Opinion: Echuca abuse abattoir footage a symptom of a routine system

More than 170 hours of undercover footage, sent to Animals Australia, has revealed horrendous cruelty against young dairy calves, sheep, cows and pigs at one of Victoria's oldest abattoirs, Riverside Meats.

Victoria's Chief Vet described the treatment of animals at the Echuca abattoir as "the worst case he's seen in his career".

The highly distressing footage shows animals being violently stabbed in the neck, face and head with the metal prongs of an electric stunning device; a calf escaping from the production line, only to be forcibly held down while his throat is slit without being stunned; a conscious sheep falling from shackles onto a bloody floor; and, in one extremely disturbing instance, a pig suffering for over six minutes while enduring multiple shots from a captive bolt gun, before being shot twice with a rifle.

Animals Australia has stated that this footage highlights the failure of regulations and audits to detect widespread cruelty in the Australian meat industry. And they are absolutely right. The only reason this cruelty has come to light was because a whistleblower recorded the video and passed it onto the charity.

Once again Animals Australia has done us a service by revealing what goes on behind the high fences and locked gates of the animal processing plants. It is more important than ever that we resist efforts of the industry to have surveillance of their activities criminalised.

J.M. Coetzee, Nobel Laureate for Literature and Patron of Voiceless.

It was not detected by Victoria’s peak meat industry watchdog, PrimeSafe, or by the company owners, despite the fact that this is the second time this slaughterhouse has been the subject of Government investigation in three years and should have been under increased scrutiny.

In 2013, workers at the same abattoir were given warnings after footage of dairy calf abuse aired on Lateline.

Understandably, this most recent footage is having a big impact on Australians, who are outraged at the animal abuse shown in the footage. Is it enough, however, to be outraged, or must we also acknowledge our complicity in this suffering?

Unlike the live export industry, which so many Australians are vocally opposed too (and rightly so), this abuse is happening in our backyard to feed our national appetite. This is our responsibility.

Australians consume almost 93kg of meat per year and it is in abattoirs like Echuca that animals, from all types of farms, are violently turned into this meat in the quickest time possible.

Slaughterhouse production lines don’t have time for fear or panic from animals, they have quotas to meet in order to satisfy our insatiable appetite for meat, eggs and dairy.

Therefore the biggest change must come from us. Caring consumers have the power to end the cruelty of farmed animals simply by refusing to buy into it.


Elise Burgess
Head of Communications and Voiceless spokesperson