Indigenous pastoralists in Northern Australia understand the suspension of cattle exports to Indonesia on humane grounds but want quick action taken to fix the problem.
Indigenous Land Corporation Chairperson Shirley McPherson said she had taken many calls from Indigenous pastoralists who were angry about the treatment of Australian cattle in a number of Indonesian abattoirs but, were also worried about the future. There are more than 80 Indigenous properties spread across Northern Australia collectively running over 200,000 head of cattle, employing over 700 people and with approximately 14,000 Indigenous people living on or near these pastoral properties.
Ms McPherson said it was vitally important that the interests of Indigenous pastoralists and landholders are taken into account in any decisions about the future of the live export trade in Australia. “They, like the vast majority of the Australian public, were shocked and appalled by the recent television footage and agree with that such practices cannot be tolerated,” Ms. McPherson said.
“Australian cattle being exported to Indonesia must be treated with respect and slaughtered in a humane manner. I understand Minister Ludwig’s action in suspending the shipment of Australian cattle to Indonesia until new animal welfare safeguards are established.
“Indigenous communities have worked hard to get back into the mainstream cattle industry, especially over the last ten years, with a significant number of Indigenous properties, employees and community residents now relying on the export trade to Indonesia for their livelihoods. Any complete ban on the trade to Indonesia would impact negatively on the lives of Indigenous people employed on those properties, as well as the communities involved.
“Despite the well-intentioned assertions of a number of commentators and vested interests, it’s simply not true that banning live exports could be replaced by abattoirs and jobs in northern Australia for Indigenous workers. There are no large-scale abattoirs in northern Australia.
“The cost of transporting cattle to abattoirs 2,500-3,000 kilometres away would make it impossible for Indigenous cattle stations to stay in business.
“The original 4 Corners program starkly contrasted the excellent treatment of Australian cattle on the property of origin, on the export boats and in Indonesian feedlots, to their treatment in the slaughterhouses that were featured. Minister Ludwig’s action to ensure that all Australian cattle are treated humanely at the point of slaughter in Indonesia focuses directly on the problem. It is this aspect of the live cattle export trade to Indonesia that has to be fixed immediately.
“I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s repeated assurances on the 7:30 Report that the suspension was absolutely temporary and will be lifted as soon as possible. This can be achieved by bringing abattoirs back on-line immediately they are certified as compliant, and I urge the Government and industry to implement this as soon as possible.”
Ms McPherson said ILC officers will shortly travel to Northern Australia to hold meetings with Indigenous pastoralists to listen to their concerns and feed this information back to government so their views can be taken into account when key decisions on the future of the industry are being made.
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