Indonesia/ Australia Live Cattle Export: Slaughter

Australia and Indonesia have developed a strong bilateral relationship in livestock trade that has resulted in important commercial partnerships between industries in both countries. This section of an independent report, studying animal welfare conditions, looks at welfare at slaughter.
calendar icon 30 April 2011
clock icon 16 minute read


The trade in Australian cattle in Indonesia was found to be transparent and the tour group received unfettered access to facilities and staff. Abattoir operators and workers were generally welcoming, cooperative and unperturbed by the panel‟s presence. This was found to be the case at facilities where the visit was prearranged as well as at those facilities where the visit was impromptu.

General observations

The following in-market observations do not relate directly to the OIE Code but were considered to be important in providing context.


During the study, 29 cattle were examined during slaughter in 11 abattoirs. These abattoirs were typically free of offensive smell and animal noise suggesting a good standard of animal welfare.

The presence or otherwise of offensive smells and animal noise was used as an indicator of animal welfare by the expert panel at each facility with offensive smells and excessive noise suggesting underlying animal welfare issues.

Abattoir capacity varied from three head per night to 200 head per night.

Slaughter in Indonesia is generally undertaken according to Halal requirements.

Stunning was used in several advanced facilities; however, most facilities were unsophisticated and the adoption of stunning technology would be unfeasible.

Restraining boxes

Restraining boxes were observed to be used when available with traditional slaughter observed in one location.

In total, 15 APFINDO/MLA/LiveCorp restraining boxes were observed in operation, along with six copy boxes. These boxes were observed to offer significant benefits during the slaughter process through encouraging cattle to walk to the point of slaughter and then providing improved restraint, therefore reducing the risk of prolonged agitation and consciousness, during slaughter.

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was noted to be important to realising the potential benefits that the restraining boxes could deliver.

Restraining boxes were observed to significantly reduce the number of people required to undertake the slaughter process, thus delivering efficiencies but with possible social implications associated with unemployment. SOP training had been and was in the process of being delivered in conjunction with the installation of restraining boxes. There was an appreciable observed difference in the handling and obvious animal welfare benefits where this SOP training had been delivered.

Of the 26 acts of slaughter observed using restraining boxes:

  • 17% of animals went down and regained their feet on release from the restraining box. This was typically associated with the restraining ropes being too long and SOP not being observed.

Of the 29 cattle slaughtered with and without restraining boxes:

  • The severity of the fall during casting was scored in terms of the impact with the floor (0=none, 1=mild, 2=moderate, 3=marked). On average, the impact score for the 29 cattle was 1.6 (moderate).
  • On average, there were 3.5 head lifts per animal once cast. Head lifts were observed to pose a significant risk to animal welfare.

Roping procedures were used at some abattoirs that almost completely prevented the animal from lifting its head and then, upon failing to rise, impacting on the plinth. This involved securing a rope around the beast‟s head or neck while in the restraining box.

While restraining boxes were observed to significantly improve animal welfare, where the severity of the fall was severe and head slapping occurred, significant animal welfare issues were identified that should be addressed through the SOP and training.

Copy boxes

Copy boxes are privately funded replicas of the industry funded restraining boxes and were found in several abattoirs thought to be practicing traditional slaughter. These were well designed, constructed and maintained; however, the operators lacked SOP training posing a potential animal welfare issue.

Slaughter technique

The cutting action, incidence of impaired bleeding and the occurrence of false aneurysm in the carotid arteries during Halal slaughter was monitored in the 29 cattle slaughtered.

This demonstrated that the number of cuts used when performing Halal slaughter varied considerably. In general, the standard was better at the abattoirs in West Java than in Sumatra.

In particular, at one abattoir in West Java, the incision was made with a single cut to the neck, whereas at an abattoir in Sumatra the neck was struck with a knife using a hard impact to sever the skin above the larynx and then up to 18 cuts were made to sever the neck and both arteries.

Although on all occasions both carotid arteries were completely cut, bleeding was significantly impaired in 10% of cattle due to false aneurysm formation in both carotid arteries, possibly resulting in extended consciousness. The SOP does not currently include guidelines for the management of occluded arteries and false aneurysm and slaughtermen were not observed to appreciate this as being a potential animal welfare issue.


The butcher was observed to own the cattle and supply the slaughtermen and labourers in most abattoirs. As such, large abattoirs operating on a service kill basis typically had many slaughter and butchering teams, each privately engaged and waiting for their employer‟s cattle to be presented for slaughter. In such a circumstance, cattle were identified with a paint brand. This often resulted in crowded slaughter floors at large abattoirs and variable standards of animal handling and slaughter.

