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.