In recent days the Australian life cattle export to Indonesia has come under heavy fire predominantly (it would seem) from ordinary Australians and many of their elected representatives.
The story broke after the government television station showed a segment on their Four Corners programming depicting some of the terrible and inhuman practices occurring in Indonesian abattoirs. You can see some of it here but be forewarned, it is not pretty. As a result of the story, many people were justifiably outraged that such practices occur. Some Labor backbenchers started vocalizing, the media continued stewing and not long after, Joe Ludwig, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, announced a ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia, one of Australia’s biggest beef customers.
In a matter of days and issue came to light, the people spoke and the situation started to change. Has it changed for the better? Was this democracy in action? Was the government right in its action to ban live exports? Do we have all the facts?
Now, I’m not in the slightest suggesting that cruelty to animals is acceptable or that it really doesn’t matter. I do have some thoughts I’d like to put out there and wonder whether you have any points you’d like to add.
Firstly, the practice of cruelly killing an animal for religious reasons, entertainment reasons or even to tenderise the meat by tormenting the beast before it is killed is utterly barbaric. There is no cause for it, no benefit in it and seems to bring out some of the ugliest parts of human nature. Most people, even those quite lax moral compasses, don’t find it a difficult leap to call this ‘wrong’. Why anyone from any nationality or religion thinks that this sort of behaviour is alright is quite astonishing.
1. If a business is selling a product they have no right to dictate how that product is used after the point of sale any more than Woolworths or any other supermarket has a right to tell you what to do with your milk and cheese. They don’t have the authority or the power to control their customers. What they did have was a moral obligation.
2. Some of the cattle properties knew about the barbaric slaughterhouse practices in Indonesia. Others perhaps had a good idea. The cattle producers have an obligation to stop the cruelty to animals. They also have a desire to make a profit. In this situation, I’m sad to say, the profit won out in the battle of conflicting desires. Here we find economics versus morality. No, they can’t control the customers. Could they have stopped the problem? Yes. They could have refused to sell their product to those customers. But then, that would have cost them, wouldn’t it?
3. The government, after waiting several days, finally made a decision that they shouldn’t have. The government stepped in and put out a blanket ban on all live cattle exports to Indonesia. This catastrophic decision is not only silly but pointless. Even a basic understanding of economics shows that any customer who wishes to purchase a product will do so wherever they can at a price they are agreeable to. The government’s ban will not solve the problem because they are applying an economic solution to a moral problem.
4. The government is also applying this punishment to Australian cattle producers not to the people who should be being punished. The people who should be punished are actually out of any Australian’s jurisdiction. Unless the slaughterhouse is owned by an Australian who actually has some value on animal welfare, there is nothing that the government can do. Directly, that is.
Should the government have thought about this problem before reacting so strongly and in the wrong way? Will there solution actually fix the problem? Probably not for a while anyway. Why? Because the slaughter houses of Indonesia will source their meat from somewhere esle. The cruelty will continue. The northern cattle country will lose millions in lost profits and decreased product value and have to spend millions more exploring new markets. Is this another mess brought to us by a seriously uncoordinated government? I think so. What do you think?