Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Piggery Action: Australian animal rights groups lock-on to stop animal abuse

Tuesday November 14, 2006 Perth Indymedia

Last month, several animal rights groups formed to launch a new advertising campaign to highlight the ongoing abusive practice of factory farmed pigs. The new group 'Prisons to Paddocks' say the majority of Australia's 320,000 sows and their offspring spend their entire lives in restricted, and "cruel" environments.

"...most pork, ham and bacon produced in Australia remains something that no ethical person can possibly justify eating..." - Professor Peter Singer

On Monday 13th November, over 20 animal liberationists chained themselves into pig pens at Wasleys' piggery in South Australia to highlight dire conditions at a pig-farm part owned by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone...
The group entered the Wasleys property, north of Adelaide, prompting an eight-hour stand-off with police. Armed with video cameras they gathered evidence of pigs held in small pens at the site. The group say the footage will be used to launch another prosecution against the business. The group then chained themselves to metal bars and called police.

Animal Liberation spokesperson Mark Pearson said the 24 people involved in the Wasleys action came from New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. He said they agreed to leave in return for assurances their video material would not be seized. Police did not lay charges.

Mr Pearson said they discovered at least seven pigs needing treatment - including two that had to be removed and possibly destroyed.

"This a direct consequence of having to live in such extreme confinement, on concrete, unable to exercise," he said. "We found those problems and we're not pig experts."

In July this year Wasleys piggery was cleared of breaching industry guidelines after an investigation by the RSPCA prompted by claims that pigs were being kept in cramped, potentially illegal conditions. But, the RSPCA's Mark Peters said inspectors found the piggery was almost entirely compliant with a commonwealth code of practice.

"The only exception is that many of the stalls are smaller than the minimum size, but that part of the code is not enforceable – it's only a recommendation," he said.

Nevertheless, Wasleys' piggery is not alone. Animals Australia say 95% of all the breeding pigs in Australia are kept in intensive indoor systems similar to Wasleys.

Senator Vanstone, who part owns the piggery said she has nothing to do with the running of the operation and does not condone cruelty to animals. But Mark Pearson said the Senator should visit the piggery and see for herself the appalling conditions her animals were kept in.

Mr Pearson, who is executive director of Animal Liberation NSW, said the pens are smaller than regulation size. "We're staying here until either these sows get out of these stalls or are taken out of these stalls or we get a commitment from the police to undertake that formal inspection so that we can all be here lawfully looking at the situation these animals are in," he said.

RSPCA's Mark Peters said some stalls at Wasleys are smaller than suggested in the code of conduct, but because the code is not legally binding, "governments around Australia allow that method of farming and we can't take action unless there's a clear breach on the laws as they're written," he said.

The RSPCA say a pregnant sow will spend most of her life on a concrete floor in a metal crate 60cm wide. The sow can barely move or turn her head. On their Fair Go For Farm Animals campaign website, the RSPCA say a sow in a stall can develop severe physical and behavioural problems because of the conditions.

"Muscles and bones may deteriorate, causing pain and difficulty in moving. Increased aggression and a repetitive swaying of the head may also develop. These problems can be avoided by using a more humane system, such as group housing several pigs in a straw yard, where they have room to move around. Individual or electronic feeders can also be used to regulate food intake."

Animals Australia recently joined with other groups to form the 'Prisons to Paddocks' alliance. Glenys Oogjes from Animals Australia says the current practice is cruel. She says 'Prisons to Paddocks' is pushing for legislation to be changed to protect the animals.

"If the same sort of conditions were imposed upon cats and dogs then the law would be able to step-in," said Ms Oogjes. "But unfortunately at the present time this system, the factory farming of pigs, is exempt from our legislation or protection legislation."

Australian Pork Limited has rejected claims of cruelty to pigs. Chief executive Andrew Spencer says "the things that the animal extremists don't like about our industry are actually, in many cases, things that are put in place in the production systems to ensure that the animals are looked after well," he said. "This is really the motivation of the pig farmer, he has to have productive animals."

In June this year, prominent Australian philosopher and ethicist Professor Peter Singer, strongly criticized the proposed national ‘Model Code of Practice’ for the welfare of pigs.

He said the code "ensures that most pork, ham and bacon produced in Australia remains something that no ethical person can possibly justify eating." Professor Singer spoke out following recommendations of a national review of the pig welfare code of practice.

"Most Australians are completely unaware of conditions endured by pigs in factory farms. They don’t know that sows are locked for months in stalls so small that they can’t even turn around, and can barely walk a single step. Pigs live on bare concrete, with no bedding material, and can’t even lie down comfortably," he said in June.

"If you kept a dog like that, you could be prosecuted, but this code permits the existing system to continue for another ten years, and even after that, producers will be able to keep their sows in the same stalls six weeks at a time."

"These sow stalls have been banned in the UK on welfare grounds," Professor Singer said. He claimed many Australian pig producers don’t use them, and can still compete economically with those who do. "Why are they still being allowed here?"

WA Action:
Pig welfare actions are not confined to the eastern states. In October 2005, the WA Animal Rights Advocates coordinator, Jonathan Hallett faced charges after he entered the premises of a Gingin piggery in October 2004 to document animal suffering with video footage.

In a similar fashion to the Wasleys' farms, Mr Hallet says the Keene piggery in confined pregnant sows in stalls so small they are unable to turn around. Whilst the use of sow stalls is allowed by industry regulations, he said the piggery failed to comply with even these minimum standards.

Whilst at the piggery Mr Hallett came across a lame and greatly malnourished 4 day-old piglet, unable to be attended by his mother as she was confined in a tiny farrowing crate in which the only interaction she had with her young is her teats poking through bars. The piglet was taken to receive urgent veterinary attention and attention by an animal carer.

Oscar is now an excellent example of a healthy and happy pig. Johnathon said if "the legal system been sufficient to stop cruelty to farm animals I would never had needed to be there."

"Now more than ever the intensive pig industry has been exposed across the country and I have no doubt that sow stalls will ultimately be banned. The only regret that I have is that we live in a society whose legal system is insufficient to protect these animals and that it took putting myself on the line in order to show the public what is really going on behind closed doors," said Mr Hallet last year.

Mr Hallett pleaded guilty to the charge and received a recorded conviction and fine. He says WA Animal Rights Advocates will continue the campaign against sow stalls in collaboration with groups across Australia.

Leading Australian businessman Brian Sherman AM, co-founder of Voiceless said: "Few Australians who purchase ham, bacon and pork products are aware that approximately 90% of pigs in this country are raised in gruesome and cruel factory-like environments. The living conditions these animals are subjected to are simply appalling."

The ‘Prisons to Paddocks’ alliance believes that the formula to change the lives of 5 million pigs in Australia each year is a simple one. "Making compassionate and informed choices is the greatest statement we can make against animal cruelty..."


AAP - 13 November 2006
ABC - 13 November 2006
Animal Activist Watch - Australian Pork Limited
Australian Activist Update - wilkinsonmedia
Animal Liberation NSW
ABC - October 29 2006
Pig Farming - RSPCA Australia
Animals Australia
Complaint to Police re sows suffering in undersize stalls at Wasleys piggery in South Australia
Peter Singer condemns outcome of national pig welfare review
Raid on Perth Pig Farm Uncovers Horrific Suffering - October 22, 2005

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