MEDIA: by Scot BraithwaiteNews Weekly
The other side of the Indonesian cattle story
, June 25, 2011
One of Australia’s most experienced cattlemen, Scot Braithwaite, sent this letter to ABC’s Four Corners program after it broadcast alarming footage of animal mistreatment in three Indonesian abattoirs, using footage obtained by campaigners for Animals Australia. He has asked that it be widely circulated.
I must introduce myself. My name is Scot Braithwaite and my life has basically revolved around live export since I was 10 years old. I was unloading cattle boats in Malaysia at the age of 13. I have worked for all the major cattle companies, including as a head stockman in the Northern Territory.
I have a degree in economics from the University of Queensland and I personally have sold more than 1.5 million head of cattle into Indonesia since 1991. I am presently employed as the marketing manager for Wellard rural exports.
I am writing to you after the Monday program (ABC Four Corners, May 30) to say that, although I abhor the mistreatment of the animals shown in the video, your one-sided approach to the subject and the possible effect of that on a ban of live exports is too big a price to pay for a report based on the evidence of an organisation whose charter is to shut us down.
I have the following points to make. I would like to have the same time as those who denigrated my life to show you the other side of our industry — to show you what is really going on.
In Australia there used to be thing about “a fair go”. You have gone with images provided by one person followed up by your investigative journalist who spent a week in Indonesia. Your report makes out that close to 100 per cent of Australian cattle are treated as was shown on television.
1)The ship that appears in the footage “for less than 30 seconds” is a vessel that cost tens of millions of dollars to build. We have had three separate media groups sail with this ship and it can in no uncertain terms be described as best in its class. The Wellard group has another three vessels of the same standard, with another two being built in China. This is a total investment of $400 million to ensure that livestock exports from Australia are undertaken at the utmost levels of cow comfort and animal welfare.
2)The feedlot that was filmed was given a 10-second view. This feedlot is without a doubt world class. Your viewers should at least have had the opportunity to view large numbers of cattle eating and sleeping comfortably in a fantastic facility. The owner of this company has, in addition, moved to kill all his cattle through a stunning system that he has control of.
This owner has spent 20 years of his life in the industry, has built his business from nothing, has done all that is required of him from an animal welfare point of view, yet your reporter makes no mention of these things.
3)Within a three-hour drive or a 15-minute helicopter flight there are another three world-class facilities. All three feedlots, including the one filmed, are at, or better than, what can be found in Australia.
The cattle being fed, and the ration being fed, lead to a lot fewer animal health issues than a similar size operation in Australia.
One of these facilities is operated and owned by a large Australian pastoral house. They had no mention in your supposed unbiased report. The operation is run by a north Queensland man who, through his absolute dedication to excellence, has built a feedlot and slaughtering system that his company, the industry and himself can be very proud of.
The system is closed; all the cattle are already killed through their own abattoir. They import 20,000 to 25,000 cattle a year. They have been doing this for at least five years.
Why should they be shut down? For what reason could anyone justify closing this operation down, especially without even bothering to look at what goes on?
4)The other world-class feedlots, which could have been investigated during a three-hour car ride, are owned by a large publicly-listed Indonesian company. In all, they have on feed 50,000 cattle and import about 120,000 cattle a year. They have recently built an abattoir (the one that was briefly shown on the program). They built this two years ago as they knew that modern methods must come to Indonesia and they were willing to make the investment to make it happen.
The total investment from these three feedlotters alone in infrastructure and stock is over $100 million. Add to that the hundreds of millions that Wellard has recently invested in ships, and do you really believe that these people would leave the final product to a murderous bastard with a blunt knife?
They not only have tried to ensure the welfare of the animals, but have made investments to make the changes all along the chain. These people deserve to have their side of the story heard. If the system is not perfect — and it isn’t — they have the wherewithal and the incentive to make it happen in a very short time.
These three importers, who have shown a commitment to everything good about animal production, handle 45 per cent of total imports.
The other major issue that was not covered was the social responsibility that all feedlotters in Indonesia practise. Their operations are in relatively isolated poor areas. The feedlots provide employment opportunity, advancement through effort, and a market for thousands of tons of feedstuffs grown for the cattle.
My understanding is that 8,000 people are directly employed by the feedlots, and over a million people are reliant on the regular income made from supplying corn silage and other feedstuffs.
This is not made up: it is fact. It can be easily checked. I will bet my million farmers against the million signatures on the ban order. It is very easy to sit in your comfortable chair and criticise, but is it really worth the human cost to ban something that can be fixed, and fixed reasonable quickly?
That is Sumatra.
In Jakarta, there is the largest privately-owned abattoir that kills about 4,000 to 6,000 head a month. It is a well-run facility that has no welfare issues. In addition, it was working on getting a stun system in place well before the ABC’s Four Corners report. No photos from here, yet this is another owner who has been doing the right thing and who will lose his business if the trade is banned.
The largest importer into Jakarta has also built a slaughter facility in the past 12 months. It has not yet been commissioned, but can be made ready within a month. They also have a private bone to pick with ABC’s Four Corners. As was not reported in the show, abattoirs in Indonesia are operated by any number of individual “wholesalers”.
They control the space and the manpower kill their number for the night and then hand over to the next team. In any one night, eight to 10 separate operators can be using the same facility.
In the example of the footage of the head-slapping, the camera panned to the cattle waiting and the tags of AA, Newcastle Waters and the importer’s company were made very prominent. Yes, they were there, but the team that handled was different from the one being filmed.
The operators protest that their crews are well trained. No head-slapping occurs, and very large and sharp knives are used to ensure a bloody but quick end.
I have no reason to doubt them because I have seen a lot of their cattle handled at point of slaughter, and their crews are well trained to achieve immediate results. Where can their case be heard?
I have watched literally thousands of cattle slaughtered in the boxes in Indonesia. Yes, there are problems, as there are at every point of slaughter on every type of animal in the world; but 98 per cent of the cattle I watched were killed quickly and without fuss.
Why is there not one shot of what happens 98 per cent of the time? Those instances filmed of outright cruelty are totally unacceptable, and the slaughter of cattle is still gruesome and confronting, but is not as prevalent as portrayed in your report. Yes, it does sometimes happen; but it is the exception, not the rule. And we are already taking steps to improve the system, and we have the ability to ensure that all animals are stunned in a very short time.
Yes, there are a couple of operators who in the short-term will not be able to handle the new way. But they will be dropped — no commitment to stunning; no supply. No negotiation.
There are also a number of operators privately owned who were, to all intents and purposes, doing the right thing. They were asked to supply through the boxes, and they have.
They will be asked to supply only though a stunning facility, and they will. They have far too much invested in the whole industry over many years to not do as we ask.
I am asking for a fair go. You have been expertly manipulated. Hear the actual other side of the story and let the Australian public see both sides.
I am happy to make all the arrangements. This is too important to let sit, without recourse, the images you portrayed on Monday’s edition of Four Corners.