Killing the Slaughterhouses

Scot Braithwaite was our most capable jackeroo in all the 20 years we were at Bowen Downs. He lives and works in Indonesia. Here is the letter he has written to 4 Corners.

Please send it to as many people and politicians as you can.
The Government has no idea of what it has done.

Andrew and Lesley Cowper.

To Four Corners:

Dear Sir,

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.

Scot Braithwaite

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6 Responses to Killing the Slaughterhouses

  1. Jeff Radcliffe says:

    Excellent reply to the biased Four Corners report.

    Should be forwarded to ABC Media Watch to see if they will bring the Four Corners’ producers to task.

    Would be worthwhile sending to News Ltd and seek their support in publishing it their various newspapers.

    Have forwarded the link to Senator Xenophon in the hope that he may see sense and reconsider his Bill to ban live exports and not react to a biased television program.

  2. Bob says:

    Unfortunately, however, Mr Braithwaite ‘forgot’ to mention that he is very much overweight in his own investments in live export to Indonesia. I think the term ‘vested interest’ applies here.

    http://www.wellardgroup.com.au/wellard_rural_exports/international_expertise/scot_braithwaite.phtml
    ‘Scot has a majority share of NFDH Cattle Company which is a joint venture partner with Wellard in South East Asia. He also is the chairman of JFDI Fine Foods which is a meat processing and retailing operation in Malaysia.
    Scot spends equal amounts of time in Indonesia and Malaysia and looks forward to the day when Wellard is exporting half a million cattle a year into the region.

    His letter conveniently doesn’t contain any address or contact information – or mention this.

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  4. PETER says:

    I know of Scot Braithwaite. He’s been flooding blogs with a similar message, only peppering it on occasions with conspiracy theories about 4 Corners using paid Indonesian actors to perform those slaughters we saw. I’ll give that idea the silence it deserves.

    His points 1, 2, 3 & 4 suggest that he is totally unaware of the controversy. He talks about “world class feedlots” (although he fails to define what he means by world class; I’m sure the Japanese would consider their whaling ships “world class”) when there was no dispute on the 4 Corners program of either the ships or the feedlots. They were presented – with no opposing viewpoint – as being “like tropical resorts”. So he’s wasted his time on that rant.

    I notice that no-where in his letter does he mention ethics. He talks about ‘1,000,000 farmers’ as if the consequence of this ban would drive them to starvation. Are there even 1 million farmers in this country, let alone those few reliant on live exports?

    We’re actually talking about a few hundred cattlemen in the Top End. Unlike their southern counterparts, they live in an area with abundant and reliable seasonal rainfall. Unlike their southern counterparts, they do little to improve or work their land. Their cattle (mostly Droughtmaster) live off mostly native grasses. In the dry season, a lot of cattle die of starvation due to mismanagement (800 died on Mataranka Station in 2008/9). One look at the prominent ribs of many cattle being loaded onto ships explains why they hoe into their feed in Indonesia. (this feed, by the way, is the waste product from the palm oil industry that has devastated so many rainforests throughout Borneo and Sumatra)

    Are these cattlemen (I hesitate to call them farmers) that incompetent that they could not reorganise their systems to local slaughter? Are they that lazy or incompetent that they could not move to crop farming? Are they that inured to the fate of their own cattle that they are actually arguing to continue this trade? At least one cattleman – Paul Holmes a Court – has had the decency to support the ban, to his credit.

    The 1985 recommendation by the Australian Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare (SSCAW) condemned the live sheep export trade on animal welfare grounds, but anticipated that economic and other factors would demand its continuation. The SSCAW concluded that, ‘if a decision were to be made on the future of the trade purely on animal welfare grounds, there is enough evidence to stop the trade’.

    The SCCAW recommended that the Federal Government promote and encourage the expansion of the refrigerated sheep meat trade to the Middle East and other countries, with the aim of eventually substituting it for the live sheep trade. In 1985.

    The very same organisation that is supposed to HELP live export farmers (MLA) was requested by the government to pay $5 million in compensation to help farmers deal with the immediate emergency of stranded cattle. Instead they are withholding it, using the starving cattle as blackmail to make the government change its mind. These cattlemen have had as far back as 1985 to look at the ethics of their trade, improve it, or abandon the live export model. The MLA have known of the issues with Indonesia since 1990.

    And all this Scot Braithwaite can focus on is the ‘human cost”. Similar arguments were made when calls to end slavery were around, as well as the end of South African apartheid. The Japanese still make those same arguments in order to prop up their whaling industry. Live export is another industry without an ethical leg to stand on, a trade that involves torture, cruelty and misery. A trade that employs soulless mongrels like Scot Braithwaite.

    What he doesn’t tell us is that it is impossible for the Australian government, the MLA, or any Australian authority to determine the final destination of cattle once they are in Indonesian feedlots. There is nothing to stop trucks that leave these feedlots moving cattle to wherever they choose. This was made clear by the Prime Minister in Parlianent just last week after a question from Tony Abbott. Despite this, the Opposition’s policy is for an immediate resumption of the trade.

    Senator Joe Ludwig on an official visit to Indonesia just last week was refused access to any abattoir by his counterpart minister, Suswono. Given the circumstances, this is a mighty snub to Australia, and reinforces our inability to change things on the ground. Ludwig was also unable to get even the most basic of agreements on animal slaughter. Suswono made it clear that mandatory stunning was out of the question. This must confirm that there is not even a starting point for negotiations to restart live exports.

    That Scot Braithwaite has been involved in this industry – and indeed sold 1.5 million cattle to Indonesia – since 1991, and that he has known of these issues that whole time, suggests he is just as culpable of animal cruelty as any of the atavastic primates that we saw torturing our animals on 4 Corners. If I were the Attorney General, I would issue an arrest warrant for this bloke based solely on his admissions in his letter.

  5. PETER says:

    Actually, just one last point to address Braithwaite’s story of “human cost”, or more specifically the reduction in filthy lucre to his NT mates.

    Over the past month I’ve had the privilege to talk to over 1000 people on this issue, as well as observed the comments from many more. It’s likely that there are now tens of thousands of newly-created vegetarians in Australia because of this issue. Many more people have cut back their meat intake, and/or are moving to organic meats.

    Now this directly effects cattle producers throughout Australia. There are many more of them than there are in the NT. I’ve personally seen whole Tasmanian rump (previously about $20/kg) selling last week at $3.99/kg. I suspect the local industry is suffering to a much greater extent. It’s in the interest of all Australian cattle producers to completely restructure the MLA and to institute ethical reforms. It is after all their representative body.

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