New Australia-US Base and Indonesia

Last week US President Barrack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled the plan of establishing a US base equipped with 2,500 US marines in Darwin, Australia’s Northern Territory, only 820 kilometers from Indonesian territory. The Jakarta Post reported that the new US base should not be a threat to Indonesia, as President Yudhoyono was reassured by Gillard that “Australia and the US meant no harm in their plan to build military base in Darwin.”

International Law Professor Hikmahanto Juwana was quick to analyze that US interests may change from time-to-time, thus he warned that Indonesia should nevertheless be cautious about the US military presence in Australia. A part of that cautiousness was also attributed to whether the US would intervene among the rising tensions in the Papua region of Indonesia. Although during the recent visit, US Defense Secretary Leon Panettavoiced support for Indonesia’s strong stance against the Papua separatist movement.

The US and Australia have always been strong allies since a very long time, and as Michael Wesley from Lowy Institute have mentioned in an AlJazeera interview:

Australians tend to think with the American alliance as an insurance policy. We’re paying our premiums, we go to Afghanistan, we go to Iraq, and we just hope that the insurance premium will come when we’re in trouble.

And this is not a reason for Indonesia to be cautious with either Australia or the US?

One possibility of why Obama paved the way for the military base in Australia was to have a strategic position in the region especially to counter China’s influence. China was also quick to react to the plan, saying that “one should consider other regional countries’ interests when developing ties in that region”. Indeed, Stephen Walt from Foreign Policy explained why the US have been shifting a lot of strategic attention to Asia and mostly it is to contain China’s growing powers.

A friend once joked that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. But when two elephants make love, the grass suffers also. It is too early to tell what Indonesia can get out of this positioning, but surely we need to figure out how to make the best out of the situation.

Indonesian Policy Bits: Abattoir Monitoring

Australia stopped some of its cattle exports to Indonesia following some video footage on the condition of the abbatoirs in Indonesia. Obviously there is a lack of monitoring on the standards practiced in these abbatoirs and I’ll be giving some quick analysis on the issue (Warning: this post will contain some gruesome images, viewer’s discretion advised).

Australia stopped some of its cattle exports to Indonesia following some video footage on the condition of the abattoirs in Indonesia. Obviously there is a lack of monitoring on the standards practiced in these abattoirs and I’ll be giving some quick analysis on the issue (Warning: this post contains some gruesome images, viewer’s discretion advised).

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The Australian government suspended live cattle exports to 11 Indonesian abattoirs after the documentation of the abattoirs’ condition in video footages showing distressed cattle, whipped and tortured before they were cut by their throats. The full video footages can be seen here, but some of the screenshots where the steers are treated cruelly, whereby their tails are pulled, their faces kicked and their eyes poked are below.

Cruel Treatment of Cattle in Indonesian Abbatoirs
Cruel Treatment of Cattle in Indonesian Abattoirs - Screenshots from Animals Australia

First thought that came through my mind was how did such atrocities happened because as far to my knowledge, the halal way of slaughtering cattle is to inflict the least painful way for the animal being killed and to do it in the most humane way as possible. If we still allow such cruel practices, won’t Indonesians – whereby most of the population are Muslims – are not eating halal meat?

Let me put the halal debate aside for a while and stick to the regulations first.

I quickly browsed through the related regulations and the first one I checked was Law No. 18/2009 on Farming and Animal Health. In article 1 (42) it defines Animal Welfare as

“…every matter related to the physical and mental condition of the animal according to the measure of its natural behavior which have to be implemented and upheld to protect the animal from any kind of unacceptable acts towards animals utilized by humans” (unofficial translation – bold added by myself)

In Article 61(1)(b) of that Law, it states that the butchering of these animals must follow the health principles of the veterinarian community and animal welfare. Article 66 (2)(f) further states that

“the cutting and killing of the animals must be conducted in the best possible way so that the animal is free from pain, fear and pressure, torture and misuse

So the rules are already there, it is just that any violation of these principles, however, are not criminalized. There are possibilities for administrative sanctions, which array from stopping their business, their abattoir licenses being revoked or even financial penalties.

Abattoir licenses are given by each of the local government in Indonesia, under the authority of each Regent or Mayor (Bupati/Walikota). These abattoir businesses must fulfill the technical standards under Ministry of Agriculture Regulation Number 13/Permentan/OT.140/1/2010 on Requirements for Ruminantia Abattoirs and Meat Cutting Plants.

Under this regulation, it reiterates that the killing of these animals must follow the principles of animal welfare and Islamic syariah law. Violation of the technical requirements of cutting and/or handling of ruminantia meat may cause the abattoirs to lose their licenses (Article 39(4)(b) of the Ministerial Regulation).

The monitoring of these abattoirs must be conducted under the supervision of a veterinarian authorized in veterinary public health. Law 18/2008 mentioned about a veterinary authority, but then I found out that this was never established. Currently, the veterinary authority is under the Ministry of Agriculture on the rank of an Echelon II. Therefore, they don’t have many powers and are not independent to conduct monitoring as such. It is then not a surprise that the condition of the abattoirs are not monitored regularly.

From this point on I believe that the underlying problem is that the Ministry of Agriculture does not think of the veterinarian occupation as well as animal health and welfare seriously.

Now if we want to look whether the killing of these cattle are halal or not, I found out this website on the conditions for halal slaughter and even some information whether stunning the animal prior to the killing can be considered halal. For stunning to be acceptable in Islam, according to that website, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

  • The use of stunning equipment must be under the control of a Muslim supervisor, or a slaughterman or halal certification authority at all times.
  • The animal should be stunned temporarily only. The stunning should neither kill nor cause permanent injury to the animal.
  • Gadgets used to stun pigs must not be used to stun halal animals.

I thought this was supposed to be an Indonesian Policy Bits segment, so I apologize for the long post in the end. But anyhow, the lengthy explanation was necessary to show you that neither by current Indonesian regulations nor halal standards that the cruel acts shown in these abattoirs are acceptable.

It is a pity that we have only taken attention on this issue after the Australians decided to ban their cattle exports to Indonesia. Now the ball is in the hands of the Indonesian government. We’ll see.