20 Feb, 2012 06:00 AM
ANIMAL welfare activists are calling for closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to be made mandatory in abattoirs after Animal Liberation volunteers last week released graphic footage of animals being mistreated at a small abattoir at Wilberforce just west of Sydney.They claim CCTV is necessary given four inspections of the abattoir had failed to uncover the problem.One in five abattoirs in the UK slaughtering cows, pigs, goats and sheep now have CCTV, and moves are afoot to make CCTV compulsory there.The NSW Food Authority – which comes under the broad portfolio of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) – acted swiftly to shut down Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors last week as Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson signalled authorities would ramp up random inspections of domestic abattoirs.Ms Hodgkinson said while she did not want to pre-empt a sweeping Statewide review of abattoir killing floor practices sparked by the footage, the DPI would ensure all meat processors were complying with relevant animal welfare laws.She suggested one option in future may be for a qualified animal welfare officer to accompany Food Authority inspection teams.And while she did not rule out the introduction of CCTV, she warned it was expensive and would have to be monitored.

“I will let the investigation take its course and see what recommendations arise before crossing that bridge.”

Ms Hodgkinson stressed the majority of operators were conscious of adhering to standards on the killing room floor.

“Operators should be getting that right, otherwise they should not be licensed.”

NSW RSPCA chief executive Steve Coleman said although the allegations were “clearly confrontational and emotional” it was important the investigation went ahead in a calm and objective way.

But the RSPCA is not convinced CCTV surveillance is the solution.

“We are not opposed to it, but the dilemma is where do you stop and start – what about other animal industries and related businesses? To install CCTV someone has to monitor and analyse the footage. There’s never an easy or simple fix,” Mr Coleman said.

“What we would not want to do is enter into a knee jerk reaction.

“Generally speaking, what may have happened at the Wilberforce abattoir is in the minority, based on the lack of complaints, we get among 14,000 complaints annually.”

Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) chief executive Kevin Cottrill said while it was important to await the outcome of the investigation, industry participants had no excuse for not complying with the highest standards of animal welfare.

“We are disappointed. These things should not happen,” Mr Cottrill said.

“There is plenty of information and training available.

“The minister is seeking a total review of processing plants in NSW, not just this particular plant, and we would hope this is an isolated incident.”

NSW Food Authority executive director of compliance and enforcement Peter Day said while it was “the worst case” of animal mistreatment he had seen in an abattoir, he believed it was the work of “rogue operators”.

“This is not representative of general operations out there in the abattoirs,” Mr Day said.

Last November, Victorian authority Primesafe shut down family-owned Gippsland pork abattoir L.E. Giles and Sons, after Animals Australia provided it with video footage alleging pigs were being slaughtered inappropriately.

The footage reportedly showed pigs being hit with sledgehammers.

PrimeSafe chief executive Brian Casey told The Land this week the company had not sought to show cause why its licence should not be revoked and it remained closed.

Inappropriate practices at the business, which had operated for 60 years, with 34 workers, were exposed by a whistle-blower who allowed an Animals Australia volunteer access to the premises.

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