Live-Export Cruelty: Australian Cattle Abused and Butchered Alive in Indonesian Slaughterhouses

Chilling scenes of abuse of Australian cattle have been documented at Indonesian slaughterhouses this year, prompting PETA to file a fresh set of complaints with authorities. However, as the government has shown no inclination to lift a finger, we’re counting on you to take action!

PETA’s investigation is a harrowing glimpse into the trade that supplies flesh to Indonesia’s meat industry and skin to the global leather industry. Some of the facilities visited by PETA investigators are even part of the Australian government’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), dispelling all doubt about government inaction.

In the same month that this abuse occurred, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton expressed his “full confidence in the standards the Australian industry upholds.” Watch the footage below and decide if you can say the same.

Botched Stunning or None at All

PETA investigators visited seven randomly selected slaughterhouses in Indonesia in April and May 2021.

They found steers and bulls being forced into restraint boxes and shot in the head with captive-bolt guns. The cattle were often fully aware of what was happening to them. They slammed their bodies against the metal chute that they were trapped in, in a futile attempt to turn around and escape.

Workers repeatedly failed to stun cows adequately. Clearly still conscious after being shot in the head, one steer was jabbed 64 times in the face and on his torso with a steel rod to try to force him to stand back up so a worker could shoot him again.

Workers also violently twisted his tail until it was broken. In a last-ditch attempt to move the struggling, panicked steer, they pulled on his broken tail a dozen times.

Then there were those for whom stunning wasn’t even attempted at all. Some cattle were simply physically restrained before their throats were slit—which, believe it or not, is a killing method approved by the Australian government.

ALEC boasts on its website that 95% of Australian cattle in Indonesia are now stunned prior to slaughter. But based on what investigators saw, that’s not the case.

Cattle Butchered Alive

Slaughterhouse workers viciously yanked and deliberately stepped on animals’ tails, apparently in a crude attempt to check for consciousness. Some cattle still kicked, but they were butchered anyway, with no further attempts at rendering them unconscious.

Steers who were still moving and whose heads dangled by only a strip of flesh after their throats had been slit were hung by the neck on metal hooks. Their legs continued to thrash as they were dragged across the bloody floor and then hoisted up.

Investigators saw animals blinking after their throats were cut, gasping for air as blood filled their throats. Some suffered this way for up to 12 minutes after being shot with a captive-bolt gun.

Monica K.H. Bando, a veterinarian with more than 13 years of clinical and research experience, said the footage captured by investigators depicted “egregious violations of acceptable animal welfare standards for livestock” including “[p]oorly designed facilities, unsanitary conditions, substandard handling, restraint methods that induce stress and distress, lack of stunning and ineffective stunning, and inhumane killing methods.”

10 Years of Failure

Workers told investigators that the cows being slaughtered came from Australia, and most wore Australian National Livestock Identification System ear tags.

These are just a tiny percentage of the millions of animal victims of Australia’s live-export trade. Australia exported more than 1.8 million animals in 2020, and the vast majority of them were cattle.

It’s been a decade since cruelty in the live-export trade to Indonesia was exposed by Animals Australia on TV in the program Four Corners, after which a traceability program—Export Supply Chain Assurance System—was put in place.

The program hasn’t provided “assurance” of any kind. In fact, it’s been a colossal failure. It was supposed to stop this kind of cruelty. There have been 184 reports of noncompliance (just reports—the number of incidents would be far higher) since it was established.

When this latest footage was filmed, Australia’s Department of Agriculture was still investigating cruelty complaints against Indonesian slaughterhouses made by Animals Australia in 2020.

The Australian Government Ignores This, but We Have the Power to Stop It

The Australian government should be preparing for a future without live exports, but it’s not. Every new investigation is “shocking” to those in power, but are you really surprised? When animals are crammed onto ships as though they were inanimate commodities and then sold for slaughter, how can anyone expect them to be treated as if their pain mattered?

The live-export industry is the meat industry and the leather industry. If you buy meat or purchase a pair of leather shoes, you could be putting money in the pockets of the same people who send these animals to be slaughtered in hideous, painful ways overseas.

And since the leather produced in Indonesia is exported globally, you could be wearing or sitting on the skin of the same animals you’ve just watched in this video. PETA investigators found that the skins of some cattle were sold to a fashion brand that exports leather shoes worldwide.

If you continue to buy the flesh or skin of animals, you send the same message to producers that the Australian government does, i.e., that this industry has a social license to continue and a sustainable future. Please, act now to change the market and spare animals’ lives every time you buy a meal, a pair of shoes, a jacket, or a belt. Personal responsibility will end this trade.  Let’s go!