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Horror video of abattoir cruelty revealed

Fri 10 Feb 2012 by Tim Vollmer (The Daily Telegraph)

This article relates to the following facility: Hawkesbury Valley Meats (Aussie Abattoirs)

ALL abattoirs in NSW will have their operations reviewed by the state government after a video revealed shocking animal cruelty at a western Sydney slaughterhouse.

The NSW Food Authority halted operations at Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors at Wilberforce on Thursday after it received the video depicting "acts of gross animal mistreatment".

The footage, shown on ABC's Lateline program on Thursday night, showed a worker bashing one pig several times over the head with a metal bar.

Another pig was hit 13 times because it had not been stunned properly.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said today the footage should act as a wake-up call for all abattoir operators.

"I've seen this footage, and it may well be a one-off, but we're certainly going to review the operations in all abattoirs as a result of this," she told ABC Radio.

"I want to make sure that all operations right across NSW are being conducted in a manner which follows those animal welfare guidelines."

Ms Hodgkinson said an investigation into the Wilberforce abattoir by the NSW Food Authority was now underway and would include an examination of its past practices.

"I am not aware of any concern with this abattoir to date but I certainly trust that this investigation will look very thoroughly at all past processes with this particular plant," she said.

"Regardless of what the investigation finds, I do want inspections stepped up so that the consumers and the farmers have got confidence in the processes."

Ms Hodgkinson said she personally didn't think installing CCTV cameras in abattoirs was the right solution, but the suggestion would be considered as part of the government's review.

The management of the Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors issued a statement today saying the company was extremely concerned about last night’s media report showing the killing of animals in it meat processing facility.

The company said it is extremely disturbed by the reports and the behaviour depicted in the video.

"On first becoming aware of the video footage on Wednesday the firm self reported the apparent breaches of processing regulations to the NSW Food Authority which has now withdrawn the company’s operating licence and is undertaking an investigation," the statement said.

Casual staff involved in the incident have been stood down and permanent staff have been moved to other duties until the investigation has been finalised.

The company said it will fully cooperate with the NSW Food Authority’s investigation.

The video footage - provided to authorities on Wednesday - allegedly shows "gut wrenching" breaches, including pigs being beaten to death with what appears to be a metal bar, animals being kicked and sheep left to slowly die on tables.

The NSW Food Authority forced Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors to cease all animal slaughter at their Wilberforce abattoir, in Sydney's northwest, while a full investigation was undertaken.

The video, apparently filmed inside the facility last month, shows animals including sheep, cattle, goats and pigs allegedly being slaughtered in breach of animal cruelty legislation and food standards laws.

It follows similar allegations of abuse at Indonesian abattoirs last year that temporarily halted Australia's lucrative live cattle trade to the nation.

The Department of Primary Industries said the company appeared to have breached standards that require "animals are slaughtered in a way that prevents unnecessary injury, pain and suffering".

It is believed Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors provided the footage to authorities after becoming aware animal rights activists had provided it to a media outlet.

Authorities had been monitoring the company for some time, but there had been no prosecutions for cruelty or food standards breaches.

A full investigation, which also involves the RSPCA, is under way, with potential maximum penalties of $110,000 or two years imprisonment for acts of cruelty.

The company, which also provides specialist halal and kosher meat, will have to prove to authorities why they should be allowed to reopen.

Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors last night refused to comment, saying: "The place is under investigation. We've got no comment."