Thursday, June 9, 2011

So, where’s the beef?

Australia’s decision to halt the export of live cattle to Indonesia seems way over the top considering that it is hurting its own highly-profitable cattle industry more than Indonesian meat eaters.

Indonesia, which has been the largest market for live Australian cattle, can easily switch to other suppliers. Indonesians are not big meat consumers anyway and cutting back on the red meat for those who do indulge reduces the risk of heart disease, which is fast becoming one of the major killer diseases in this country. East Java cattle farmers also would welcome the ban, as they have complained that Australian beef was undercutting their prices.

But where is the beef, as far as Australia is concerned?

The export ban came in response to public opinion in Australia which was outraged by a recent TV documentary that portrayed cruelty against Australian cattle at some (not all) slaughter houses in Indonesia. In response to the documentary, the Indonesian government has since identified 11 such slaughter houses and is looking at disciplining them and improving overall supervision.

The debate in Australia, however, has typically gone beyond looking at mistreatment and has started to question the methods of killing an animal. If the issue is now raised by the Australian government, this is where Indonesia has to draw the line.

For religious and health considerations, animals for consumption should be slaughtered by cutting their throat to make sure that all the blood flows out of their body. This has been the acceptable practice for hundreds of years throughout most of the world — even in the West. It was not until a few decades ago that the West started introducing a supposedly more humane, if not bloodless way, of slaughtering animals, first by hitting them on the head and now to use a stun bolt. However, any act of slaughter is by definition inhumane, no matter how you do it.

If the Australian public can stomach it, they should demand from their TV networks a documentary that looks at the way the cattle industry is run — how it treats animals, the crowded conditions where they are raised, the fattening process, the separation of the young from their mothers and the way a stun bolt is used to kill them.The Jakarta Post

Their next steak or burger will not taste the same.

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