In government abattoirs, the government supplied skilled animal handlers to work in the lairage. This standardised procedures and minimised risk.


Abattoirs were typically dimly lit due to external infrastructure problems associated with the generation and delivery of electricity.

Despite there being no feed or water curfew for cattle being slaughtered in Indonesia, feed and water were not always provided in abattoir lairage. This was generally not considered to be an issue as cattle were typically only held for a short period (up to several hours), during the cool of the day (evening), prior to slaughter.

Observations made at wet markets indicated that meat colour and, therefore, pH had little effect on the saleability of meat. As such, slaughter operators were considered unlikely to enforce animal welfare standards and minimise stressful practices that may impact eating quality.


Animal handler and slaughterman competency as well as the ability to effectively restrain cattle were considered to be the greatest factors potentially impacting animal welfare in the abattoir environment.

Review against the OIE code

The slaughter of Australian cattle in Indonesia was assessed against the OIE Code. A range of facilities and slaughter methods were observed including traditional slaughter, assisted traditional slaughter incorporating restraining boxes and slaughter using westernised abattoir facilities.

Measurable aspects of the OIE Code have been identified to allow performance against the OIE Code to be reviewed. These have been broadly categorised and summarised under the headings below.

Handling of livestock

Observations of the handling of livestock at the point of slaughter against the OIE Code:

  • Loading and unloading procedures
    • The majority of abattoirs had reasonable facilities to allow the effective unloading and handling of livestock. One exception was noted where an unloading ramp was not observed; however, cattle were not delivered during the period of observation.
  • Overall handling (goads, dogs, lifting or painful handling etc)
    • Handling at abattoirs was generally acceptable.
    • Practices were noticeably better and consistent with the OIE Code where SOP training had taken place.
    • An electric goad was observed to be misused on one occasion (the animal was encouraged to move when there was no obvious path for escape).
    • Some instances of unnecessary stimulation involving interference with the eyes and tail twisting were observed immediately prior to slaughter once the animal was restrained and cast.
  • Handler skill, experience and training
    • Handler skill was variable and ranged from excellent to poor. The better handlers were those whose task it was to only handle livestock.
    • Poorer handling was observed where specialist livestock handlers were not employed and handling was done by butchers and slaughtermen. Animal handling competence was generally poorer at smaller abattoirs where butchers were also responsible for handling.
    • On-the-job rather than formal training was typical.
  • Groupings of livestock at the slaughterhouse
    • The grouping of livestock was generally satisfactory with similar cattle from the same feedlot held together in lairage. Cattle were generally held in lairage at abattoirs for a short period of time, thus minimising the risk of animal welfare concerns arising from inappropriate animal grouping.
  • Behaviour of livestock (stress, aggression etc)
    • Livestock were typically calm up until the point of confinement within the restraining boxes. Cattle were inclined to become agitated if leg restraining ropes were not secured quickly. Cattle did become agitated if they were not effectively restrained or spent an extended period of time in the restraining box or in recumbency prior to slaughter.
    • One potentially fractious bull was observed; however, good animal handling mitigated the risks posed through handling such an animal.
    • Sensory stimulation, observed as disturbed behaviour in some animals, was apparent immediately prior to slaughter during the casting process and while restrained with ropes in recumbency. This was particularly apparent when buckets of water were thrown over the animal before slaughter.
  • Veterinary assistance and humane disposal (if required)
    • Veterinary assistance was available at government abattoirs and some private abattoirs if required although the quality of this assistance was not assessed.
    • Sick or injured cattle were reportedly disposed of as soon as possible through the usual abattoir if possible. An exception to this was observed where an animal, injured during transportation, was left for an unacceptable length of time before being slaughtered.
  • Appropriate quarantine and disease control
    • Animals arriving at abattoirs were generally slaughtered the same day and, as such, the risk of disease transfer ante mortem was minimal.
Facilities and equipment

Observations relating to facilities and equipment at the point of slaughter against the OIE Code:

  • Exposure to sights, smells or surfaces that may harm or stress livestock
    • Cattle were exposed to visual stimulation immediately prior to slaughter when they were released from the control box and became cast on the plinth.
    • The approaches to the restraining boxes were often but not always of a non- slip construction.
    • Abattoirs were typically free of offensive smells and excessive noise.
    • Lighting was subdued and generally conducive to animal movement.
  • Overall lairage construction (size, ventilation, safety, lighting etc)
    • Lairage construction was generally adequate; however, it was apparent that in most facilities, the lairage did not receive the same level of maintenance attention or investment as the slaughter and butchering facilities.
    • The lairage size was typically commensurate to the number of cattle able to be processed over a given period.
    • Despite a general need for ongoing maintenance, particularly of surfaces, lairages were generally considered to be fit for purpose.
    • Lairage was typically outdoors and well ventilated. Cover was provided at some abattoirs.
  • Facilities provided (feed, water, protection, bedding, ventilation, cleanliness)
    • Feed, water, shade and bedding were not always available in lairage.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting procedures and facilities
    • Abattoirs were reasonably clean and well maintained.
Slaughter processes

