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Lucent documentary on Australian pig farming reveals ‘the true price we pay for bacon’
THIS is the eye-opening footage animal activists claim is happening in pig farms across Australia.
The footage, allegedly shot across 50 farms and piggeries across the country, shows pigs confined to sow and farrowing stalls, some with dead babies nearby and others with bleeding sores.
Others appear distressed and in pain.
The footage forms the basis for a new feature-length documentary, Lucent, which was compiled by animal rights activist Chris Delforce in the hope it would “make people sit up and question where their food really came from”.
Lucent, which will show in various cinemas from October 17, also focuses on practices such as prolonged confinement, surgical mutilation without pain relief, as well as “filthy and crowded ‘free range’ sheds and the use of gas chambers at all major pig slaughterhouses”.
And activists claim the most shocking thing of all is that the treatment and confinement of the animals in this way is totally legal.
But Lucent has been slammed by Australian Pork Limited which said the footage was deliberately designed to paint producers in a bad light.
It said the footage was also skewed to “totally misrepresent the industry” and producers were angry at being misrepresented by “those whose agenda is designed to end intensive farming for human consumption”.
However Operations Director of Aussie Farms and producer of Lucent Mr Delforce made no apologies for the footage which he said went “behind the scenes of a recent, highly prolific investigation by animal activists.”
He told news.com.au that the film busts two common myths about Australian animal agriculture — that cruelty didn’t happen in Australia and that it was limited to rogue operators.
“The film focuses almost entirely on the industry-standard, legal practices that, despite being so widespread, have remained hidden from the public; practices such as prolonged confinement, surgical mutilation without pain relief, artificial insemination, filthy and crowded ‘free range’ sheds, the use of gas chambers at all major pig slaughterhouses, and much more,” he said,
“These are all practices that we would never allow to be carried out on dogs, yet pigs — who are just as intelligent — are afforded no legal protection from this relentless abuse and exploitation.”
Mr Delforce said his message wasn’t about not eating meat but rather he just wanted to present what was happening.
“I’m letting the footage speak for itself,” he said.
The footage was compiled from different farms and piggeries anonymously and compiled by Mr Delforce.
He said a small number of complaints were made to the RSPCA but added what was seen in the footage was actually legal and didn’t breach any code of practice.
“That’s the whole point of the documentary, all this happens to pigs and it’s legal, yet if someone did this to a dog they’d go to jail,” he said.
“And Australian Pork will say there’s nothing wrong with what their producers are doing this yet slam the footage.”
The Canberra-based web developer also admitted while he was a vegan who didn’t believe in eating animals, it was people’s personal choice whether they ate meat and that was not the point of the film.
However a spokeswoman for Australian Pork told news.com.au the footage didn’t represent Australian pork producers fairly and was edited out of context.
She said in some cases animals were deliberately stirred up to enhance the footage and that the film and images were meant to be deliberately confronting.
“The selective photography and editing contribute to the confronting nature of the footage, as does the lack of context relating to what is being put before viewers,” the spokeswoman said.
“The act of raiding farms at night also helps with this with the poor available lighting providing a negative overall tone.”
There is only one pig producer who is currently before the courts for inappropriate practices after footage from his farm was released in August 2012.
However, other pig producers have been inspected by authorities (such as the RSPCA), and have been cleared of any violations of animal welfare law.
The Australian Pig Quality Assurance Program (APIQ) currently sets the industry standards under the program, and around 90 per cent of Australian pig farms are APIQ accredited, according to Australian Pork.
While not mandatory, the spokeswoman said it was a standard more often than not requested by wholesalers and retailers as part of their requirement for buying and retailing Australian pork.
Further, pig producers are moving towards phasing out sow stalls by 2017, which showed it was in their best interests when it came to long-term sustainability in the industry.
The spokeswoman also rejected the claim that farrowing crates, or birthing stalls were cruel, as they were designed to protect piglets from smothering and sows spend four weeks in one while her litter is weaned, which is totally legal and standard.
“Farming pigs intensively is of course not only legal but ethical,” the spokeswoman said.
“Intensive production methods give pig farmers enormous scope for the management of the health and wellbeing of their animals.”
She added confinement and tail docking were done with minimal stress while carbon dioxide stunning chambers were considered to be the highest welfare method for humane slaughter.
The spokeswoman said while she respected people’s right to eat what they liked there was no excuse for “publicly persecuting and bullying people on social media”.
RPSCA spokeswoman Elise Meakin said the charity could not comment on individual cases or current claims or investigations into animal cruelty.
However she said all any complaints needed to be investigated along official channels, adding footage shot inside conventional pig farming systems can be confronting to some people.
“Unfortunately many conventional practices such as tail docking, teeth clipping and castration without pain relief as well as the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates are allowed under current laws,” she said.
Ms Meakin added laws needed to be changed to ensure better farming practices would benefit animals.
“We have therefore been pleased to see voluntary commitments by the industry to phase out the use of sow stalls by 2017,” she said.
“There has already been a lot of progress in moving sows into group housing and the RSPCA encourages the addition of straw for bedding and other materials for them to manipulate and to give them something to do.
“The industry is also investing in new systems for farrowing (birth and initial weeks of piglets life) and we are hopeful this move away from intensive confinement during farrowing will occur quickly.”
Ms Meakin added consumers could also play their part in giving farm animals a better quality of life by looking for the RSPCA approved farming scheme.
According to the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for pigs, it approves both well-managed extensive outdoor housing systems and enhanced indoor environments.
Only farming systems that cater for the behavioural needs of the pigs, as well as their physical needs, can be part of the Approved Farming Scheme and Intensive confinement systems, such as single stalls and traditional farrowing crates, are not allowed.
Animals Australia spokeswoman Lisa Chalk said the number one cause of animal cruelty in Australia today is actually entirely legal, which is the factory farming of animals for food.
“In factory farms animals can be severely confined, denied any ability to express their natural behaviours and they can be routinely subjected to surgical procedures without pain relief,” she said.
“If you committed these same acts on a dog or cat you could be charged with cruelty but for farmed animals, their abuse is considered an acceptable part of doing business.”
Ms Chalk added that the reality was that factory farming wouldn’t exist if consumers really knew the high price animals were paying for cheap meat and eggs.