MLA accepts responsibility

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Peak body Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has taken responsibility for the mistreatment of animals in Indonesia going undetected until now.

With the reputation of Australia’s live export industry in ruins, MLA live exports manager Michael Finucan said it was doing all it could to resolve the issue, but with caution.

“We are not responsible for the actions of these people but I do feel responsible for it going unnoticed, ” he said.

“If we knew about it we would have taken action immediately.”

In fear of backlash by one of Australia’s most important trading partners and closest neighbours, he said MLA needed to be careful to not force change in Indonesia, but to “work with them”.

“There could be a backlash on a number of fronts if that happens,” Mr Finucan said.

“Like any international relationship, it has got to be co-operative.

“The Indonesian importers are disappointed by the cruelty and they are rallying behind us to make sure that sort of event doesn’t occur again.”

Mr Finucan said the MLA was working with the industry to have the plan for the 25 OIE abattoirs adopted.

“We have got strong support from the feedlots for that and we are working through it.”

Since the cruelty was revealed by Animals Australia, MLA has increased the number of training facilitators and is working on employing a greater use of stun guns.

“Since Monday last week, we have sent a team of seven people to work in the abattoirs to make sure the standards are improved, ” Mr Finucan said.

There are currently five commercial stunning operations in Indonesia.

“We have been engaging with the local religious authorities and getting endorsement for the expansion of stunning and we should be getting another five online by the end of this year,” Mr Finucan said.

“There are a number of operators which are in their own process of increasing stunning and we will work with those to help train their staff and get it implemented.”

Mr Finucan said mixing stunning and religious slaughter was complicated and the right process was crucial.

“At high-level facilities, stunning to halal standards is accepted, however, at more regional locations there are different views so working with individual operators is needed,” he said.

Perth Muslim Association president Nasser Abdelghani said the use of stunning cattle was thought to be crueller than halal methods.

“There is some evidence that if the blood stays in the body for too long it can cause diseases, so stunning the animal and leaving it may cause problems, ” he said. “And if the stun doesn’t kill it straight away that is cruel as well.”

Mr Abdelghani condemned the cruelty that was shown on Four Corners.

He said halal, which had been practised by his culture for 1600 years, was more humane and clean than conventional slaughtering.

“You cannot beat the animal or torture it. It has to be cut with a very sharp knife and bled out so it is instant and there is no prolonged pain,” he said.

Mr Finucan said MLA supported a review requested by Federal Agricultural Minister Joe Ludwig of the Mark I and IV boxes used in the slaughtering process.

“We will also look at other options for restraining animals prior to religious slaughter,” he said.

“We have a full-time animal welfare manager based in Jakarta.

“He has a team of three local veterinarians who oversee the extension and training packages.

“That’s supplemented by a team of Australians ranging in expertise from cattle handlers to abattoir experts.”

Mr Finucan said not having a regular presence in the abattiors was one of the reasons why the cruelty was overlooked.

“When we are there we are delivering a training package and working with them,” he said.

“But this has shown we need more training and more regular presence to ensure that those events won’t happen again.

“We are working with one hundred locations, the program only showed four.

“The places Animals Australia has gone to are quite run down backyard operations, they certainly haven’t gone to the high-end modern facilities.”

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