A Stunning Crime

There are calls for greater scrutiny of the pork industry after the ABC’s 7.30 program aired footage of pigs being stunned by carbon dioxide before slaughter.

ABC News, Mar 28

The footage was taken by Chris Delforce of the Farm Transparency Project.

This is not the first time footage has emerged showing the reality of carbon dioxide stunning for pigs at some Australian abattoirs. 

In 2014, Mr Delforce published the first footage ever seen from inside a CO2 stunner.

Dr Bidda Jones was the RSPCA’s chief scientist at the time.

“The concept for the Australian consumer should be that if they’re consuming an animal product, that animal has had a good life and a good death.”

“You don’t want to feel that animals are suffering every time they’re slaughtered,” she said.

“You cannot describe this as a good death.”

Stunned, ABC, Mar 27

The RSPCA Approved website has this to say:

When you see the RSPCA Approved certification on pork you can be confident that this product has come from a farm with a focus on welfare.

But as Dr Jones says:

“When you’re buying an RSPCA-approved product, that’s really applying to the rest of the life of the pig.

The RSPCA recommends a phasing out of carbon dioxide stunning and a move towards “a more humane alternative”, but Dr Jones says even its own accredited pork products can be stunned using the method.

“It’s up to the industry, who are making money from the rearing and growing and slaughtering of pigs, to address this.”

Stunned, ABC, Mar 27

The 7:30 Report interviewed a farmer who said that: “…the industry has a strong commitment to improving welfare standards for pigs and CO2 stunning is the most humane system available if implemented correctly”. He was not convinced that the footage was taken in Australian abattoirs in 2023 despite 7:30 verifying the location and timing

Meanwhile, the RSPCA has…

…reiterated its long-running calls for the Australian pig industry to progress alternative methods to carbon dioxide (CO2) stunning.

The call comes after footage was aired last night on ABC 7.30 of CO2 stunning, which, along with electrical stunning, is common practice across Australian abattoirs and the way most pigs (around 85% of those farmed in Australia) are stunned before slaughter.

“The RSPCA has long advocated for CO2 to be phased out and replaced with a humane alternative,” said RSPCA Australia Chief Science Officer Suzie Fowler.

In the meantime, implementing important measures such as CCTV monitoring in abattoirs,  better training in animal handling, and reducing pig stress immediately prior to stunning can help mitigate the risks.”

RSPCA, Mar 28

If we can have closed circuit TV monitoring on free range egg farms, why not on pig farms and in abattoirs?

The federal Greens have called for state and federal governments to require the installation of CCTV cameras in abattoirs and for more effort to be put into finding more humane solutions.

“For years, industry has led consumers to believe gassing is a humane way to kill pigs and that the pigs simply drift off painlessly into a never-ending sleep,” she said.

ABC News, Mar 28

What are they afraid we will see?

Australian Pork Limited chief executive Margo Andrae said the practice was legal and considered best practice by Australia’s pork industry and countries such as the United States.

ABC News article re: pork industry response, Mar 28

Does it necessarily follow from something “being legal”, that it is also ethical?

The Australian Meat Industry Council, a peak industry group said it did not comment on illegally obtained video because it was inherently biased, without context and used to push an agenda.

The Guardian, Mar 30

While not a perfect analogy, video taken by a whistleblower on a live sheep export ship shut down Australia’s summer live export trade and has contributed to the current government’s pledge to end live export, eventually, with support from the RSPCA and many in Australian society.

Surely, no matter how the footage was obtained, it exists.

Delforce commented on 7:30 that he accepted that he could be charged.

He says that “…the big supermarket chains also have an onus to ensure their supply chains are cruelty free”, since they know that animal welfare is “…increasingly important to their customers”, they “…have a responsibility to be open and honest about the … cruelty in their supply chains, so that people can make an informed choice between buying pork, ham and bacon products, knowing they’re funding such cruelty, or the great plant-based alternatives available.”

The Guardian, Mar 30

Dr Bidda Jones, now an animal welfare scientist with the Alliance for Animals, was quoted as saying:

“I’m very disappointed that [the industry’s] response is to essentially shoot the messenger,” she said.

“The problem here is not about how the footage was obtained. The problem is the lack of action to deal with the pain and suffering that pigs are subjected to through this process.”

ABC News article re: pork industry response, Mar 28

She hopes the footage prompts change in the industry.

Does it matter how good the life of a pig on a farm is, if the moments before its death are filled with terror?

To say nothing of the stress of transport from farm to abattoir.

Here’s a response of a slightly different sort from a farmer.

Lauren Mathers is a pastured pig farmer and Chair and Director of the Murray Plains Meat Cooperative, which is nearing completion of a small-scale abattoir in Barham, NSW to service local farmers. Mathers says, ‘I personally do not believe that gassing pigs is humane… This is one of the biggest reasons why small abattoirs are crucial.’

Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance

Yet, all of this ignores the simple question, hiding in plain sight…

Why do any of it in the first place?

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.

Paul McCartney

For more detail…

This image shows pigs inside a CO2 stunning “gondola” in clear distress, fighting for air, in various stages of collapse.

The full 15 minute 7:30 Report story video can be viewed here and is guarded by a discretionary warning to the viewer.

Here is a much shorter but effective video (2 minutes) from Animals Australia.

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

Albert Schweitzer

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