Filmed in early 2014, the footage shows pigs screaming and thrashing as they gasp for air inside the gas chambers of Australia's biggest pig abattoir. This covert vision, supplied anonymously to 'Aussie Farms' and provided to NSW police, has given the public its first glimpse into what the industry regards as the most 'humane' slaughter method. But is it?
One lame pig who was unable to enter the gas chamber was dragged, kicked, and shocked excessively with an electric prod. Other pigs who refused to enter the chamber were also shocked needlessly. But while incidents of poor handling are totally unacceptable, it is the systemic cruelty and suffering within the 'humane' gas chambers which is most alarming.
Both factory farmed and free range pigs are killed at the Rivalea abattoir, which has a Government veterinarian in attendance at all times. Meat from this abattoir is turned into pork, bacon and ham products sold under Australia's biggest pig meat brands through major supermarkets.
This recent footage echoes similarly alarming evidence emanating from other Australian slaughterhouses exposed in recent years.
Because pigs are highly intelligent and easily distressed, group gassing is touted as the most 'humane' method of rendering them unconscious before slaughter. Most pigs are now killed this way. But the Australian meat industry standard requires a CO2 concentration at least four times higher than what is scientifically known to avoid distress.
CO2 is a cheap but aversive gas. When exposed to high concentrations of CO2, most pigs panic and have a violent reaction — potentially accompanied by pain. If the CO2 concentration is less than 20%, pigs will generally not detect the gas. Yet the Australian meat industry standard is set between 80 - 100%. At this level the kill line moves more quickly — but most pigs are going to their deaths highly distressed or in a state of terror.
Every abattoir is under pressure to kill as many animals as possible in the shortest time. This financial imperative is reflected in the industry standard that puts efficiency ahead of animal welfare. Perhaps the most alarming consequence of this cruel standard is that even if an Australian abattoir wanted to gas pigs in accordance with what is scientifically proven to minimise suffering – currently they risk failing audits and losing their license.
There are three stakeholders who have the power to change this: the industry, the government, and you. Rivalea — the biggest and most influential player in the Australian pig meat industry — has commenced its own investigation of the footage, and has dismissed two workers. But the company is yet to respond fully to the concerns about the systemic suffering documented within its gas chambers. The Federal Department of Agriculture has also been alerted to this alarming evidence of cruelty and has yet to address the industry-wide problem. Animals Australia is pushing for an immediate review of the standards that have entrenched cruelty in Australia's pig abattoirs.
Ultimately it is the demand for pork, bacon and ham that pressures the pig meat industry to kill animals in ever quicker and consequently more inhumane ways. Every meal is a choice. It's within our power as individuals to save animals from suffering simply by refusing to support a system that treats living beings like production units.
Even inside what's considered by industry to be the 'biggest' and 'best' slaughterhouse — wherever animals are handled or slaughtered en masse, there will be fear and suffering. This is the reality of raising and killing animals for food.
The simple truth is that the best way to protect animals from harm is to not eat them.
Today eating meat is no longer the 'norm' — it's a choice. Millions of Australians are choosing to take animals off their plates entirely — for their health, for the planet, and for the animals. You can join them by making the pledge today!