Australia probing Indonesian cattle cruelty claims

SYDNEY - Australia insisted Wednesday that livestock safeguards introduced after an animal cruelty row with Indonesia were working, despite new footage showing cattle mistreatment in the Southeast Asian nation.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said he was "shocked" by the latest video, shot by activist group Animals Australia last month in Indonesian slaughterhouses, showing distressed cows being hosed, prodded and in pain.

One cow is shown still bellowing more than one minute after its throat is cut as workers begin cutting flesh from its neck.

Animals Australia spokeswoman Lyn White said the footage showed Indonesian workers "cannot even be relied upon not to start cutting up Australian animals before they are dead".

Canberra halted all live cattle exports to Indonesia for a month last year after a strong public backlash to similar footage aired in a television documentary.

It only resumed the trade after Indonesia agreed to a strict new licensing system designed to protect animal welfare.

Ludwig said "many in the community would be horrified" by the latest footage, which shows forms of mistreatment the new system was designed to stamp out, but he insisted the safeguards were working.

"If this industry does want a bright future it has to put animal welfare at the heart of the system. What we now have is a system that allows that to happen," Ludwig told ABC radio.

"Many exporters manage the supply chain, do all the right things, but I said right at the beginning when I put this system in place that we would see instances like this, we would see slips, we would see mistakes."

Ludwig said he had referred the video to the livestock export regulator and efforts were underway to trace the animals to their Australian origin and to determine the slaughterhouses shown in the video.

"The regulator is now investigating the footage with Animals Australia and the RSPCA to identify which abattoirs and which supply chains are involved," he said.

"If they are Australian cattle and if we can identify the exporter then we can take appropriate action against that exporter."

In instances where cruelty to exported livestock was "beyond the pale" he added that the new system allowed for "very strong" remedial action.