The footage, which allegedly showed workers at Inghams Enterprises’ Tahmoor plant kicking birds and slamming them against machinery, was aired on ABC’s Lateline programme, sparking calls for mandatory CCTV in Australian abattoirs.
Welfare group Animal Liberation said it had been given the footage by an anonymous activist, who had filmed it over a period of two weeks using a hidden camera in the plant. Animal Liberation then handed it over to ABC and the police.
Emma Hurst of Animal Liberation told ABC that the workers appeared to show complete disregard for the birds in their care. “It is as though these animals are mere objects and that they are there for their enjoyment to torture them,” she said.
Inghams Enterprises CEO Kevin McBan released a statement claiming Inghams does not tolerate the mistreatment of its livestock.
“A full investigation of this incident at Tahmoor is under way to identify those involved and to then take disciplinary action, which for such misconduct will be termination of employment,” he said.
“As a result of the actions at the Tahmoor processing plant, Inghams will be installing video monitoring within live bird handling areas of our processing plants, as soon as practicable, to ensure animal welfare standards are met at all times.”
McBan added that Inghams was fully co-operating with the police investigation.
In an interview on ABC News following the release of the footage, president of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Jock Laurie called for tougher penalties on activists who break into plants to install cameras.
“You see jail terms and fines for people who break into houses, you see them for people who break into businesses, you see them for people who break into many areas, so I don’t think there’s any difference here. I mean, what you’re doing is breaking into a private business or a private company and there need to be proper sanctions for that,” he said.
However, Australian Green animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon dismissed Laurie’s comments as a “desperate attempt” to turn the tables on activists.
“The National Farmers’ Federation should be condemning animal cruelty, not plotting ways to shut down the reports of intensive farming practices that are so shocking to Australians,” she said.
Describing animal welfare groups, such as Animal Liberation, Animals Australia and the RSPCA, as the “heroes” of the public, Rhiannon said they deserved “accolades not tougher sanctions”.
She also called on the Australian Government to introduce mandatory CCTV in abattoirs and stricter animal welfare laws.