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Australia demands animal
welfare

In terms of animal welfare, Indonesia has standards that are “compatible” with international standards, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says, noting that further improvements are still needed.

“Both Australia and Indonesia welcome any arrangements the [cattle] industry [makes to improve] standards, including the use of appropriate technical devices ... These are important considerations, and are the subject of deliberations between the two industries in Australia and in Indonesia,” Rudd said at the office of the coordinating economic minister in Jakarta on Friday.

Indonesia’s standards were now compatible with those set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), he said on Friday.

Critics, meanwhile, have said Australia did not meet OIE standards.

New regulations issued by the Indonesian trade and agriculture ministers stipulate that Indonesian feedlots must be linked to slaughterhouses and the rest of the supply chain to guarantee animal welfare standards are compatible with OIE standards and are being implemented on the ground.

“We welcome [these regulations],” Rudd said.

On Wednesday, Australia lifted a ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia that was imposed following concerns of animal cruelty at Indonesian slaughterhouses. The ban came in reaction to a public outcry after an Australian TV documentary revealed cattle being beaten, whipped and maimed prior to slaughter in
Indonesia.

On Friday, Indonesia issued new import permits for 180,000 cattle from various suppliers, including from Australia, for the July-October period, Agriculture Minister Suswono said.

This added to import permits previously issued in the first half, for 180,000 cattle, Suswono said, adding that Indonesia planned to import a total of 600,000 live cattle this year.

“We talked about it together. A decision should not be made because of a video broadcast out of nowhere and then making a one-sided decision,” Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said, adding that Indonesia had appropriate laws on animal welfare, but would need to supervise slaughterhouses and enforce standards more strictly.

Each year, Australia exports around 500,000 cattle to Indonesia, worth A$320 million (US$340 million), and representing 60 percent of its live cattle trade. Live Australian cattle supply up to 40 percent of Indonesia’s beef demand.

When asked if the ban had damaged Australia’s cattle trade, Rudd said “Of course. There has been a suspension of trade. It hasn’t been operating for the past month. Therefore it follows that there has been obviously economic impacts in this country, Indonesia, and in Australia.”

Australian farmers have warned that a ban would destroy many people’s livelihoods, with butchers reporting a decline in sales of at least 15 percent.

Following the ban, the Australian government was reportedly forced to disburse more than A$30 million in compensation to live cattle exporters.

Meanwhile, Indonesian officials said the Australian cattle could be replaced with imports from other countries, such as Brazil and Canada.

The local cattle industry saw the ban as an opportunity to reduce Indonesia’s dependence on Australian imports, with the Central Statistics Agency showing current stocks of at least 14.5 million cattle for meat in Indonesia.

“Trading partners have issues and problems all the time. What is important is that because we have strong ties we have found ways to communicate and have overcome the issues, so let’s look forward. There are plenty of things to do moving forward,” Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said after the news conference.

Indonesia and Australia are currently negotiating an ambitious Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that will not only cover free trade pacts, but also investment deals between the two countries. The Indonesian government expects this to be finalized next year.

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