Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 - Dr Risti Permani
Australia needs to do more to help resolve animal welfare issues in Indonesia following the lifting of the ban on live export to that country, a University of Adelaide researcher says.

Dr Risti Permani is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of Adelaide's School of Economics. Her main area of research is economic growth and trade in Indonesian agriculture.

Dr Permani says the Australian government should take more of a hands-on leadership role with Indonesia in the regulation of animal welfare for cattle that leave Australian shores.

She says the main problems in Indonesia are a lack of proper regulation to ensure animal welfare, and a lack of educated and skilled workers in cattle production. This provides a real opportunity for Australia to help improve the quality of its neighbour's industry, with great potential benefits for both countries.

"A fundamental problem with the Australian response to this issue is the failure to understand that the abuses uncovered are directly related to the systematic regulatory problems within the industry," Dr Permani says.

"Recognition of these issues would have led Australia to help Indonesia with the animal welfare problem rather than rely on the blunt instrument of an export ban, which has already done damage to Australia's cattle industry and its relations with Indonesia," she says.

Dr Permani, who wrote a policy brief on the live export issue for the University's new Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre, says Australia still has an opportunity to help Indonesia improve animal welfare, building on decades of collaborative agricultural research between the two countries.

"Australia has much to offer Indonesia in terms of developing regulatory capacities. Such a response would mean that animal welfare is not seen as some kind of 'moral blame game', but the result of regulatory underdevelopment.

"Worker exchange and capacity building programs to train Indonesian officials in the supervision and monitoring of cattle slaughter would be a positive step forward.

"It is important to understand that Muslim Indonesians are equally as upset as Australians over the issue. Most Muslim Indonesians feel that the inhumane treatment of animals is not in keeping with the spirit of Islam generally, or Halal. Halal defines what is lawful according to Islamic law, including acceptable food, slaughtering procedures, and how Muslims get the money they use to purchase food. The lack of monitoring of Halal practices in Indonesia has been a concern of Muslim Indonesians for a long time."

Dr Permani says Australia's involvement in the development of a robust animal welfare regulatory system would show goodwill towards Indonesia. "It may contribute to Australia's own economic growth and strengthen Australia's regional influence," she says.

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Dr Risti Permani

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