Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Australian Heart Is Broken

Early last week, the national broadcaster down here in Australia - the Australian Broadcasting Corporation - broadcast a documentary on it's "Four Corners" program which has, literally and figuratively, broken Australia's heart.

Australian current affairs stalwart Kerry OBrien, host of Four Corners.

The hour long documentary titled "A Bloody Business" exposed the slaughtering practices that are undertaken in Indonesian abattoirs where a large portion of Australia's cattle are exported to. Australia's live export industry is worth many billions of dollars annually to it's economy and our beef is the envy of many nations around the world.

The practices that were documented in the "Four Corners" were not the humane slaughter of prime beef cattle.

It was unmitigated, heinous torture.

Footage obtained by the investigative team at "Four Corners" and by a lone animal rights activist - who spent many months travelling throughout Indonesia compiling video documentary evidence - was presented in a no holds barred document.

It showed the absolutely deplorable conditions inside at least 11 Indonesian abattoirs. It showed workers kicking, beating, whipping and gouging the eyes of Australian cattle as workers tried to force the cattle to go into the slaughter boxes installed by the Australian industry, with Australian Government support. The cattle were, of course, quite visibly terrified. And this all occurred before the animals had been slaughtered.

These cattle had ropes tied around their legs whilst held in a special pen and, once the pen was opened they were forced out onto a concrete ramp where they were sprayed with water in order to trip them up and get them onto the ground. Then, without the usual practice of stunning these beasts, the workers moved and slit their necks - often with a blunted knife and the dismemberment begins.

The screams of terror bellowing from these animals were more chilling than any horror movie could conjure up.

In one instance, a hapless cow - so panic stricken, managed to break loose from it's ropes and and go on a rampage through the abattoir. This was AFTER it's neck had been slit and blood was gushing everywhere. It's head nearly falling off completely, it tried ramming the workers surrounding it and it took a full 3 to 4 minutes before the animal collapsed to the concrete, where it was set upon by the workers and taken apart - still alive.

The following video shows in detail what I am talking about and I have to warn you, it is harrowing viewing so please watch only if you have a strong constitution. 

Even before the "Four Corners" program ended last Monday night, the nation went into a collective spasm of shock, outrage and grief. Politicians offices were inundated with telephone calls and emails from openly traumatized citizens begging for action. The domestic news wires went absolutely ape shit and the doco became the leading story, receiving blanket coverage across the land. 

Our government, apparently having known that the shit was about to hit the fan, was caught completely unprepared for the depth of the community's reaction and was forced to act - albeit reluctantly. The fact that they had to even argue the toss over what to do about this is a fucking travesty in itself. For the time being all live exports of Australian cattle to Indonesia have been suspended pending an inquiry. There is a significant movement emerging seeking to terminate the live export trade with Indonesia permanently.

And this is how it has been for almost a week since.

Now, you could argue that no animal slaughter is humane and that what we do in the killing and eating of animals is torture. But I don't agree with that. 

Here in Australia, we take a good measure of pride in our animal welfare practices - from the farm gate to the dinner table. We have some of the finest cattle stations in the world. We have representative bodies like the RSPCA who work closely with the cattle industry to ensure that the welfare of animals is paramount. I know abattoirs and the people who work in them and for better or for worse, Australian abattoirs are among the best in the world. Their practices have at their core, the highest regard for the animal and the process of slaughter is swift, it is painless and it is clean. The animals do not experience pain once they have been stunned and the process of butchering the animal for market is almost surgical in its swiftness.

Humans eat meat and many of us enjoy it. I certainly do and I don't deny for a second that I don't consider where my meat has come from. However, what "Four Corners" revealed last Monday night was one of the most shocking and horrific acts of human cruelty I have ever witnessed. And I won't soon forget it - nor will many millions of my countrymen. 

An argument was made by those working in the Indonesian abattoirs was that the method of slaughter employed by them was the Islamic Halal method, mandated as law by the Islamic Religion. This has, thankfully, been roundly discredited by everyone - including reasoned Islam itself. 

Australia's live export industry future is now in doubt and rightly so. Though the industry is calling for calm and farmers are grappling with their consciences, we cannot allow this Indonesian barbarism to continue. To my absolute dis-fucking-belief, our government is debating this whole issue as though it actually doesn't know how to proceed. If we do proceed, then we are complicit in that very barbarism. 

Australia's heart was broken last week. 

Only a sense of decency will repair it.



  1. Yes it was terrible, wasn't it.

    Interestingly enough, the next day we had the Minister of Ag at work. Having a chat it turns out that there is an agenda being pushed. There are 100 abattoirs in Indonesia, the bad ones are a minority (12) and process very few animals. Essentially MLA has gotten the vast majority up to standard and the others are the ones that don't care.

    Not saying MLA shouldn't have done a better job in the past decade, but the call for bans of exports is out of line. Basically those 12 abattoirs should be put out of business, they do SFA anyway.

  2. Tyson,

    Thanks for your comments. I get the impression that you work in the industry - would I be right?

    The question I want to ask is why do we even need to be exporting cattle overseas for slaughter when we could quite easily and humanely do the job here in Australia? Having grown up in rural Victoria, I've seen perfectly good meat processing facilities shut down because of this "off shoring" of cattle pricessing.

    These abattoirs featured in the doco were all outfitted by the MLA - they seriously dropped the ball on this one - and it wasn't the first time. As has been suggested in recent days, the MLA needs to be shut down.

  3. Dean, I got to be honest with you, I had to stop reading after you mentioned the kind of tortures the animals are subjected. I felt sick. I can't even imagine what you felt, having watched the documentary. I am truly horrified by such atrocious crimes, and I fervently hope that something, anything, will be done soon.

  4. Monica - I can totally understand you not being able to read on. The documentary actually brought me to tears and it takes a lot for me to shed them.

    There is a campaign brewing Down Under to permanently halt live exports from Australia. For details visit -

  5. Definitely think that 4-Corners episode blew up a lot bigger than anybody thought it would.

    I've got a client, that's out of Fremantle, and when I saw that show coming up I told them we better get their website's AdWords and such kickin' before that show aired so they could reap the traffic. Whoops, just missed it.

    But still, an amazing look at something that almost NO ONE thinks about when they bite into their Big Mac or chuck sausages on the barbie. Harrowing.

  6. Good point Judd. I actually saw it as a re-run whilst I was at work on the Tuesday night after the media went nuts with it and I just couldn't fathom what I was seeing.

    Look, as I said, I know where my meat has come from for the most part. I've been around abattoirs and I know how they work - here in Australia where there is a fair bit of common decency.

    One can have a principled stand on this issue and still be a meat eater.