The following letter was sent to Four Corners and has flashed around the internet. The text is unedited. The issues it raises are important, and suggests the ABC has a case to answer and that the government has acted with extreme foolishness.
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 Queensland University 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 to say that although I abhor the treatment of the animals shown in the video, your one sided approach to the subject and the possible effect of that of a ban on live exports is too big a price to pay for a report based on the evidence of an organization that’s 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% of Australian cattle are treated as was shown on TV.
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 3 separate media groups sail with this ship and it can in no uncertain terms be described as best in class. The Wellard group has another 3 vessels of the same standard with another 2 being built in China. This is a total investment of 400 million dollars 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 have at least had the opportunity to view large numbers of cattle eating and sleeping comfortably in a fantastic facility. This company has in addition moved to kill all his cattle through 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 3 HOUR DRIVE OR a 15 Minute helicopter there are another 3 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, leads to a lot less animal health issues then 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 to 25000 cattle year. They have been doing this for at least 5 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 that could have been investigated with a 3 hour ride in the car 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 2 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 3 feedlotters alone in infrastructure and stock is over 100 million dollars. Add to that the hundreds of millions that Wellard have 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 animal 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 3 importers who have shown a commitment to everything good about animal production, handle 45 % of total imports.
The other major issue that was not covered was the social responsibility that all feedlotters in Indonesia practice. 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 8000 people are directly employed by the feedlots and over 1000000 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 1000000 farmers against the 1000000 signatures on the ban order. It is very easy to sit in your comfortable chair and criticize but is it really worth the human cost to ban something that can be fixed and fixed reasonable quickly?
That is Sumatra.
In JKT there is the largest privately owned abattoir that kills about 4 to 6000 heads 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 4 corners report. No photos from here, yet this is another who has been doing the right thing and who will lose his business if the trade is banned.
The largest Importer in to Jakarta, has also built a slaughter facility in the past 12 months. It has not been commissioned yet but can be made ready within a month. They also have a private bone to pick with the program. 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 kills their number for the night and then hand over to the next team. In any one night 8 to 10 separate operators can be using the same facility. In the case of the footage of the head slapping the camera panned to the cattle waiting and the tags of AA, Newcastle Waters and his company were made very prominent. Yes, they were there but the team that handled was different to one being filmed. They 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 with 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% of the cattle I watched killed was quick and without fuss. Why is there not one shot of what happens 98% of the time? The shots 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 some times 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 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 only supply 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 let the Australian public see both sides. I am happy to make all the arrangements. This is too important to let sit with the images you portrayed on Monday without recourse.