Sheep Producers Australia executive chair Chris Mirams has condemned what he says is an appalling animal cruelty case filmed at a leading Victorian abattoir.
The CCTV footage released this week is of workers wearing the uniform of Gathercoles’s Carrum Downs Abattoir at Patterson Lake, using sheep heads as footballs, punching and mishandling animals.
“The actions captured in the footage are appalling and completely inconsistent with the animal welfare values held by sheep producers,” Mr Mirams said.
“Any producer would be appalled by seeing that footage.
“We hope, and trust, Gathercoles will take those involved to task and do whatever it takes to ensure that sort of behaviour never happens again.”
The footage, from leaked.com.au, was dated August 20 and posted on The Aussie Farms Repository website. Aussie Farms Repository is linked to the animal rights documentary, Dominion.
No group has claimed responsibility for the leaking of the footage, which runs for about four minutes.
The SPA has been joined by Australian Meat Industry Council in condemning what chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said were practices that were cruel, abhorrent and completely unacceptable.
“The video I saw was simply sickening,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“I accept that we may not know the whole story as this company is not part of our membership, but there is no excuse for what I saw."
He rejected claims the video represented typical practices in the Australian red meat sector.
“Members I have spoken to are disgusted and horrified by what they have seen,” he said.
“Our organisation and our members continue to work towards ensuring the very highest standards of animal welfare are in place in our sector.”
Incidents such as those depicted on the video let the entire industry down.
“To that end we have now contacted the Victorian regulator, PrimeSafe."
He said AMIC understood PrimeSafe had dealt with what was “historical footage” through enforcement action and continued to monitor the establishment over the past few months.
Mr Mirams said producers were very distressed when such incidents occurred.
“We want to ensure processors have policies and procedures in place – and they are enforced – to make sure this sort of behaviour doesn’t occur,” he said.
While Gathercoles had not made a statement, Mr Mirams said he was sure “they will be just as devastated as we are".
“We really hope this is an isolated event and they put their foot on it to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
In 2015, Gathercoles Wangaratta abattoir was found to be in breach of the Meat Industry Act, over some of its slaughtering practices.
At the time, PrimeSafe chief executive Brendan Tatham said his organisation would oversee operations at Gathercoles, after CCTV footage emerged appearing to show some animals were not being stunned before slaughter.
PrimeSafe found found stunning did occur, but it "wasn't effective all the time."
It took the action after it was supplied with the video by Aussie Farms.
Mr Mirams said sheep producers were unwavering in their committment to the highest animal welfare standards and expected that to extend to every part of the supply chain.
“Producers also need to have confidence that the systems in place within the processing industry are monitored and enforced to ensure this kind of mistreatment does not happen,” he said.
SPA expected swift and decisive action from Gathercoles and the Victorian authorities in response to the incident.
“We will be communicating to Gathercoles on behalf of producers about the high priority we place on best practice animal welfare,” he said.
Gathercoles declined to comment to Stock & Land.