Observations of the slaughter process against the OIE Code:

  • Presentation of animal for slaughter
    • Restraining boxes improved the ease with which cattle were presented for slaughter by allowing cattle to walk to the point of slaughter, as opposed to being physically dragged which is often the case in traditional slaughter. They also facilitated improved restraint, thereby reducing the risk of prolonged agitation and consciousness during slaughter.
    • SOP is critical to optimising restraining box operation. The inconsistent application of SOP resulted in variations in the presentation of animals for slaughter.
    • The process of washing the animal by hosing or bucketing water immediately ante mortem caused unnecessary stimulation and reaction in the cattle. This washing was reported to be a requirement of Halal slaughter; however, this claim was not verified.
  • Method and use of restraints for stunning or slaughter without stunning
    • Restraining boxes improved the ease with which animals were presented for slaughter.
    • Further restraint of the head using ropes was required in most circumstances and helped control inappropriate head movement.
  • Method of stunning (where used: captive bolt, electrical head-only)
    • Where used, the method of stunning was via captive bolt (mushroom stunner) and this was used effectively and appropriately.
  • Time between restraint, stunning and bleeding (<20 seconds for stun-stick)
    • The time between stunning and sticking was not always less than 20 seconds but was always less than 30 seconds.
  • Occurrence of stunning failure and actions taken
    • Stunning failure was not observed. When this did occur, cattle were reportedly re-stunned as soon as possible.
  • Accurate, prompt and effective cutting for bleeding
    • In some instances where stunning was not used the delay between restraint and slaughter was significant.
    • Cutting for bleeding was variable and ranged from excellent (one swift movement severing both carotids) to poor (up to 18 cuts applied). The average number of cuts was four.
    • In the 29 Halal slaughtered cattle, all carotid arteries were severed.
    • Following the Halal cut, there were occluded carotid arteries in 48% of cattle and possible extended consciousness in 10% of cattle. This could be managed with secondary sticking, where appropriate.
  • Halal slaughter processes
    • There were differences in the way the Halal slaughter was conducted. This was particularly evident in the number of cuts used during slaughter.

Additional considerations

Operational, commercial, religious, geographic and scientific aspects of the slaughter of Australian cattle in Indonesia were observed. Areas for possible practice improvement that may promote an improved animal welfare outcome were identified. The observations recorded below relate to slaughterhouse operation and represent a consensus opinion of the independent expert panel. Where warranted, the possible improvements have been addressed through the specific recommendations made in section 7: Recommendations, and indexed below.

