Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 19:42 | SYDNEY
Friday 17 Aug 2018 | 19:42 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Live animal trade

8 June 2011 14:16

Andrew Farran responds to three earlier posts on the ethics and economics of Australia's live animal trade:

I write this from the perspective of someone with very real farming interests as well as extensive experience in international trade policy matters.

Free trade obligations even in the best of circumstances are not absolute. I don't have to engage in a trade if in doing so I am violating a principle or standard of behaviour that is morally or ethically repulsive. Nor is a nation obliged to do so if a practice or trade offends its public policy.

In the situation concerning live cattle exports to Indonesia, the manner in which we respond will be critical. The announced total ban for 6 months seems an over-reaction given that the authorities, including our Government, appear to have condoned the conduct of the trade for years.

Practical issues or difficulties include a massive disruption to the Australian cattle industry; the inability of the Indonesian market to switch to frozen imports due to the lack of village refrigeration; concerns over the observation of halal slaughtering practices; and most of all, the inevitably slow response of Indonesian abattoirs to equip themselves to an acceptable standard. Hence, remedying the situation to acceptable levels will be a step-by-step process.

Measures that might advance its rectification should include assistance to Indonesia to establish large public slaughtering facilities in strategic locations under government supervision. These could be joint Australian-Indonesian enterprises. The spin-off from that would filter down to smaller, local abattoirs. In short, governments should have a greater participation in the process. The greater part of the trade should then be channeled through these facilities and picked up by the local abattoirs as and when they are up to standard. This would obviously involve quite radical changes in distribution and marketing systems in Indonesia.

it might be noted that the live sheep trade to the Middle East has lifted its standards almost beyond recognition in a relatively short period of time and rarely is there a disturbing incident now in that area. Changes there were implemented with little difficulty but Indonesia has many more entry points scattering the focus for effective action. Because of the importance of these issues for our diplomatic relations, the Government cannot avoid a substantial commercial role for itself until public opinion is satisfied that the trade is in order.

Photo by Flickr user boobook48.