Farm groups stand by trade

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Banning livestock exports to Indonesia would be catastrophic for producers, say WA farm lobby groups.

Both the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) and WAFarmers described the television footage aired on Monday night of Australian cattle being treated inhumanely at Indonesian abattoirs as “horrifying”.

However, the lobby groups are maintaining their support for the trade, saying it’s vital for both cattle and sheep producers.

But they want mandatory pre-slaughter stunning of animals and Federal Government intervention.

PGA chairman Rob Gillam said an immediate ban would be disastrous for WA’s cattle industry, which supplies 65 per cent of the market.

If the Indonesian market was stopped, he said pastoral cattle would flood the southern market and prices would be slashed.

Mr Gillam described Indonesia as the backbone for the northern Australian cattle industry.

“What’s happening in Indonesia is going to lead to better welfare for animals and not just Australian animals,” he said. “Our welfare standards rub off for other animals.

“If we were to pull out of Indonesia now, they would find cattle from other markets.”

Along with mandatory pre-slaughter stunning, the PGA wants the same halal slaughtering methods used in Australia immediately initiated in Indonesia.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said if the industry was shut down, it would destroy pastoralists.

“They have set themselves up over a long period of years to sell light weight cattle under 350kg into Indonesia,” he said.

“If that stops, those cattle have to be carried either on stations or somewhere else for another 12 months to grow out so they are suitable for the Australian processing industry.”

For many wanting to sell big numbers of cattle, the closest processor is in the State’s South West.

However, movement on a processing plant in the north is in its infancy.

Mr Norton said opinions among members ranged but a solution, led by government, was needed.

“I don’t think industry has got the capacity to try to make the changes within the abattoirs that aren’t complying with processing standards,” he said.

“It has to be done government to government and the faster State and Commonwealth governments get on the case, the better off we will all be.”

WA Beef Council chairman Tony Hiscock said if Australia ceased live exports, efforts for humane and ethical treatment of livestock would be lost and global animal welfare would go backwards.

“Australia is the only country with such a commitment and investment in improving standards,” he said.

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