Australian cattle exports to Indonesia: Ban or assistance?

An article written on the Indonesian perspective of the live export ban published in the Jakarta Post
Source @ The Jakarta Post – Australian cattle exports to Indonesia: Ban or assistance?
Risti Permani, Adelaide, Australia | Thu, 06/09/2011 8:00 AM


Videos showing Australian cattle being subject to inhumane treatment in Indonesian abattoirs have prompted a ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia. Is banning the only option?

As Indonesia’s income per capita increases there has been rising domestic demand for imported livestock including from Australia thanks to imported beef’s favorable taste, relatively affordable price and availability in supermarkets. The trend has been the Indonesian government’s concern in meeting the beef self-sufficiency target by 2014.
The government has launched various programs to assist small farmers and set the tariff (currently as low as 5 percent and heading to zero under some Free Trade Agreements such as AANZFTA in 2020) and non-tariff barriers. This self-sufficiency program may explain why Australia sends live animals to Indonesia instead of beef.

The Indonesian government has set the maximum weight of imported live cattle at 350 kilograms, which is aimed at ensuring Indonesia receives cattle that will provide added value to Indonesia.

This has led to the development of the feedlotting business in Indonesia, which receives the supply of feedlot cattle from Australia.

The Australian government through the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has funded several programs to review the effectiveness of the Indonesian government’s programs and investigate the supply chain in the beef market. A complete ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia may imply that Australia’s investments in research and development in Indonesia have no value.

If banning exports of live cattle to predominantly-Muslim Indonesia is ineffective, working with the Indonesian government to ensure animal welfare might be preferable. The question is whether the inhumane treatment of animals is related to halal requirements? The answer is no.

Halal defines what is lawful under Islamic law. It does not only regulate the types of “acceptable” food, how animals are slaughtered, but also how we get the money to purchase the food from.

Most abattoirs in Indonesia meet halal requirements. They must apply for the halal certificate from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and obtain a Veterinary Control Number from the livestock services under the Agriculture Ministry.

As explained by the plant manager of PT Wabin Jayatama slaughterhouse to local newspaper Agrina (2/8/2010), the slaughterhouse has maintained its halal certificate by following these steps. First, all animals must be effectively stunned (unconscious) prior to slaughter.

To ensure that the animals are unconscious, the pupil of their eyes must be checked. After the animals are confirmed stunned, the slaughtermen can then cut the animals’ throats. They must ensure the knives or other cutting tools are sharp so the animals die immediately and do not feel pain.

What has been debated is when the stunning is performed, after or before cutting. Stunning the animals before cutting them is practised in most halal abattoirs in Australia and it complies with the Australian standard. As stated by Mohamed El-Mouelhy, the chairman of the Halal Certification Authority Australia, in the Sydney Morning Herald (1/6/2011), stunning was completely acceptable under halal, it was conducted in Australia and throughout Europe and Indonesia willingly accepted halal meat products from overseas abattoirs known to use stun guns.

In Indonesia, the MUI allows slaughterhouses to stun the animals before cutting as well as cutting without stunning. What the MUI should do to avoid similar cases in the future is possibly regulate that stunning must be conducted before cutting.

Alternatively, those who stun animals after cutting must make certain that the procedures and equipment can ensure the animals are not distressed, free from pain and die immediately.

This incident clearly demonstrates the failure of the Indonesian livestock services system. In particular, the monitoring and supervision roles of the MUI and Agriculture Minsitry have not been effective.

The system which allows Indonesian slaughterhouses to attain halal certificates valid for two years might need more regular monitoring and inspections.

The lack of monitoring on halal practices in Indonesia has actually been a subject of debate among Muslim Indonesians for a long time.

This incident has upset both Indonesian Muslims and Australians. Most Indonesian Muslims feel that inhumane treatment of animals is neither Islamic in every way nor halal. Therefore, Australia’s support for Indonesia to deal with this issue becomes very important and would be greatly appreciated.

Some exchange programs and capacity building programs to train the MUI members and Agriculture Ministry officials to perform effective supervisory and monitoring roles may be helpful.

Australia should also consider investing in abattoirs in Indonesia and the Indonesian government must ensure these investors have easy access to the market.

The writer is a School of Economics post-doctoral fellow at the University of Adelaide.

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