UPDATED: Live cattle trade: the horror, the outrage.


UPDATE: Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig tells Caucus he’s suspending live exports to the 11 abattoirs investigated by 4Corners report in Indonesia.

The sound the cattle make when they’re taken to slaughter is what sticks with you.

They take minutes to die. Still conscious. International regulations say they should be dead in 30 seconds.

This is what happens with live trade cattle, sent to their deaths in Indonesia. It’s not pretty.

Let me clear one thing up, to begin with. I was raised on a cattle station in western Queensland. We had thousands of beasts raised for the sole destination of your dinner plate. We killed our own, too. Once a month with a single shot to the head, so we could eat meat. They died quickly.

This was my reality and I scoffed when Mia asked me to watch 4 Corners last night. But I take my words back. All of them.

Award-winning Australian journalist Sarah Ferguson (she also did the acclaimed Matthew Johns story a few years ago, revealing the seediest side of the NRL) took viewers behind the scenes at halal abattoirs in Indonesia which take Australian cattle, many from the Northern Territory and some of this country’s biggest cattle stations.

It is likened to the ‘slave trade’ of the 21 Century.

After the shocking footage aired last night – and it was indeed one of the most harrowing things I have ever seen – social media exploded with outrage and people sought to do something – anything – to make their voices heard and stop this barbaric practice. (You can see the full 4 Corners episode here.)

The Australian Government has taken notice. This, according to the ABC Online:

“The Federal Government is considering banning live animal exports to some countries after ABC TV broadcast disturbing footage of Australian cattle being mistreated in Indonesian abattoirs.

Last night’s Four Corners program featured footage of Australian cattle being beaten, whipped and kicked prior to slaughter in Indonesia.”

An immediate moratorium has been introduced. This means a temporary ban has been placed on all live exports to Indonesia.

Let’s be perfectly clear and reiterate that the concern is not for how cattle are treated by Australian farmers or station managers. By all accounts, and as one said on the program last night, they like their animals. A lot.

But to make money, the cattle have to be sold. And Indonesia is a big market.


In regular abattoirs, the cattle are stunned and knocked unconscious before being slaughtered. It’s quick and about as pain-free as you can get. But halal rules (Islamic dietary rules for the consumption of meat) require the animal to be alive when it is killed. To many, being unconscious does not count as being alive.

But halal also requires one clean cut across the throat. As 4 Corners uncovered last night, many deaths are the result of blunt knives and require on average at least 10 ‘goes’. Sometimes up to 30.

Lyn White from Animals Australia helped uncover the torture of the animals.

“We have a live export trade that has thrived on where they send the animals, Australian eyes will not see it. Slaughtermen in Indonesia are trained by Australian industry, and use Australian equipment.

“The Australian industry could not have placed those animals at greater risk.”

The world’s most respected cattle expert, Temple Grandin, also called ‘bullshit’ on claims by a professor that the cattle were generally coping in Indonesia.

“Bullshit. To say that is generally good, that is just totally wrong,” she said.

“Conditions are absolutely terrible. That violates every humane standard around the world.”

Temple Grandin, as 4 Corners pointed out, is not an animal activist. She is an advisor to the cattle industry and co-wrote international slaughter guidelines.

Of all the footage featured on last night’s program, it was the vision of the distressed steer that broke a leg before entering the slaughter room that was the most powerful.

It should have been killed on the spot, but it was goaded and tortured for 25 minutes.

As somebody mentioned on Twitter last evening, Australian abattoirs are saintly compared to this experience.

A GetUp petition to ban live exports can be signed here or you can write directly to the Prime Minister to let her know what you think. You can also visit the RSPCA’s Ban Live Export site here.

Warning, this video is extremely distressing: