A Murrumbateman piggery is under investigation for alleged animal cruelty and illegal trade following the publication of graphic footage and photos by animal activists on Friday.
The footage shows buckets full of dead piglets, pigs being bludgeoned with a sledge hammer, sows with open sores and other maltreatment.
The footage was secretly filmed over a period of two months by Animal Liberation NSW activists and published on its website www.aussiepigs.com.au on Friday.
Yass Police, animal welfare inspectors and the NSW Food Authority raided a Murrumbateman farm, Wally’s Piggery, on Friday evening.
Animal Liberation NSW executive director Mark Pearson said, “this piggery is one of the worst examples of factory farming where animals are treated like 'production machines' and no thought is given to their capacity to suffer.”
The group alleges activists witnessed pigs, sows and piglets living in appalling conditions, many with untreated wounds.
“Images also included buckets of dead piglets, a sledge hammer used to bludgeon pigs, and sows with open sores.”
Co-president of Animal Liberation ACT Jess Ferry said, “hidden cameras filming over several weeks revealed sick and dying animals, workers throwing and kicking piglets and beating sows, and infestations of flies around and on the pigs.”
“No stunning device was used, and workers were seen to be drinking from beer bottles during their shift in the slaughter room.”
Tails and teeth had been cut from piglets without anaesthetic, the group said.
Mr Pearson said pigs were notoriously difficult to kill humanely.
“Out of all the animals that go through an abattoir the ones that stay conscious longest are pigs,” he said.
RSPCA NSW ceo Steve Coleman told the Tribune the owner and several workers depicted on film were being investigated. The company could face a $110,000 fine, while individuals could be penalised $25,000 or two years imprisonment.
Those who acquired the footage were also being interviewed.
He said the two-month delay in reporting the incident to the relevant authorities was a concern.
“That’s always a concern, clearly, the fresher the evidence, the better the evidence. I don’t know why it’s taken two months to be reported to an authority.”
It was also frustrating that the public had seen the footage and formed an opinion about it, calling into question its admissibility as primary evidence in future court proceedings.
He was not aware of the piggery being investigated for animal cruelty in the past. It is understood the piggery came under scrutiny in 2007 by the NSW Food Authority for delivering lame animals to an abattoir.
Mr Coleman said the RSPCA has no authority to shut down the piggery. However, inspectors would return to the farm later this week and continue to monitor compliance issues and conduct formal interviews with staff.
Yass Police said no one had been charged over the incident.
Industry body Australian Pork Limited ceo Andrew Spencer said he was “appalled” after receiving the footage.
“I am shocked and utterly appalled after having seen the video footage… The treatment of the animals shown on the video is abhorrent.”
“Practices such as those shown in this video have no place in our industry. The majority of pork producers in Australia rigorously adhere to world’s best practice when it comes to animal welfare. There is no way that we can tolerate treating pigs like this.”
The NSW Food Authority said the piggery was not licensed to slaughter pigs for human consumption.
Primary Industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson was appalled at the footage.
“I was absolutely appalled at what I saw,” she said.
“I just think it’s a wake up call for everybody in the animal industry to make sure they are complying fully… there are regulations in place for a very good reason.”
The Tribune has been unable to get into contact with the owner of the piggery.
Authorities investigating the incident include the NSW Police, Department of Primary Industries, Animal Welfare League, RSPCA NSW, and the NSW Food Authority.