Greens call for more scrutiny of abattoirs to protect animals

Abattoirs and knackeries in NSW would have to video the stunning and slaughtering of all animals, and keep the recordings for at least three months, under laws being proposed by the Greens.

On Wednesday, the same day a western Sydney abattoir and one of its former employees face animal cruelty allegations in court, the Greens MP Cate Faehrmann plans to introduce amendments to the Food Act that would make it mandatory for all slaughterhouses to make visual and audio recordings of their operations.

Failure to do so could result in a six-month custodial sentence.

The concept is not new. A handful of Australian abattoirs already use CCTV voluntarily, the RSPCA says.

The animal welfare group's chief scientist, Bidda Jones, said she had recently visited a meat processing facility in Queensland that had had surveillance cameras in place in the post-kill area for several years to monitor food hygiene.

Extending their use to the slaughter and transportation areas had not been an issue, she said.

''The workers were already being filmed,'' Dr Jones said. ''If they [the abattoir] have an issue - for example, if a truck comes in early in the morning and there's a problem - then that's all captured on film.''

The Greens' private member's bill was prompted by the scandal early last year involving Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors at Wilberforce.

The abattoir was shut down for a month after Animal Liberation made public covert footage of workers allegedly mistreating sheep, cattle, pigs and goats at the abattoir. The RSPCA is taking the company to court, where it faces eight charges of failing to exercise reasonable supervision of animals to prevent cruelty, and a single charge of using a non-prescribed electrical device on an animal.

One former abattoir worker is facing a single charge of committing an act of cruelty on an animal.

''If the Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, was taking animal welfare seriously, she would support the Greens' bill,'' Ms Faehrmann said. ''We have all seen the sickening cruelty that can take place behind closed doors in abattoirs. It doesn't just happen in Indonesia; it has been exposed here in Australia, time and time again.''

Animal Liberation's campaigns manager, Emma Hurst, said the fact that some abattoirs in NSW were allowed to audit themselves was totally inadequate.

''The way it's [oversight of slaughterhouses] being run at the moment is so ineffective,'' she said. ''Animal welfare slips by these audits because they focus on food hygiene and health.''

A government review of all 10 of the state's red-meat abattoirs last year found breaches of animal welfare at all of them.

The story Greens call for more scrutiny of abattoirs to protect animals first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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