Meat processing industry leader Terry Nolan has criticised yesterday’s decision by Federal Ag minister Joe Ludwig to ban exports to 11 Indonesian abattoirs mentioned in last night’s Four-Corners program as a ‘cop-out’ that falls well short of industry and community expectations.
“It’s a Clayton’s decision that means nothing,” Mr Nolan said yesterday afternoon.
“It shows a complete lack of understanding about what happens in Indonesia. The abattoirs themselves are not responsible for cattle importation – it is Indonesian feedlots that Australian suppliers deal with, and we have no control over later commercial transactions between the feedlot proprietors and abattoir owners,” he said.
Mr Nolan, chairman of the Australian Meat Industry Council, said the more appropriate response would have been to stop all exports to Indonesia forthwith, until the matter is comprehensively investigated and a solution found.
“What was announced today provides very little animal welfare protection, or a realistic solution,” he said.
“AMIC is fully supportive of all animal welfare guidelines and rules enacted in Australia, and believes that countries receiving Australian live export cattle should be made to operate under identical conditions.”
Mr Nolan said the overarching impact of the animal welfare disclosures featured in the Four-Corners program were only now beginning to be felt.
“My phone has been running hot all day with independent butchers telling me their customers are coming into their stores claiming they will not eat beef any more. They’re saying they are turned off meat now, as a result of the footage.”
“There has obviously been a huge community backlash, and there is a clear threat that domestic beef consumption could take a big hit, for an indeterminate period, as a direct result. That would be a tragedy, because meat processing plants in Australia operate under some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world,” he said.
MLA and LiveCorp, in many peoples’ opinion, had been deficient in the way they had handled the broader matter of animal welfare in processing in Indonesia.
“There’s going to be backlash in Australian consumption, and we need to distance ourselves from everything that has happened up there,” Mr Nolan said.
“As Australian exporters, we simply cannot defend the practises that appear to have taken place in Indonesia. Australia has the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we are selling cattle into a market with absolutely no animal welfare standards.
“The Minister’s response today is simply window dressing. It means nothing, and does not change the circumstances one bit. The only sensible resolution is to halt exports to Indonesia until the issue is resolved.”
Speculation was mounting in senior beef industry ranks late this afternoon that Prime Minister Julia Gillard might intervene to override this morning’s Ludwig decision, and impose a blanket ban on Indonesia until the matter is fully investigated. Observers say such a move would potentially attract support from a similar voter or parliamentary constituency as that which could support the Prime Minister’s carbon tax agenda. Intervention over live exports could be a small price to pay for getting the carbon tax agenda over the line.
“The Ludwig decision leaves the entire beef industry in jeopardy, and intervention by the Prime Minister is absolutely warranted,” Teys Brothers executive Tom Maguire said late yesterday afternoon.
An AMIC statement issued late yesterday said the processor body supported proposed legislation announced by Independent, Andrew Wilkie and Senator Nick Xenophon for an imediate ban on all live exports to Indonesia until the animal welfare issue is addresed.
"Indonesia must demonstrate that it has implemented and is enforcing animal welfare standards which are the equivalent of the world-class standards applied in Australia," the statement said.
"AMIC considers that this issue must be addressed with certainty and immediacy by the Australian Government."
- The Eastern Young Cattle Index closed at 388.25c this afternoon, a drop of 6c on Monday. Unease over the looming live export issue may well have come into play, one analyst suggested.
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