Concerns have arisen in NSW where authorities have closed down a Sydney abattoir, following the release by Animal Liberation NSW of graphic footage of acts of animal cruelty. An investigation has since been launched into the matter.
In a similar vein, authorities in Victoria have also closed down an abattoir, after yet more footage of acts of cruelty to animals were brought to light. Following this, the abattoir had its licence revoked.
A recent claim by a union representative at the Geelong abattoir was that animals are no longer being stunned prior to slaughter, and that this practice is now widespread throughout the meat industry due to the adoption of the Halal method of slaughter.
Many Australians were horrified last year when footage of cattle being horrendously treated inside Indonesian abattoirs was shown on the ABC’s “Four Corners” programme. It prompted the federal government to place a temporary ban on the live animal export trade to Indonesia.
The public outcry over the “Four Corners” footage was added to recently, when further disturbing footage was aired on the ABC’s “Lateline” programme of cruel treatment of cattle inside Indonesia’s abattoirs. However, it was not verified that cattle from Australia were involved. The call from many Australians for us to “Ban Live Exports” is a very understandable knee-jerk reaction. However, it’s very doubtful that this is the best way forward. The claim that Australia could slaughter cattle humanely here and then ship chilled meat to Indonesia is also naive. The truth is that Indonesia desires live cattle because many Indonesians are poor and without refrigeration.
If Australia stopped exporting live animals to Indonesia, their government would simply import more cattle from Brazil, China or Canada, or perhaps breed more animals themselves. And we must remember that cattle are cattle, regardless of whether they are Australian, Brazilian, Chinese or Indonesian. We should want humane treatment for all cattle, regardless of their country of origin. By having an involvement in the Indonesian industry, not only does it secure export dollars for Australia, but it enables Australia to play a role in how cattle are treated within the industry in Indonesia. There is a better chance of effecting real change, than us washing our hands of the problem and refusing to participate.
However, there’s a sad irony in us focusing on cruelty within the Indonesian abattoir industry, when our own standards at home appear to be declining. The RSPCA believes that all cattle should be stunned prior to slaughter in the abattoir.
In the UK, a number of supermarket chains have forced abattoirs to install CCTV cameras to help monitor slaughtering practices and provide greater accountability. There is surely a strong case for making CCTV cameras mandatory in Australian abattoirs.
No doubt many Australians would want much greater scrutiny of our abattoir industry to ensure that we ourselves are not guilty of the same cruelty as in some Third World countries.
John Van Klaveren. “Our meat ‘now halal’”, Geelong Independent, 2 December 2011
“RSPCA moves to ban Halal slaughter in Australia”, AM (ABC), 18 June 2011
“What is halal slaughter in Australia?”, RSPCA, 20 October 2011
James Meikle. “Supermarkets force abattoirs to fit CCTV after secret film exposes abuse”, The Guardian, 3 February 2011
James Meikle. “Slaughterhouses could be forced to fit CCTV to prevent animal abuse”, The Guardian, 8 November 2011