Videos showing Australian cattle being subjected to inhumane treatment in Indonesian abattoirs have prompted an immediate ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia earlier this year.
This is an update of the issue.
Risti Permani emphasised that a better policy approach would have been further assistance from Australia:
This incident clearly demonstrates the failure of the Indonesian livestock services system. In particular, the monitoring and supervision roles of the MUI and Agriculture Minsitry have not been effective …. This incident has upset both Indonesian Muslims and Australians. Most Indonesian Muslims feel that inhumane treatment of animals is neither Islamic in every way nor halal. Therefore, Australia’s support for Indonesia to deal with this issue becomes very important and would be greatly appreciated. Some exchange programs and capacity building programs to train the MUI members and Agriculture Ministry officials to perform effective supervisory and monitoring roles may be helpful. .
Focusing more on governance aspects, Risti Permani prepared a policy brief for the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre at the University of Adelaide (read the article here). She suggested that:
Australia has much to offer Indonesia in terms of developing such regulatory capacities but this means recognition that abusive animal welfare practices are not the result of individual failure but the result of systematic regulatory underdevelopment. Proceeding from such a perspective would lead Australia to a more sophisticated and ultimately more effective response than the blunt instru-ment of a cattle export ban.
Ray Trewin of Australian National University (ANU) as published by East Asia Forum suggested that export ban could be ineffective:
The proposed Australian ban on livestock exports to Indonesia will be ineffective in its various guises if the policy objective is better, more humane, treatment of livestock in Indonesia. At first the policy seemed to be specifically abattoir-focused, which was never going to be enforceable. It then shifted to Indonesia as a whole, but again, livestock could have been traded to countries such as the Philippines and then on-sold to Indonesia at little cost given the freer trade among ASEAN members.
There has been some attempts to resolve this issue. On 13 June 2011, Australian Deputy Secretary for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Phillip Glyde met with Indonesian Agriculture Deputy Minister Bayu Krisnamurti in Jakarta (see here). Yet, at the moment, ban on Australian cattle exports to Indonesia is still in place. The impacts of the ban are getting more evident as beef prices go up. It is expected that the price increase will be more significant in the coming weeks as the fasting month of Ramadhan approaches.
Nevertheless, according to an interview by the Jakarta Post (10/6/2011), Trade Minister Mari Pangestu viewed that:
There’s no threat of price volatility. We have enough [cattle] … A plan to improve animal welfare at abattoirs was already in place, and the Australian ban would push the Agriculture Ministry to intensify its work on resolving the plan.
When the situation worsens, Indonesia may find importing from other countries to be an effective solution. Importing from other countries may be effective in the short-term to stabilise beef prices but it may raise concern over food safety standards. Another concern is that sourcing beef from other countries might shift Indonesia’s attention from animal welfare and the practise of Halal slaughtering issues. If this happens, Indonesia will, once again, miss the opportunity to learn something from this incidence.
This article is prepared by Risti Permani.