  Issue Possible improvement Recommendations
  • Large breeding bulls present handling difficulties, particularly at the point of slaughter, due to infrastructure limitations.
  • Review the appropriateness of consigning heavy breeding bulls to Indonesia for slaughter.
  • Restraining boxes require ongoing maintenance. It is unlikely that this will be attended to by the abattoir owners.
  • Implement a restraining box maintenance program.
  • The sideways opening action of the restraining boxes and the door‟s solid construction was observed to expose the animal to sudden audible and visual stimulation. This was not considered an issue in the abattoirs where the activity on the slaughter floor was minimal or where the door opened away from the activity on the slaughter floor. Excessive sensory overload was observed at busy abattoirs where the animal was suddenly exposed to the activity on the slaughter floor.
  • A railed guillotine style gate was observed on a copy box at one of the abattoirs. This was effective and also reduced the risk of worker injury as a result of the swinging gate. A guillotine gate design may be considered as an option in the restraining box.
  • Gates should be positioned to open away from the slaughter floor. This may not be practicable in all cases, depending on where Mecca is located relative to the layout of the abattoir.
  • SOP for slaughter using restraining boxes were not always observed.
  • Conduct training in all abattoirs using restraining boxes and monitor compliance.
  • Traditional slaughter was conducted using timber-partition yards in one location. This was the preferred method due to the residential location of the abattoir and the perception that the steel constriction of the restraining box would be too noisy.
  • Continue discussions with the abattoir operator and present noise reduction options such as rubber matting.
  • On average cattle attempted to rise 3.5 times once cast and restrained. This usually resulted in head slapping.
  • Investigate SOP that effectively restrain the head prior to casting to prevent head slapping against the concrete plinth.
  • Investigate alternative roping techniques to achieve firmer restraint.
  • Excessive numbers of people present during animal handling.
  • Conduct training to impress upon handlers the importance of minimising stress by limiting human interaction.
  • Each butcher supplies their own slaughterman and as such there are many slaughtermen and workers. This makes centralised training difficult.
  • Consider the development of a training DVD that addresses restraint and slaughter.
  • Aspects of meat quality adversely affected by stress at the point of slaughter (colour, tenderness, etc) are not recognised in the market place. As such, there is no commercial incentive to improve animal welfare at the point of slaughter.
  • In the place of commercial incentives to promote animal welfare at the point of slaughter, promote the adoption of SOP and the development of enforceable standards.
  • Halal and regulations do not require a feed and water curfew prior to slaughter. Despite this, not all abattoirs provided feed and water.
  • Encourage the installation and use of water troughs at abattoirs.
  • Animals are washed, generally indiscriminately through the bucketing of water, once cast, reportedly as part of the Halal slaughter process. This stimulated the animal and encouraged attempts to rise, often resulting in head slapping.
  • Investigate the need for washing under Halal and if unnecessary, revise the SOP to discourage washing.
  • Where washing is practiced and if required under Halal, encourage more precise hosing to avoid water contacting the animals face, especially the eyes.
  • Despite being allowed under Halal, stunning is rarely practiced.
  • Stunning was observed to overcome the majority of risks to animal welfare associated with the slaughter process and the use of stunning should be promoted at every opportunity.
  • Geographic idiosyncrasies in restraint and slaughter practices were observed in Lampung that differed significantly from those observed in Jakarta and Bogor. The technique of head roping and number of cuts to effect slaughter delivered an inferior animal welfare outcome in Lampung.
  • Implement SOP training for handling, restraint and slaughter in Sumatra.
  • Arteries were observed to become occluded on 48% of cattle with both arteries blocked in 10% of cattle possibly leading to extended consciousness.
  • Investigate the possibility of introducing a secondary incision, as practiced in western abattoirs, in the SOP to promote bleeding and minimise the effect of occluded arteries.


Slaughter was considered to pose the greatest risk to animal welfare. Several areas for improvement were identified and have been addressed in the recommendations. These included:

  • SOP The SOP, in combination with restraining boxes, currently deliver significant animal welfare benefits; however, a review of the SOP to address several issues identified during the assessment would deliver additional benefits.
  • SOP training Additional and regular training to encourage the use of SOP in conjunction with restraining boxes would deliver animal welfare benefits.
  • Restraining box – maintenance and repair Restraining boxes delivered significant animal welfare benefits; however, these require ongoing maintenance to promote their continued use.
  • Restraining box - modification Several design changes may improve the operation of the restraining boxes and promote additional animal welfare benefits.
  • Stunning Stunning was observed to deliver the single biggest animal welfare benefit and the general adoption of stunning in the slaughter of Australian cattle in Indonesia should be an aspirational goal.



That the existing SOP be reviewed to minimise time spent by cattle in restraining boxes and in recumbency. This may include:

  1. In box neck rope placement.
  2. Improved leg restraint.
  3. A revision of the washing technique.

SOP training

That regular slaughtermen training be introduced and SOP training extended to address:

  1. Principles when casting cattle.
  2. Knives (sharpening, type).
  3. Cutting method – minimising the number of cuts.
  4. The management of occluded arteries.

This training should be regular and may be augmented through the provision of instructional DVDs.

Preslaughter handling

That handler training be conducted on a regular basis and SOP training extended to address:

  1. Handler positioning (point of balance, flight zone).
  2. Noise control.
  3. The use of goads.
  4. Unacceptable handling methods.
  5. Emergency slaughter.

This training should be regular and may be augmented through the provision of instructional DVDs.

Restraining box – maintenance and repair

That a program for the maintenance, repair and modification of handling facilities in abattoirs with restraining boxes be introduced. This should address:

  1. The maintenance of restraining boxes.
  2. Issues associated with lairage design, particularly lighting, the removal of distractions and impediments to the flow of cattle and the provision of feed, water and, where appropriate, bedding.
  3. Race design should be reviewed where possible to include gates to assist in the emergency removal of animals.

Restraining box - modification

Consider restraining box modifications to:

  1. Incorporate rubber matting to act as a buffer and minimise sound when cattle kick out in the boxes.
  2. Achieve better head restraint.


Encourage the adoption of stunning in the slaughter of Australian cattle in Indonesia.



Encourage the Indonesian government to develop local animal welfare standards relating to imported Australian cattle covering training, record keeping, planning, emergency slaughter and slaughter including assigning responsibility and definition of Competent Authority as referred to in the OIE Code.

April 2011
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