Butchered Alive: Australian Cattle Killed Overseas for Your Leather Shoes

Chilling scenes of abuse of Australian animals have been documented at Indonesian abattoirs this year, prompting a fresh set of complaints to be filed against Australia’s live-export industry, but consumers must take action as the government has shown no inclination to lift a finger. 

The footage is a harrowing glimpse into the trade that supplies flesh to dangerous wet markets and skin to the global leather industry. Some of the facilities visited by PETA Asia 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 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. If not, please stop buying leather right now!

Botched Stunning or None at All

PETA Asia investigators visited seven randomly selected abattoirs in Indonesia in April and May 2021 and filed an official complaint.

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 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.

 Butchered Alive

Abattoir 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 KH 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”.

NLIS ear tags

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 national TV in the programme Four Corners, after which a traceability programme – Export Supply Chain Assurance System – was put in place.

The programme 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 non-compliance (just reports – the number of incidents would be far higher) since it was established.

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

Live Export Protest in Sydney.Howard Wright

The 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 exposé 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?

Australia is a nation of self-proclaimed animal lovers, so many of us blame somebody else for the cruelty – the government or people overseas. Never mind that these cattle were slaughtered for meat and leather sold all over the world, potentially even in Australia.

The live-export industry is the meat industry and the leather industry. If you buy meat at an Australian supermarket or purchase a pair of leather shoes, you’re 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 Asia investigators found that the skins of some Australian 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 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!

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Australia: It’s Time to Abandon Ship

In April 2021, New Zealand announced a ban on all live exports (including breeding “stock”) by sea, citing the need to “stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny”. New Zealand actually banned export for slaughter all the way back in 2008. In May 2021, the UK announced that it intends to ban the live export of animals for slaughter and fattening.

Meanwhile, Australia is still leaving a bloody trail around the world, causing animals misery en route and in every port they reach.

This investigation shows that no regulations, reviews, or reports are making the barbaric business of shipping and killing live animals more humane.