The world’s biggest exporter of live animals, Australia sends hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep to dozens of countries around the world every year. Half a million cattle – 60 percent of the total – go to its northern neighbor, Indonesia, for fattening and slaughtering, in a trade worth $351 million.
Now that trade is in jeopardy, following the backlash over scenes of cows dying long, apparently agonizing deaths after being whipped, beaten, and kicked.
“Watching it was the most distressing experience I’ve ever had, in 20 years working in animal welfare,” says Bidda Jones, chief scientist of the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). “And the fact that the cruelty was so systemic was extremely disturbing.”
The Australian meat and livestock industry has been training Indonesian slaughterhouse workers for the past decade, but it admitted this week that the treatment of cattle exposed by ABC was unacceptable. “It [the footage] was horrific,” says Mr. Bowen.
In Australia – as in the United States, Canada, and the European Union – cattle must be stunned before being slaughtered. While stunning is less common in developing countries, Indonesia is a signatory to an international standard set by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health that requires animals be slaughtered humanely.