Indonesia president orders abattoir investigation

Adek Berry
An Indonesian worker loads Australian cattle into a truck in Jakarta on June 8, 2011. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered an investigation of slaughterhouses as he sought to ensure meat supplies after Australia suspended live cattle exports due to animal cruelty concerns

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Friday ordered an investigation of slaughterhouses as he sought to ensure meat supplies after Australia suspended live cattle exports due to animal cruelty concerns.

"We have to highly respect animal welfare. The agriculture minister and health minister must visit the abattoirs," he told reporters at a news conference.

Australia on Wednesday suspended all live cattle exports to Indonesia for up to six months after a public outcry when shocking images of mistreatment in the country's slaughterhouses were broadcast on state television.

The footage broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation included kicking, hitting, gouging of eyes and breaking of tails of some animals as Indonesian workers attempted to force them into slaughter boxes.

Yudhoyono also said the country needed to find a swift solution to ensure meat supplies ahead of important Islamic holidays.

"What we need to do is to find a solution for the short and long term... if we fail to take appropriate measures, it could affect domestic meat supply," he said.

He ordered his ministers to act immediately to prevent a possible increase in meat price as the mainly Muslim country will celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in July and the Eid al-Fitr holiday in August.

"We have to make a maximum effort to ensure our domestic supply," he said, adding that the Australian ban should serve as a challenge to boost the country's efforts to become self-sufficient in meat supplies.

Australian Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said earlier the live cattle trade, worth Aus$318 million a year (US$340 million), would not start again until safeguards were in place to ensure animal welfare in Indonesia.

Sixty percent of Australia's lucrative live cattle trade goes to Indonesia, with about 500,000 animals sent each year.