OPINION: Editorial: Abattoir animal abuse sign of a sick system

OPINION: On NOV 24, 2016 | The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia.
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Our government regulators are failing to protect animals from depraved treatment.

The depraved actions of four slaughterhouse workers at Riverside Meats in Echuca has yet again exposed the grossly inadequate regulatory framework governing this industry.

Time after time shocking abuses committed against livestock destined for our dinner plates are exposed not by government regulators, but animal rights groups.

In this instance, more than 170 hours of footage was surreptitiously shot and handed to Animals Australia, which has an enviable track record of shining a light on these disturbing practices.

Victoria’s peak meat industry watchdog PrimeSafe was provided the damning footage and for the second time in three years Riverside Meats was sanctioned.

The question that must be asked is why it was not PrimeSafe itself, as the principal regulator of the state’s red meat, poultry and seafood sectors, that uncovered the abuses?

The answer might lie in a glance at the “statement of expectations” provided to PrimeSafe by Victoria’s Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford last year, and PrimeSafe’s response six weeks later.

Nowhere in either document is the treatment of animals at slaughterhouses expressly referred to. Instead, there are just vague references to “food safety”, “product integrity” and “best practice”.

Should we really be surprised though, given the example set by no lesser figure than the Deputy Prime Minister and federal Minister for Agriculture?

Barnaby Joyce has long advocated for harsher penalties against not perpetrators, but those who might break the law in order to obtain evidence.

“It’s really important that we understand that people who break into someone’s property, break into someone’s dairy, break into their poultry farms, are breaking and entering – they’re vigilantes,” he said in 2014.

The point Mr Joyce and others conveniently forget is that if our regulators were doing their jobs properly, there would be no need for these activists to intervene.

The stomach-churning “catalogue of daily horrors” against cattle, sheep, goats and pigs is on a par with the abuses in Indonesia that led the Gillard government to suspend live exports to the country in 2011.

That drastic response was widely criticised by the Coalition and industry stakeholders, but it is high time our leaders got equally serious about holding local abattoirs to the standards we demand.

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