I saw many buffalo, cattle and also deer, slaughtered in Indonesia during the 1970s. There was usually praying, the beast’s head was secured, and then a sharp knife used to saw through the neck. I write ‘saw’ because the neck is thick and as I watched it seemed to take time for the knife to get to the artery. Death as I watched always appeared slow and painful.
None of the incidences were as traumatic as the television footage on ABC TV Four Corners program on Monday night, but none of the animals I saw killed were stunned first.
I was exposed to these incidences because my father managed a cattle ranch and beasts were killed according to Halal custom for the many families who lived on the ranch. I also saw animals killed at local festivities, deer hunts and other events that typically involved the very public slaughter of a live animal.
The most bloody was probably a non-Moslem burial in animist Tana Toraja. I remember it as described at Wikipedia:
“Slaughtering tens of water buffalo and hundreds of pigs using a machete is the climax of the elaborate death feast, with dancing and music and young boys who catch spurting blood in long bamboo tubes.”
The way animals are killed in Indonesia has much to do with culture and tradition and it is not done in a way the RSPCA or most Australians would consider humane. Indeed it is brutal.
The reality is that despite protests from animal rights activists for many years, still only a tiny percentage of Indonesian abattoirs stun the beasts before killing them. And stunning is not going to happen at cultural festivals were witnessing live slaughter is a feature of the event.
In response to the Four Corners program the Australian government has suspended live export to Indonesia. In response, Sri Mukartini, the head of animal welfare at Indonesia’s agriculture ministry, has commented, “Animal welfare is a relatively new issue in Indonesia. We’re still developing regulations.”
The bottom line is that in Indonesia, Australian cattle aren’t singled out for a brutal death. Life and death is much more brutual for many people and many animals.
Banning live export will impact on our relationship with that country, deepening the cultural divide. And frozen meat from Australia is not going to replace live exports because meat is still sold warm in markets in Indonesia because not everyone has refrigeration.