Australia lifts ban on cattle exports to Indonesia
By KRISTEN GELINEAU
SYDNEY (AP) -- Australia lifted a ban on its $350 million a year live cattle trade with Indonesia on Wednesday, with the federal government saying a new set of strict conditions on exporters will help ensure the animals are treated humanely.
The government banned exports to Indonesia last month after an outcry over a video that aired in Australia showing animals screaming and writhing as they were slaughtered. The footage also showed cattle being beaten and taking minutes to bleed to death as their throats were repeatedly slashed.
"The Australian community made it clear it would not support a trade in which these things occurred," Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig told reporters on Wednesday. "I want to make it clear the decision to suspend the trade was not an easy decision to make, but it was the right decision."
Under the new system, slaughterhouses will have to prove they meet animal welfare guidelines. Ludwig said tracking and transparency in the cattle supply chain will also be improved.
"The exporter is required to trace the animals from the domestic supply chain into the feedlot, from the feedlot into the abattoir," he said. "The abattoir will be independently audited."
In Jakarta, Indonesian officials greeted the revocation as a good news.
"It's good if they lifted the ban," deputy minister of agriculture Bayu Krisnamurti told The Associated Press. "In principle, we are always open to imports to cover our shortages at home."
The ban was a reminder of awareness of how to treat cattle, said Thomas Sembiring, chairman of Indonesia's Beef Importers Association.
Australia is the world's largest exporter of livestock. Exports of live Australian cattle account for up to 40 percent of the beef eaten in Indonesia.
The government's decision to halt exports was met with outrage by the Australian cattle industry, which blamed the ban for a sharp drop in income. Last month, Australia's best-known Outback cattle ranch, the iconic Bullo River Station in the Northern Territory, was put on the market after its owner said the ban destroyed her livelihood.
Lang Coppin, who owns a cattle station in Western Australia's Pilbara region, said the lifting of the ban came just in time. About half of the 4,000 cattle Coppin exports each year go to Indonesia, and his business has been struggling since the exports were halted.
"All of a sudden they were just going to shut us all down, and I think they thought, 'Bloody hell, I guess we better do something about this,'" Coppin told The Associated Press. "(The ban) was just a very bad political decision and the ramifications, I think, between the two countries have been very damaging."
Associated Press writer Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report from Jakarta, Indonesia.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.