There are calls for greater scrutiny of the pork industry after the ABC’s 7.30 program aired footage of pigs being stunned by carbon dioxide before slaughter.
- Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt says the footage aired on 7.30 was “distressing”
- The Victorian government’s meat regulator PrimeSafe is reviewing the footage
- The Greens have called for CCTV cameras to be installed in abattoirs
Gas stunning is a legal practice and is widespread, including in the US and Europe.
The previously unseen footage was filmed by animal activists in Australian abattoirs and shows pigs thrashing, gasping and squealing as they are lowered into pits of carbon dioxide.
The federal Greens have called for state and federal governments to require the installation of CCTV cameras in abattoirs and for more effort to be put into finding more humane solutions.
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said the government needs to urgently respond to the report.
“For years, industry has led consumers to believe gassing is a humane way to kill pigs and that the pigs simply drift off painlessly into a never-ending sleep,” she said.
“It was hard to watch and even harder to stomach and the industry has known about this for years and done nothing.
“It’s unacceptable that brave activists have to put their personal liberty at stake to expose what the community has a right to know.
“State and federal governments should require the installation of CCTVs in abattoirs and overturn the ag-gag laws which protect big agribusiness from scrutiny and transparency.”
Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said there was no doubt the images on 7.30 were “distressing”.
“That’s why we’re implementing our election commitments to phase out live sheep exports, develop a new animal welfare strategy and create a new Inspector-General for Animal Welfare,” he said.
Industry will ‘work with authorities’
Australian Pork Limited, the body that represents pork producers across Australia, declined 7.30’s requests for an interview and offer to review the footage.
The industry body did not respond to written questions.
CEO Margo Andrae told the ABC’s Victorian Country Hour she would like to work with authorities to investigate the footage.
“We would like to see that full footage and we would like to work with the authorities around what’s happening there and what that looks like, being able to investigate it but also most importantly to understand why these activists are putting stress on our animals but also putting themselves in danger, breaching biosecurity,” she said.
When asked whether she thought the footage was an acceptable way for an animal to die, Ms Andrae said she would need to see all the footage gathered by the activists to understand it in context.
“CO2 stunning is the preferred method or one of the preferred methods, it minimises harm to the animals at the end of life and so we have to understand … what was happening in that footage, which we have not been able to do,” she said.
“The reality is that the industry does use CO2 stunning, it is science-backed, we’ve spent millions in making sure that we do the best for our animals for that end-of-life part.”
Regulator reviewing footage amid calls for inquiry
Victoria’s Agriculture Minister Gayle Tierney spoke about the position in Victoria and has confirmed the state’s meat regulator, PrimeSafe, is reviewing the footage aired on 7.30 and actively making further inquiries.
“Victorian facilities are regularly audited to ensure practices are compliant,” she said.
The Animal Justice Party is calling on the Victorian state government to support an inquiry into all elements of farmed pig welfare.
Victorian MLC Georgie Purcell said a parliamentary inquiry into the way the industry treats pigs is overdue.
“If the government will not answer to animals, then the least it can do is answer to consumers,” she said.
Public invited to have say on new slaughter guidelines
New animal welfare standards and guidelines are currently being developed for the slaughter of livestock by the federal government in collaboration with the states and territories and are expected to be completed later this year.
The standards are intended to form the basis of State and Territory animal welfare laws in relation to abattoirs and knackeries, and provide industry and regulators with a guide to better practice.
In a statement, the Queensland Department of Agriculture, which is leading the project, said an advisory group including RSPCA Australia and Australian Pork Limited has been consulted.
“This included discussions of stunning and potential technological innovations such as alternative gas mixtures where scientifically demonstrated to be effective and less aversive,” a spokesperson for the department said.
The spokesperson said the public will now have an opportunity to have their say.
“Feedback from the stakeholder advisory group is being considered, while further targeted and public consultation is planned for 2023 as part of the guidelines development process.”
Watch 7.30, Mondays to Thursdays 7.30pm on ABC iview and ABC TV