A prominent veterinarian who has chaired national animal welfare committees has challenged the authenticity of videos used by Animals Australia to document cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs.
Dr Ivan Caple is a lecturer in veterinary science at the University of Melbourne and chaired the National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare from October 1997 to June 2006.
He also chaired the independent panel that visited Indonesian abattoirs in March 2010 to report on welfare standards at the Australian livestock industry’s request.
Dr Caple said the independent panel conducted announced and unannounced visits to 13 abattoirs in Indonesia in March 2010 and witnessed the slaughter of 29 animals. He said they saw only one example of an animal having its tail broken and saw no eye-gouging or other practices shown on Four Corners.
Entry interviews were conducted with abattoir owners, managers and staff upon entry and exit interviews were conducted following their inspections.
The panel, which included other veterinarians, came to the “general conclusion that welfare of animals in Indonesia was good”, Dr Caple said, but recommended improvements including better training of abattoir workers and better restraint practices, particularly through the use of stunning.
“We identified in our report areas that needed attention,” Dr Caple said. “We did not see any of the cruelty that was shown on ABC Four Corners. If we had have seen it we would have rang the minister.”
Dr Caple told last night’s Senate inquiry hearing into live exports in Canberra that he did not trust the authenticity of video footage secured in Indonesia by Animals Australia.
He said video footage of a trembling beast he downloaded from the Animals Australia website contained bellowing noises that did not appear when the same footage appeared on the Four Corners program.
He suggested that bellowing noises had been artificially added to the footage.
He added that when Dr Bidda Jones of the RSPCA analysed the Animals Australia footage, she found that 54pc of the animals bellowed.
Dr Caple said that when his panel visited Indonesia in March 2010, only one of the 29 animals they saw vocalised.
“I’m told editors can be very clever in getting video and putting additional bellows in,” he said.
Senator Nick Xenophon asked if Dr Caple believed the video or audio had been doctored.
“Unless someone who was there independently assessing what was really going on and recording, video imaging by itself is not adequate,” he said.
Senator Xenophon: “So you still assert the videos taken by Animals Australia weren’t authentic.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“… it is an assertion I would make because the difference between the amount of bellowing we heard from cattle in Indonesia to the bellowing that was analysed on the video that RSPCA chief scientists analysed.”
Dr Caple said he has made a formal complaint to the ABC about the way he was portrayed on the Four Corners program.
He said an edited transcript of the interview with him did not match with the video footage shown on the program.
“I’m shown there like a goose saying we’ve found nothing problem, and behind there are all these horrific things shown.
“I was never shown any video.
“I made a complaint to the ABC code of practice, and they have referred it to ABC Legal.”
HAVE YOUR SAY