Issues Analysis

Jessica Ashby

"Should live cattle exports from Australia to Indonesia continue to be banned?”


‘Australia is one of the world's most efficient producers of cattle and the world's largest exporter of beef’ (Cattle, 2012). Providing for countries all around the world, especially throughout the Asia Pacific. In 2011 the Federal Government temporarily suspended the live export trade with Indonesia. This is due to few isolated incidents of cruelty and mistreatment towards Australian cattle in specific Indonesian slaughterhouses. This case has been interrupted by politics, blown out of proportion by the media and complained about by animal liberationists, causing the Australian beef market to crash. Therefore, live cattle exports from Australia to Indonesia should not be banned.

The Problem

I spoke to Matthew Ashby, Director of the Shorthorn Society of Australia. From what he told me, I have been able to sum up the problem in a nutshell.

Cattle from Northern Australia that were bred purely for export to Indonesia, are now being trucked down to the markets in Southern Australia as there is no where else for them to go. This is flooding the Southern markets and are making beef prices much lower in Australia.


Live Australian cattle are exported to countries everywhere, including: 'Qatar, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Mauritius, Kuwait, Mexico, China, India, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and the USA (Cattle and Sheep Export Destinations, 2012).


Due to advanced technology and communication in the world today, the media are able to take small incidents and ‘blow it all out of proportion by editing and twisting the stories around to dramatize the issue and get the point across that they want, to catch the attention of the public’ (Matthew Ashby, 2013). In this instance, the media have caught footage of Australian cattle being cruelly mistreated in an Indonesian abattoir. The few incidents that have been aired to the public have been once off occurrences. The media made the incidents seem more dramatic, so the public would see the negative behaviour and would be convinced to stop this from continuing.

Media has said all the negative things that have happened to the cattle, but have not said the negative things about the beef producers and how it is affecting them. Therefore, live cattle exports from Australia to Indonesia should not continue to be suspended, as the issue has only been dramatized and blown out of proportion by the media.

'Wrong interpretation of news may blow things out of proportion. This would create further unrest in any place or even violence in case of extreme situations' (K Lad, 2012).

Political Reasons

In the world of politics, every party is competing against each other for the most votes. To get the most votes, they have to please the public by saying they will take action to issues that are causing unrest. This will persuade the public and convince them to vote for particular parties.

In the last federal election in 2010 it was a hung vote. This meant that the major parties (Labor and Liberal) had to convince all the smaller parties to join their side to gain more seats. Greens did not know what party to side with (out of Labor and Liberal) so the Labour Party said they would stop the live cattle exports to Indonesia to get the Greens on their side. This made the Greens happy, therefore Labor won the election and carried forward their promise to the Greens, stopping the live exports.

‘If Australia was to stop exporting livestock, global animal welfare standards will unquestionably decline' (Support Live Exports, 2013).

Another Way of Looking at It...

This issue can also be looked at from a different angle.

Australia has stopped exporting live cattle to Indonesia to stop our Australian cattle from being treated cruelly. Yes? However, this just means that Indonesia will go and source their live cattle from a different country and keep treating them the same way. In conclusion with that being said, Australia has not stopped the act of animal cruelty from happening in Indonesia, they have just stopped it from happening to Australian cattle.

'Industry-commissioned Newspoll research in June 2012 showed that, given the choice, 82% of Australians believe the livestock export trade should be allowed to continue' (Livestock Exports- The Facts, 2012)

Impacts on the Economy

This issue impacts Australia’s economy more than it affects Indonesia’s. This is because there are lots of jobs made from live exports in Australia, as a study that was completed in 2006 found, ‘Australia’s livestock export trade contributes the following to our economy: 12,924 jobs, including more than 11,000 jobs in rural and regional areas.’ This number of jobs would have declined dramatically since 2011 as the image below shows that the Northern Territory is one of Australia’s major live cattle exporters. ‘The majority of jobs lost were in the Northern Territory. Businesses across the territory, Western Australia and Queensland reported having to reduce their engagement of contractors and musterers’ (Should live exports be banned?, 2012).


The solutions for this issue are quite simple.

1. Stop live cattle exports to Indonesia and set up abattoirs in Australia, especially in the Northern Territory. Then the meat can be sent over cold, fresh and ready to eat.


2. Set up trade to different countries so the cattle in the Northern Territory can be sent over there, instead of being trucked over down to Southern Australia.


Cattle, 2012 Meat and Livestock Australia, accessed 26 August 2013, <>.

Cattle and Sheep Export Destinations, 2012 Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, accessed 1 September 2013, <>.

K Lad, 2012 Pros and Cons of Mass Media, About Buzzle, accessed 4 September 2013, <>.

Livestock Exports- The Facts 2012, National Farmers' Federation, Pdf, accessed2 September 2013, <>.

Matthew Ashby Director of the Shorthorn Society of Australia

Phone call conducted: 23 August 2013

Should live exports be banned?, 2012 Mamamia, accessed 4 September 2013, <>.

Support Live Exports, 2013 National Farmers' Federation, accessed 3 September 2013, <>.