There is plenty of blame to go around for the Indonesian live export debacle, and not all of it rests with the Meat and Livestock Association, which is enduring heavy criticism from the industry it was established to oversee.
As Crikey shows today, as late as 2009 the cattle industry itself viewed concerns about live cattle exports as simply the “rhetoric” of “animal activists” and thought the solution was to spend more money on a marketing campaign to address the problem that “the community’s trust was at risk of being eroded by attacks from activists”. In the meantime, funding for the welfare of live export animals in Indonesia was kept at a paltry $186,000 a year.
This wasn’t merely the view of the MLA, but of a long list of industry heavyweights who advised the government on the levy imposed on the cattle industry — despite clear evidence the industry was aware of concerns about the treatment of Australian cattle in many Indonesian abattoirs.
The cynicism displayed by the industry is breathtaking. And, ultimately, it has led to the crisis point of the entire live export trade to Indonesia being suspended.
It is an outcome the industry has brought on itself. This is now a problem that no million-dollar marketing campaign can ever fix, and the industry will take years to live it down.