FROM 2003 to 2016, Dick Slaney was President Director of Elders Indonesia.
The ‘closed loop’ feedlot and abattoir supply chain he developed and operated for Elders in Indonesia was integral to the Federal Court decision handed down on Tuesday.
Justice Rares noted in his judgement he was satisfied that the Elders feedlot and abattoir was using internationally accepted and humane practices for Australian cattle exported to Indonesia before Minister Joe Ludwig imposed a ban on the export of all Australian cattle to Indonesia in June 2011
He said the Minister had been advised of this by the industry yet, despite that knowledge, he “plunged ahead regardless”.
Nine years on, Mr Slaney, who still works in the cattle industry in Indonesia overseeing local dairy farms and beef cattle breeding programs, said there are many emotions “still close to the surface” when he thinks about the ban.
This includes anger, he said, at the one-sided nature of the Four Corners report that triggered public outrage and the lack of focus on the facilities like the Elders supply chain that were handling large numbers of Australian cattle with high welfare standards, including pre-slaughter stunning.
Mr. Slaney and his team at Elders Indonesia played a key role in introducing pre-slaughter stunning to Indonesia, which included obtaining the 1st ever license to import and distribute stunning equipment and powerloads into Indonesia. “I was told by many, that this would never happen and we would never get stunning up and running across the industry”
Without reliable electricity in many areas, pre-slaughter stunning required the use of hand-held mushroom stunners that use powerloads ( cartridges, without a projectile). Indonesian regulations do not allow a foreign owned company to import ‘munitions’ but I don’t give up so easily.
Ultimately we used our Employees Cooperative as the importer and that body remained the sole importer and distributor until just recently. The license was handed over to Gapuspindo (industry body representing importers and feedlotters in Indonesia) upon the sale and closure of Elders Indonesia.
He still feels strongly to this day that had a more balanced perspective been shown in the Four Corners report the issue would not have culminated in a knee-jerk Federal Government decision to ban the entire trade a week later.
“We had been stunning cattle legally since day dot just 10 minutes’ drive from one of the abattoirs she filmed at, and there were other abattoirs also stunning,” he said from his home in Malang, East Java this week.
“I had already initiated a major project (partially funded by MLA) to introduce widespread stunning before the ban, and it went on to be the foremost reason all the importers gained ESCAS approval quite quickly and to maintain that accreditation.
“Today all abattoirs are stunning Australian cattle. This never got a mention from any party.”
Discussing the aftermath of the 2011 ban in the Indonesian market, he said animal welfare for Australian cattle at slaughter has definitely improved and in a sustained way due to the low-cost stunning.
The controversial ban showed the Indonesian Government that it could no longer rely on Australian live cattle to meet its beef needs.
“The ban per se has caused irreparable damage to the trade with Indonesia, that’s now proven,” he said.
“We have Indian Buffalo Meat and now Brazilian beef in the market, and this has shrunk our market today by 30 percent and within another three years we will probably lose 50 percent of that market.
“This means a market size of about 300,000 feeder cattle.”
Mr Slaney added “a huge congratulations” to the Brett family and Tracey Hayes and “all who slogged it out” to keep fighting to right what had been a terrible wrong.
“Due to their unwavering efforts, the next Minister will think twice!,” he said.
Coincidentally it is worth noting that Elders shipments were directly involved in both the closure and re-opening of the live export trade in 2011. It was a shipment of cattle on board the “Falconia” destined for Elders in Indonesia that was blocked at Port Hedland when the ban began, and it was an Elders shipment six weeks later that was the first to depart and kick start the trade again.