An Australian farmer talks about Indonesian abattoirs

Posted on June 11, 2011


Last night, as I was grudgingly eating mushroom risotto and looking longingly at Callum’s beef roulade, I decided to educate myself about the Indonesian abattoirs situation so I could stop feeling guilty about meat.

Like anyone else with a conscience I was horrified to hear about the treatment of livestock in Asian slaughterhouses, and had since lost my taste for meat.

But seeing as livestock in Australia is a multi-billion dollar industry and that agriculture is a lynchpin of our economy, I decided to think twice before boycotting.

So I sat down with Alastair Earl – a 30-year-old grazier from Mount Gambier in South Australia, to get an insider’s perspective.

He is scornful of the Government’s proposed six-month ban on live exports to Indonesia and dismisses it as a populist, bandaid solution.

“What you have to realise is that Meat and Livestock Australia on behalf of the Government set up the Indonesian abattoirs that kill our meat in the first place, and so they were responsible for this from the outset,” he said.

“It’s disgraceful that it took the media to highlight this issue before the Government would act, when they’ve known about this issue from day one.

“The difficulty is that the Government’s ‘solution’ to the inhumane treatment of animals in Indonesia is going to hurt all the wrong people.”

Australian live exports to Indonesia are worth about $300 million per year.

“A six month ban will cost the industry dearly. It will impact farmers, producers, and the transport industry – basically the entire supply line – without achieving any real change,” Alastair said.

“We’re just going to cost ourselves $150 million in lost revenue and things will carry on in Indonesian abattoirs like nothing ever happened.

“If we want to kill Australian meat overseas we need to have a presence in those abattoirs and ensure they are managed in line with Australian standards.

“The Government would be far better off investing into those abattoirs and equipping them to operate safely than punishing the local industry to appease an appalled public.”

Australia currently produces more meat than it needs so international export is essential to the livestock industry.

“It’s tricky because we need to export, but how that’s managed is an issue for governments,” Alastair said.

“There is nothing I can do as a farmer once the cattle have left my yards because once they’re sold, I don’t have any say in what happens next.

“Whether we need to kill all our meat in Australia before it goes overseas is another option worth looking into.

“No industry is perfect. No industry can be perfect, but regardless we have a moral imperative to improve live cattle export standards.

“The answer isn’t to shut the industry down, but to implement targeted solutions that solve the real issues.”

Alastair Earl is a third generation farmer at Mt Schank in the lower south east of South Australia. He has been asked several times to go on Farmer Wants A Wife but to his credit, has refused because he is not a lameass. He has a puppy called Reg (who recently chewed his good RM Williams boots) plays footy and has the great privilege of being my cousin-in-law.