PRESS RELEASE: Echuca horrors prompt call for CCTV in all abattoirs nationwide




Animals Australia has written to Ministers in all states urging them to make CCTV mandatory in abattoirs after footage revealed sickening cruelty for the second time in Victoria's oldest slaughterhouse.

Animals Australia Executive Director Glenys Oogjes has said the government's response to footage aired on the ABC last night is inadequate, and is calling for the regulator, PrimeSafe, to close down Riverside Meats in Echuca immediately.

"PrimeSafe is aware of the inability of the owners or managers of Riverside to supervise their workers – the abattoir must lose its license and cease slaughtering animals immediately," Ms Oogjes said.

In addition, Animals Australia has written to the relevant ministers around the country, detailing other appalling violations of animal welfare laws that have come to light in recent years including Big River Pork in South Australia, Gretna Quality Meats in Tasmania and a string of NSW facilities.

"Anyone who has endured a viewing of even small excerpts of the footage at these slaughterhouses would fully understand that only independently-monitored CCTV will reduce cruelty and discourage workers from engaging in abusive practices," said Ms Oogjes.

The Riverside Meats abattoir in Echuca, Victoria, had been under increased scrutiny by regulator PrimeSafe since workers were found abusing animals there in 2012.

"Over the past three years, the shocking practices in this slaughterhouse have gone from appalling to completely routine and entrenched. We can only imagine what animals are enduring elsewhere, where no one is watching," she said.

Animals Australia was provided with hours of footage depicting a catalogue of daily horrors for pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and just days-old dairy calves at Riverside Meats in Echuca.

"There is an obvious culture of violence, disrespect and abuse of animals in this slaughterhouse. The vision shows equipment designed to reduce suffering instead being used as torture devices inflicting dreadful cruelty," said Ms Oogjes.

In one of the worst examples, a pig in a restraint box that is designed only for cattle suffers four shots from a captive bolt gun before being shot twice with a rifle. The ordeal lasts over six minutes.

More than 1,200 video files have been submitted for investigation to the regulator overseeing abattoirs, PrimeSafe. The videos reveal:

  • Calves and sheep viciously and repeatedly stabbed in the neck, face and head with the metal prongs of an electric stunning device
  • The routine misplacement of stunning equipment, resulting in animals being paralysed but fully conscious and sensible to pain whilst slaughtered
  • Smoke is seen rising from the animals as the electric prongs pierce their heads and necks, revealing equipment is overheating, causing further suffering
  • Dairy calves and sheep escape from restraint boxes and fall onto the kill floor, scrambling over dead and dying animals
  • Workers beating confused baby dairy calves to move them to slaughter
  • Workers responding to fearful and panicked animals by beating them, swearing at them, laughing at them and roughly throwing them back onto the kill table
  • Distressed cattle attempting to jump out of the metal slaughter restraint box

This is the second time Riverside Meats has been the subject of a government investigation. In 2013, Animals Australia lodged disturbing evidence of dairy calves being beaten, thrown and shocked with electric prodders. The authorities gave formal warnings to some workers, the owners promised infrastructure and training upgrades, and PrimeSafe increased its audit regime.

"It's alarming that such systemic and shocking practices have become entrenched at a facility that has already been investigated for animal cruelty," said Ms Oogjes.

"Fear and stress are already heightened for animals in the slaughterhouse environment so to increase their trauma and pain through incompetence and a 'couldn't care less' attitude is disgraceful."

Many dairy calves in the footage showed signs of consciousness when their throats were cut due to incorrect stunning procedures. Not a single calf in the footage was stunned in the correct position – effectively rendering them all at risk of being paralysed but still able to feel pain.

"A stunning device in the wrong hands, or used incorrectly, becomes a weapon. The pain and extended suffering endured by these animals is totally inexcusable especially given the history of this abattoir."

"If this is what's happening in an abattoir that should be under increased scrutiny, we can have no confidence whatsoever that similar abuses, or worse, are not occurring in other slaughterhouses throughout Victoria."

Animals Australia has written to the Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, calling for the introduction of CCTV cameras in all abattoirs and for footage to be independently monitored, with full (online) streaming access available to enforcement authorities.

"Once again we are seeing that wherever eyes aren't watching, animals are at risk of extreme cruelty. Only the presence of independently monitored cameras will actively discourage workers from engaging in cruel behaviour and ensure management maintains proper oversight of employees and practices," said Ms Oogjes.

Video and images are available for download at:


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