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Australian vets work with Indonesian cohorts on animal welfare at transport level

Jon Condon, 02/07/2013

AVA president Ben GardinerThe Australian Veterinary Association is building closer relationships with veterinary and regulatory professionals in Indonesia, particularly in key areas of common interest like animal welfare.  

AVA president Ben Gardiner has not long returned from a speaking engagement at the recent Indonesian Livestock and Export Forum, which involved all the country’s livestock industries.

Within the forum program was a special seminar held by the Indonesian Veterinary Medical Association on animal welfare in livestock transport.

Dr Gardiner gave an account of progress in development of Australia’s Livestock Transport Standards and Guidelines.

“They did not ask me to speak on the topic just to learn about what Australia has done in the area of transport, but more towards the objective of making gains in livestock transport welfare in their own country,” he said.

Dr Gardiner said Indonesia’s legal framework in terms of acceptable transport standards looked quite sound, but getting stronger industry uptake was a challenge. Engaging industry in the development of the guidelines could be part of the answer to instil stronger support.

It became apparent watching some of the other conference presentations that Indonesia faces a distinctly different set of livestock transport challenges than Australia, he said.

“For example Indonesia is made up of 17,000 islands, and sea transport of small shipments of domestically-bred cattle are common. It’s a considerable issue locally, especially in methods used to load and unload stock onto vessels that are not well equipped for livestock, using cranes and halters.”

The process did not involve Australian-bred cattle, which are limited to approved feedlot/abattoir supply chains only.

“It’s important to remember that they don’t have handling systems like relocatable races and gangways to run cattle on or off a boat. They lack the resources to do so. There is currently no easy solution, and it would be impossible to stop the current practices overnight.”

While the seminar in which he took part was about welfare during livestock transport, the conversations Dr Gardiner had with local vets and others often included more general welfare issues.

He said the visit provided a good opportunity to interact closely with the president of the Indonesian Veterinary Medical Association, a body which also has a regulatory function, and which appeared to have considerable influence within Indonesian government circles.     

“Certainly from within the veterinary profession and the local animal welfare society, there was a mood evident among the conference participants for improvement within animal welfare standards in domestic livestock transport. That was expressed also by the director general of agriculture, and the former minister for agriculture, both of whom were present,” he said.

Dr Gardiner said there were occasions when the regional priorities in terms of animal welfare strategies might be a little different from those defined within Australia, because of local relevance.

“A topic that in this country might be deemed to be a high priority, sometimes because of emotional attachment, may rank differently on a regional scale, because of some of the other issues that come into play,” he said.

While the veterinary associations in Australia and Indonesia had had some dialogue before, Dr Gardiner’s visit was something of a milestone, being the first occasion an invitation had been issued to an AVA representative to speak, not only to the Indonesian veterinary profession, but to a wider industry forum.

“We’ve now established some good dialogue with the vet profession and other stakeholders in Indonesia. They have some unique issues to deal with, both politically and culturally, but the contact that has been developed between the groups can only help in that process.”

“It’s important to have relationships with Indonesia at all levels.”

  • Ben Gardiner is something of a rarity among recent AVA presidents, being a large animal vet rather than coming from the companion-animal side of the profession. He runs rural vet clinics in Manilla, Barraba and Bingera west of Armidale in northern NSW.

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