June 10th, 2011
06:48 AM GMT
(CNN) – The Australian government's decision to temporarily ban live cattle exports to Indonesia has dealt a crushing blow to the beef industry, with some fearing the move could permanently damage relations with this vital market.
The ban follows the airing of gruesome footage on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's “Four Corners” program last week showing the brutal treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesia abattoirs. The video shows cattle being kicked, hit, their eyes gouged and tails broken by Indonesian abattoirs, prompting a national outcry and swift government action.
Live cattle exports will only be resumed once those safeguards are put in place, said Senator Joe Ludwig, Australia’s Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
"This suspension will be in place until the Government establishes sufficient safeguards to ensure there is verifiable and transparent supply chain assurance up to and including the point of slaughter for every consignment that leaves Australia,” said Ludwig, who announced the ban on Wednesday.
The Indonesian government admits conditions in slaughterhouses must be improved but says they will now source beef from other countries such as New Zealand and Brazil.
But industry officials say the six-month ban could cripple Australian cattle farmers.
Each year about 520,000 head of cattle are sent to Indonesia, a market that makes up 60% of Australia's live beef exports. The trade brings Australian ranchers nearly $350 million a year.
Cattle farmers are calling for compensation for the loss of revenue but even if that is granted, President of the Northern Territory Cattleman's Association Rohan Sullivan said, "The impact on this industry is going to be severe and it's going to affect some producers and families particularly hard.”
Minister Ludwig dismisses fears by some cattle farmers that the temporary ban could permanently edge Australia out of the lucrative Indonesian market. "I'm confident that we'll be able to return to this market. I'm confident that I'll be able to work with industry and the Indonesian Government to put in place animal welfare outcomes that are appropriate."
There is now a push underway to widen the live export ban to countries such as Malaysia, Libya and Brunei which, according to animal welfare groups, have similarly brutal butchery practices as used in Indonesia.
The Australian Government says it's investigating.
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