ECHUCA’S Riverside Meats will support the installation of 24-hour CCTV surveillance of its meat processing facility with independent monitoring after authorities launched investigations over animal cruelty complaints.
Riverside Meats managing director Chris Peat said the Peat family was disturbed and saddened by the actions captured on video by animal welfare activists.
“Animals deserve better treatment.
“We are a farming family with enormous respect for our animals,” he said.
“This is distressing to us, and we will take action.”
In a statement released tonight, the company said it understood the position taken by Animals Australia, and the important role they play in highlighting animal abuse.
The company said it did not agree with animal activists illegally entering properties to film operations, but would support any initiative by the Victorian Government to implement 24-hour surveillance and independent monitoring for all meat processing facilities.
PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria initiated investigations in to the abattoir after receiving a complaint on October 25 this year from Animals Australia that included images and observations alleging poor animal welfare at the Echuca abattoir.
Animals Australia has written to Ms 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.
Mr Peat said while the actions shown in the video supplied by Animals Australia were inexcusable, the company recognised that the culture of the industry is one in which it is difficult to change attitudes and practices that workers have been allowed to believe are acceptable, over many decades.
The company said it took responsibility for failing to adequately supervise its workers. Four workers have been moved to other roles, and Riverside is now undertaking the actions required by PrimeSafe. The company acknowledged it did not do enough to prevent the failures in equipment and work practices which were recorded in the video.
More than 70 hours of video was secretly filmed, and most of the video shows correct processing practices.
“But hours of getting it right doesn’t make up for even a few minutes of causing distress and harm to animals,” Mr Peat said.
He said the 24-hour CCTV surveillance might help to change the culture which is holding back Victoria’s otherwise highly successful meat industry.
“Australians love their meat, and they deserve to be assured that it is produced ethically and humanely. We will increase our vigilance and supervision to make sure this is achieved.”
Riverside Meats was co-operating fully with all authorities, and will comply with all required measures, the company statement said.
Renewed call for mandatory CCTV in abattoirs
Meanwhile, Animals Australia has called for closed circuit television camera monitoring in abattoirs nationally after troubled Echuca processor Riverside Meats agreed to install CCTV and have it independently monitored.
Executive director Glenys Oogjes also today called for the closure of Riverside Meats, following a media blitz about videos showing poor treatment of sheep, calves and pigs at the Echuca plant.
Ms Oogjes said the government’s response to footage aired on the ABC last night is inadequate, and is calling for the Victorian regulator, PrimeSafe, to close down the Echuca abattoir immediately.
However, a PrimeSafe statement said the legislation that PrimeSafe administers provided that a prohibition can only be implemented for the purposes of public health.
PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria are investigating video evidence of alleged animal cruelty at Riverside Meats obtained from Animals Australia.
“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.
Animals Australia said it has written to the relevant ministers around the country, detailing other violations of animal welfare standards at other plants.
“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.”
Enforcement authorities should be given full access to CCTV footage via online streaming, she said.
The Animals Australia campaign has also included a call to Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford 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.
In a statement late yesterday Riverside Meats said it did not agree with animal activists illegally entering properties to film operations, but would support any initiative by the Victorian Government to implement 24-hour surveillance and independent monitoring for all meat processing facilities.
However, there are currently no indications the Victorian Government is looking at mandating CCTV in abattoirs.
“Many groups have advocated for this and some Victorian abattoirs already have CCTV,” Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said yesterday.
“I will consider this as part of the reform of animal welfare legislation that has been foreshadowed in the draft action plan for improving animal welfare in Victoria.”
Riverside Meats principal Chris Peat also said the installation of 24-hour CCTV surveillance “might help to change the culture which is holding back Victoria’s otherwise highly successful meat industry.”
“While the actions shown in this video are inexcusable, we recognise that the culture of the industry is one in which it is difficult to change attitudes and practices that workers have been allowed to believe are acceptable, over many decades,” Mr Peat said.