The owners of a Victorian abattoir at the centre of animal cruelty allegations say they were unaware of the mistreatment that was recorded taking place at the slaughterhouse, and will support independent monitoring.
The ABC revealed on Tuesday the mistreatment,captured in more than 170 hours of vision secretly filmed inside Riverside Meats Abattoir in Echuca, was being investigated by PrimeSafe, the regulator overseeing abattoirs.
Victoria’s chief vet Dr Charles Milne has made the investigation his number one priority, saying it was “the worst case” he had seen in his career.
Dr Milne said given the level of abuse that was recorded, it “must have been known to management”.
But Riverside Meat’s Chris Peat said they were not aware of the practices taking place at the abattoir.
“We are a farming family that is committed to animal welfare and ethical practices,” he said.
“We believed we had taken action to ensure all staff were trained and equipment was safe.”
The disturbing vision, which was obtained by Animals Australia and passed on to authorities, shows calves and sheep being stabbed with the metal prongs of an electric stunning device.
Some are stabbed repeatedly in the neck, while others are killed without being adequately stunned.
Mr Peat said the company took responsibility for failing to supervise their workers and would support the installation of 24-hour CCTV surveillance at its meat processing facility, to be independently monitored.
He said most of the footage recorded showed “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,” he said.
‘Workers have not followed protocol’
Mr Peat said he was disturbed by what he saw in the footage, which he said was recorded in secret.
“The facility was broken into and cameras were secretly installed,” he said.
“We are disturbed and saddened by the cruelty depicted in the video.
“Workers have not followed correct animal welfare procedures and this has resulted in cruelty, which we abhor.”
The company has been sanctioned by PrimeSafe and four employees have been redeployed.
Mr Peat denied there was culture of indifference to the mistreatment of animals among the company’s owners and managers, saying workers were not monitored on the floor.
“We do have a problem with the supervision of some workers who do not follow the rules,” he said.
“This is definitely a cultural issue, which is throughout the meat industry, and which we have still not solved.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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