Australian cattle industry proposes animal welfare solution

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has outlined its solution to assure the welfare of Australian cattle processed in Indonesia. 

Last Monday, ABC’s Four Corners program revealed confronting footage of the gross mistreatment and inhumane slaughtering of Australia’s cattle in Indonesian abattoirs. 

MLA Chairman Don Heatley said the proposed solution aimed to prevent Australian cattle in Indonesia from animal cruelty or poor welfare practices.

"Our solution commits to the reduction of trade to a core group of facilities in Indonesia accredited to meet OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) animal welfare standards,” he said.

"A rapid increase in stunning – which exceeds OIE standards – is also a central part of this solution.

"The implementation of these measures has already begun with the full support of the Indonesian industry.

"We will also need both the Australian and Indonesian Governments to support these measures to secure urgent animal welfare improvements," he said.

The industry has conducted a preliminary audit of the 100 processing facilities that have been receiving the majority of Australian cattle.

The audit has graded these facilities into four categories. The first is a group of five modern facilities that are using stunning effectively and consistently applying appropriate animal welfare standards with well trained staff.

The solution recommends these facilities be allowed to continue processing Australian cattle with regular checks by an independent team of veterinary experts, approved by the Australian and Indonesian Ministers of Agriculture, to ensure that high animal welfare standards continue.

The preliminary audit also indicates there is a second category with another 20 facilities that consistently meet OIE standards of animal welfare. While these standards do not require stunning, at least two of these facilities have recently commenced stunning operations.

As an additional level of assurance, the Australian industry is stationing an animal welfare officer at each of these abattoirs during hours of operation to ensure Australian cattle are handled at or above OIE standards every time.

"This step will ensure that only the best 25 facilities receive our cattle. These facilities currently account for around 40 per cent of Australian cattle sent to Indonesia," Heatley said.

"The Australian industry is also committed to introducing improved infrastructure in these facilities and transitioning as many as possible to stunning.

"Facilities in the remaining categories will not receive Australian cattle until they can be guaranteed to meet accepted standards."

Heatley said on seeing the footage, industry immediately moved to suspend supply of Australian cattle to the facilities identified and this suspension remains in place.

"Both the MLA Board and the LiveCorp Board will instigate immediate reviews of all industry-funded animal welfare programs in all markets," Mr Heatley said.

"I would like to apologise to the Australian livestock industry and the broader community for the hurt and anger caused by the recent footage of horrendous acts of cruelty to our cattle in Indonesia.

Image: smh.com.au

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