Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Problems in Indonesian live meat exports

Both today (The art of being politically boring) and yesterday's post (The rise of issues based morality politics) dealt with problems in current politics and public administration.

Even as I was writing, another example was emerging.

On Monday of last week, the Australian ABC Four Corners Program aired an expose on the treatment of Australian live cattle exports at certain Indonesian abattoirs. The graphic coverage blew up into a storm. Last night, the Australian Government announced a suspension of all Australian live cattle exports to Indonesia.

As I write, there are 1600 cattle sitting at Port Headland intended for export that no one knows what to do with. Australia's oldest agricultural company has been forced to call for a trading halt in its shares while it assesses the impact of the decision.  According to Rick Britton, the mayor of Boulia in Queensland’s central west, the ban will send some beef producers out of business. Local meat sales have dropped.

Now to the special interest groups who oppose any form of meat consumption or who who oppose live meat exports of any type, all this is great. But their success comes at a cost.

Looking at the Indonesian news coverage, this has been pretty fair, recognising that there is a problem.  The Jakarta Post's Australia suspends live cattle trade to Indonesia is an example. I was also interested in some of the comments on stories.

On the Jakarta Post, Dan from Australia began the discussion:

This is a positive start, however there are already 100,000 australian cattle in indo right now being fattened for cruel islamic turture.

I will never forget or forgive indo for this barbarism. I S**T on your culture and mohamed. When I take a p*ss I do so in the direction of mecca

The responses to Dan were remarkably restrained. There was recognition that there was a problem, along with comments that the treatment as outlined was inconsistent with Halal.  The story on the Jakarta Globe, Govt Must Not Overreact to Threat From Australia was also restrained. However, here I noted one comment from iraira.

Don't get defensive, local government must thoroughly verify and take action against bad abattoirs. No matter where the cattle were from, they must be killed instantly and be spared from torture. Isn't torturing animal haram ? On the other hand, we have to be confident that with 340mil population; Aussie NEED US more than we need them; they can stop the export anytime they want. If they want to export the canned meat, DON'T BUY. Remember, it's our money. What we have to do is to be united. United to push bad abattoirs to improve their practise and united not to let Aussie bully us. They'll soon change their mind, believe me. Money talks.

Now this comment puts the whole issue in perspective.

Indonesia is a separate country with a different culture. We can choose on on moral grounds, and the whole Australian debate is about morality, not to sell live animals to Indonesia. We cannot control Indonesian responses. Australia is presently just important enough to have some influence if we sell. We have no influence if we don't.

In all this, I am presuming, I do not know, that:

  • The Australian Government consulted Indonesia. Surely one could not cut off a major food source without doing that?
  • The Australian Government considered the local economic implications and possible responses. Surely one would not take action without doing that?
  • The Australian Government had an idea as to how to deal with the problem in Indonesia so that we can sell there.If not, it's a blind response.

I wish that I could be confident.

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