Investigation launched into shocking abuse of chickens

Investigation launched into shocking abuse of chickens at Bridgewater Poultry Farm

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"We take all animal welfare matters seriously, and are investigating this issue," said Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes. Photo: Shutterstock

"We take all animal welfare matters seriously, and are investigating this issue," said Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes. Photo: Shutterstock

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An investigation has been launched into the animal cruelty exposed at an egg farm which until March had supplied Coles and Woolworths.

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An investigation has been launched into the animal cruelty exposed by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, at the Victorian Bridgewater Poultry Farm which until March had supplied Coles and Woolworths.

And the scandal has forced Tony Nesci, one of the owners of the farm involved, to step down as the VFF Egg Group's boss, after he said he "took offence" at questions that he was responsible and tried to shift the blame to contractors he was unable to identify.

The footage was secretly filmed by a whistleblower in April and May after the farm had been placed into quarantine over a salmonella outbreak which sparked a major recall in March.

As a result the farm was ordered to kill, or gas to death, its entire chicken population to prevent a further spread of the disease.

Footage filmed by a whistleblower and handed to Animal Liberation shows half a dozen workers kicking, throwing and dropping live chickens and then joking and laughing about the cruelty they inflict on the animals.

The Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said Agriculture Victoria's Animal Health and Welfare branch had launched an investigation

"We take all animal welfare matters seriously, and are investigating this issue," the Minister said.

"As it is subject to an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Federal Agriculture Minister and deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie said the state government was responsible for any "compliance action."

"It is clear this footage includes some disturbing behaviour that cannot be condoned."

Mr Nesci, who is one of Bridgewater Poultry Farm's owners, responded angrily when questioned about the footage and said he was not to blame for the behaviour of the workers in the video because they were contractors. He claims not to know the name of the contractors hired to exterminate the chickens and said he was grateful that anyone at all could be found to kill the chickens, given the farm had been placed into quarantine.

In a later statement, the farm promised to cooperate with any investigation and called on Animal Liberation to release the raw and unedited footage to investigators. Animal Liberation will publish the raw footage online on Wednesday.

Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said Mr Nesci was "extremely distressed" by the footage.

"Media reporting of this story featured quotes from the VFF Egg Group President, Tony Nesci. Tony is extremely distressed by this footage," said Mr Jochinke.

"Since the discovery of salmonella at Bridgewater Poultry Farm, Tony has endured considerable personal stress with this outbreak placing his entire farm operation at risk.

"This latest incident, whereby outside contractors were brought onto the property to contain disease risk, but appears to have resulted in the alleged mistreatment of birds, has compounded that stress," he said.

"Tony has advised the VFF today that he will step down from his role as the Egg Group president to focus on the issues at hand, including the health and well-being of himself, his family, his business and his birds.

Mr Jochinke said he welcomed a "thorough investigation."

Under no circumstances is animal cruelty acceptable on any farm," he said.

smh.com.au

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