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Monday, Jan 16, 2012
Alleged: Names Undisclosed
The NSW government is ramping up inspections of abattoirs after it suspended operations at Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors.
The decision came after the NSW Food Authority was handed a video showing"`gross mistreatment"' of animals on Thursday.
Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors said it was extremely concerned about video footage aired on ABC's Lateline program last night showing animals at its Wilberforce abattoir in northwest Sydney allegedly being bashed to death while conscious.
"Casual staff involved in the incident have been stood down and permanent staff have been moved to other duties until the investigation has been finalized,'' the abattoir said.
Video footage allegedly shows "gut-wrenching" breaches, including pigs being beaten to death with what appears to be a metal bar, animals being kicked and sheep left to slowly die on tables.
Hawkesbury Valley said it reported the incident to authorities as soon as it became aware of the video and was cooperating with the current investigation.
"The NSW government ... is horrified by the video footage of mistreatment of animals at this abattoir," Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said in a statement on Friday.
"Starting immediately, strict measures, including additional unannounced audits and inspections, will be ramped up to ensure all domestic abattoirs in NSW are aware of their responsibility to comply with standards."
The NSW Food Authority was contacting all abattoirs to remind them of their obligations under animal cruelty laws, she said.
Ms Hodgkinson said an investigation of the Wilberforce abattoir shown in the video footage was under way and she had requested a full report.
In Canberra, Greens Senator Bob Brown has backed calls by animal welfare groups for CCTV cameras to be installed in abattoirs.
"I think that's an idea that should get very serious consideration," he said.
"We seem to have a recurring bout of scenes of cruelty domestically and overseas involving Australian livestock, and I think the public would be greatly reassured if there were greater surveillance."
Senator Brown also called for intervention from the Federal Government.
"I think people see this as a national issue and ... the influence of a federal position, a policy, on this is badly needed."
The abattoir said on Friday that it had sacked casual workers involved in the animal abuse and moved permanent staff to other duties.
"Casual staff involved in the incident have been stood down and permanent staff have been moved to other duties until the investigation has been finalised," it said in a statement.
Peter Day, executive director of compliance at the NSW Food Authority, said it was the worst animal welfare breach at an abattoir he had ever seen.
However, he defended the industry as a whole, labelling Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors as a rogue operator.
"Obviously the footage we have seen, we would be of the view that it is not representative of the industry as a whole, and that this is a rogue operation," he told reporters in Sydney.
"There is no denying that the footage is disturbing. I'm shocked. I think it is the worst case I've seen in an abattoir in terms of animal welfare breaches."
The NSW Food Authority forced the company to cease all animal slaughter at the abattoir, in Sydney's northwest, while a full investigation was undertaken.
Earlier today, the NSW Food Authority described the abattoir as a rogue operator which was not representative of others in the state.
The Department of Primary Industries said the company appeared to have breached standards that require "animals are slaughtered in a way that prevents unnecessary injury, pain and suffering".
A full investigation, which also involves the RSPCA, is under way, with potential maximum penalties of $110,000 or two years imprisonment for acts of cruelty.
The operation been ordered to make a submission as to why it shouldn't lose its license.
WARNING - MAY DISTURB: Horror video of abattoir cruelty revealed
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