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Aus Day lamb social media backlash

Mon 26 Jan 2015 by Colin Bettles (Stock & Land)

This article relates to the following facility: Gathercole's Wangaratta Abattoir (Aussie Abattoirs)

ANIMAL rights activists have targeted the successful Australia Day lamb promotion through video footage allegedly taken at Victorian abattoirs about nine months ago.

Separate videos posted on social media by Animal Liberation Victoria and AussieFarms took umbrage to the long-running Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) marketing campaign to increase lamb consumption around the patriotic national holiday.

A six-minute video posted on the AussieFarms Facebook page on January 24 starts with images of a pet lamb playing and being fed from a bottle by a child, before switching to critical vision of slaughter practices, introduced by dramatic music.

“Every year 17 to 19 million lambs are killed in Australian slaughterhouses at around six months old,” a caption in the video says.

The imagery was captured inside an abattoir facility, with date-stamp information from 01/05/2014 to 28/04/2014.

In the final scene, a frustrated abattoir worker kicks a lamb which is accompanied by audible swearing.

A statement from AussieFarms released on Australia Day alleges the hidden camera footage was taken at Gathercole's Abattoir in Wangaratta, Victoria.

“It's Australia Day and as usual we've been bombarded with advertising from Meat and Livestock Australia telling us to eat lamb,” it says.

“The high demand for meat (not just lambs) means that slaughterhouses can't afford to slow down the line if an animal makes it through to the killing table improperly stunned, so their throats are cut open while they are fully conscious.

“Moreover, the fear shown by these animals as they are forced up the race to the kill floor highlights that even with adequate stunning there is no 'humane' way to kill an animal who wants to live.

“This Australia Day - and every other day - choose compassion over violence and leave the lambs alone.”

Social media response

Varied comments appear in response to the Facebook video posting with some contributors vowing to give up eating meat while others questioned the video’s editing methods and intent.

“Unfortunately the world needs protein - I can't see what was exposed in this video?” one comment said.

“Being stunned doesn't mean you stop moving or twitching.

“All these animals were slaughtered in a matter of seconds.

“If you really care take the time to go and see the abattoirs in question.

“Gathercole's is surgically clean, the pens are state of the art and the staff are real people that do care,” it said.

Western Australian grain farmer Bill Crabtree also commented on the video-clip with a tongue in cheek comment saying: “Everything we eat has feelings - even organic crops”.

“Perhaps we need a shortage of food for Australia and then folks will value what we have in this lucky country a bit more,” he posted.

However a reply to Mr Crabtree said: “So you're a plants rights activist then Bill - let's see you throw yourself in front of a header then.”

Fear and suffering

Another 80-second video clip was posted on the Animal Liberation Victoria Facebook page on January 22, accompanied by a graphic content warning.

It showed an abattoir worker engaging in slaughter practices wearing a shirt with “Carrum Meatworks” written on the back.

The video clip also promoted a vegan website.

“In the lead up to Australia Day, Meat and Livestock Australia have been telling us all that we must love eating lamb to be Australian,” Animal Liberation posted.

“What they fail to tell us is just how much fear and suffering goes into getting that lamb onto our plates.”

Fairfax Media contacted Gathercole's Abattoir and MLA for comment, but they did not respond before deadline.

AussieFarms spokesperson Chris Delforce expressed frustration at his group’s lack of success gaining convictions for alleged illegal practices shown in video footage obtained via other covert operations like Wally’s Piggery which have also appeared on social media.

“I’ve all but given up on that avenue,” he said.

“My focus these days is just to show people the realities of farming and slaughter and to highlight that problems like these are systemic and widespread, whether legal or otherwise, and are caused not by a small number of ill-tempered workers but by a system that demands they kill such large numbers of animals in such a short period of time.

“Focusing on gaining a prosecution for one facility ignores this bigger problem.

“Inadequate stunning may well be illegal but I know from growing experience that this footage will not be used in a court case and it would be impossible to obtain any other evidence by other means depicting the same issues.”

The Australia Day lamb marketing campaign has regularly featured former AFL footballer and media identity Sam Kekovich over the past 12 years with the latest promotion headlined by Australian cricket legend Richie Benaud.

MLA says its 2012 campaign contributed to lamb sales increasing by 32 per cent for the week leading up to Australia Day and a record month for January.

But the following year Animals Australia urged Australians to throw some “cruelty-free tucker on the barbie” while trying to link meat product consumption to obesity, heart disease and adverse environmental outcomes.

However, former National Farmers Federation (NFF) president Jock Laurie said at the time the “outlandish statements” from Animals Australia were “typical” of tactics used to try and mislead consumers and unfairly tarnish and damage the nation’s red meat industry.

The federal Coalition government introduced new legislation last year to protect farmers via tougher penalties for on-farm trespass by activists gathering covert video footage to underpin campaigns designed to shut down intensive livestock production.