01 June, 2011

A letter to my MP

Dear Mr Broadbent,

I am sure you have received other copies of automatically generated emails so there is no need for me to send you another copy and I will simply say my own piece.

The treatment of cattle in Indonesia is beyond inhumane, it is downright evil - and that is not a word I use lightly.

It has been said that live export is not the problem and that instead, more must be done to upgrade Indonesian slaughterhouses and improve training there.  I believe this is a naive notion that dodges our responsibility for what goes on there.  As long as we export live cattle, we are enabling this torture.  As long as we breed livestock, we are responsible for what happens to them.  Quite simply, the only way to stop it is to stop it.

I accept that the cessation of live exporting may cost jobs.  So did banning whaling.  So did the introduction of sewerage and digital cameras.  So have efforts to reduce smoking.  Industries change as society does.  I do not begrudge anyone their livelihood but we have to ask ourselves how much we are prepared to tolerate for the sake of such trade.  We are clever enough to find alternative markets and alternative products.

I am not a bandwagon-jumper.  I have felt this way for some time now.  The despicable treatment shown on 4 Corners this week brought wider awareness to the issue and we must use this momentum to end this practise.

We cannot plead ignorance any more.  There is no doubt to give the benefit of.  This must be stopped by any and all means possible.


Write yours HERE.

Update 1:
Mr Broadbent's reply:

Dear Mr. S,

Like all Australians, I was shocked and deeply disturbed by the mistreatment of Australian livestock exposed during the Four Corners program on 30 May 2011. I thank you for your correspondence and I share your concerns.

There can be no justification for mistreating Australian animals in Indonesia or anywhere else. As Australians, we should not and do not, accept cruelty to animals.

If we could have our way, Australia would only process, freeze and ship packaged meat to other parts of the world. For one thing, it’s a higher value product. But there are some countries where that is not possible for cultural and practical reasons.

In many areas, especially in Asia and the Middle East, we are talking about villages where there no refrigeration. The only way families in those areas have access to fresh meat is to buy product that was slaughtered locally.

We did see on Four Corners brief glimpses of good practice, where Australian Government and industry investment has provided modern stunning and slaughter facilities to some of the larger Indonesian abattoirs.

We support the government’s decision to ban exports of Australian cattle to abattoirs that do not have such facilities.

It is true that some practices and attitudes in foreign countries differ markedly from our own. We must remember that we’re dealing with centuries-old cultures and change takes time.

That is why we invest millions of dollars to improve animal care and education overseas. Through this trade we strive to be the instrument of change. Clearly, more needs to be done and the industry is committed to extending its work in upgrading Indonesian abattoirs.

Australia is the only country in the world actively working to improve animal care in our destination markets. We must use our influence in those countries to speed up progress on animal welfare reform.

The suspension of exports should remain until Australian expectations of acceptable animal welfare practices are in place. These expectations, are not optional, they are integral to our requirements for the live export industry.

I thank you, again, for your interest in this important issue and I can assure you that the Coalition will continue to work to ensure Australia leads the world in animal welfare – both here and overseas.

Yours sincerely,

Russell Broadbent

Update 2:
My reply:

Dear Mr Broadbent,

I thank you for your prompt reply and for sharing my concerns.  I am glad you and your party support a ban on live exports to under-equipped slaughterhouses and that you agree that animal welfare is not simply "optional."

However, I must respond to some apparent contradictions in your reply:

You say, "If we could have our way, Australia would only process, freeze and ship packaged meat to other parts of the world."  I'm not sure if "we" means Australia, the Coalition or those of us horrified by the treatments of animals in Indonesia.  In any case, the reply is the same.  We can have our way.  We can insist that Australian animals are only taken to humane slaughterhouses and if we are not satisfied that they are, then we withdraw supply.  We are not a helpless party in this situation.  There are laws against selling alcohol to an intoxicated person despite this being an infringement on free enterprise and free choice.  We have this law because it is the right thing to do.  Likewise, we should have the courage to refuse sale to anyone who can't guarantee the animals will be treated to a standard that Australians find acceptable.   One might call it Responsible Service of Livestock.

I take your point about the lack of refrigeration in some of the destination markets.  However, vacuum sealing preserves meat just as well without freezing.  The 4 Corners report showed that far from reducing the suffering of cattle, involvement by government and industry has only enabled more suffering.  As we also saw, some slaughterhouses refuse to use stunning.  Since the brutalisation suffered by cattle does not even come close to true halal, the justification that it's a different culture doesn't stand up.  That treatment couldn't be less halal if the cattle were killed by alcohol poisoning.

Indonesia is not a backward country.  They have cities, cars, computers and mobile 'phones.  That change didn't take as much time and neither should the humane treatment of animals take this much time.  I understand that attitudes are different there.  However, I must say I find it curious that we respect Muslim tradition when there's a dollar to be made.  I am as ecumenical as they come, but I do not see how bleeding animals to death is a culture we have to respect, yet somehow the burqa is a threat to our way of life.

With respect, I see no evidence of Australia striving to be the instrument of change - especially not when we have supplied hardware that is designed to inflict suffering.  Australia has always taken a stand for what we know is right.  To simply say, "That's their way and change takes a long time," was not an excuse not to stand against apartheid, the Taliban or Japanese whaling, and it's not an excuse to tolerate this treatment.  The way to promote change through trade in this case, is to withdraw our trade until this evil practise is stopped.  If they want our cattle, change will come soon enough.

Again, I thank you for your reply and your concern,


Note:  I Googled a couple of lines from the reply and it would appear this is the standard Liberal party response.  I mention this purely out of interest and draw no conclusions from it.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps millions of dollars would be better spent investing in providing refrigeration facilities in these villages. That way Australia could ship the meat over refrigerated. I'm sure the Indonesians could embrace this technology. As you said they are not a backward country. Just a thought.