation. The partnership agreement
    sets out the basis for co-operation in three
    areas: (1) policy development and capacity
    building, (2) technical support for forest carbon
    monitoring and measurement; and (3)
    Demonstration Activities.

    Somewhere amongst this assortment of information you may still find a “full” document signed by Kevin Rudd and the Sumatra minister for agriculture. I did at the time I was checking this warning but am unable to locate it now. A Part of one signed agreement by the above parties was to downgrade the live export industry to breeding animals only.

    This would have been a slow way of achieving this mission. Perhaps the issue was stepped up when Kevin Rudd was ousted.

    I would like to think the whole live animal export ban was about animal cruelty, however misplaced their decisions – however, if you dig deep enough you may find that the ban was about Australian politics and the suffering of the animals televised was used as an emotive issue to fulfill a possible pre-election bargain. The fact that Australian lives and businesses have been ruined, Indonesian people have hungered and protein sources have risen dramatically in price for their consumers and the whole live export animal welfare program may be jeapodised for years ahead now that our trade relations with Indonesia are at an all time low, evidently wasn’t taken into consideration if this information is ever proven to be correct.

  31. Toby says:

    This is the best discussion of this topic that I have seen so far. Many of the other discussions or debates have turned into nothing more than insults. Thank you to everyone who is reading this discussion and thank you Genevieve for writing the original article

Leave A Comment

Analytics Plugin made by VLC Media Player