PETA reveals footage taken from inside Australian shearing sheds
- From: The Weekly Times
- July 11, 2014
MINISTER for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce says sheep cruelty in Australian shearing sheds is far from an industry-wide issue.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released footage yesterday showing shearers punching, throwing and stomping on sheep in Australian shearing sheds.
The graphic videos have been widely publicised and the Australian Workers Union today called for the shearers caught on a camera to be “banished” from the industry.
Mr Joyce today said "there is no doubt these images are disturbing, but it is important we do not tarnish the whole industry based on the practices of a few".
“The police and RSPCA are responsible for animal welfare legislation and for ensuring investigations happen and, where needed, charges are pursued through the courts,” he said.
“I understand that PETA has now submitted the footage to the relevant state authorities and the RSPCA. I am confident this will be investigated appropriately.
“I do not condone the method by which this footage was obtained as it sets one group above the law in how they act and I understand it was filmed over a period of seven or eight months."
Mr Joyce warned the public against painting all shearers with the same brush, after seeing the footage.
“If an owner saw their worker acting in this manner, overwhelmingly they would instruct the person or the contractor for that person to have a change in behaviour or have a change in jobs," he said.
“...if there is a shearer who hits sheep we don't ban shearing or assume all shearers act in the same way.
“An emotional response without full investigation, including why it has taken so long for PETA to release the footage, does not result in better husbandry practices. It just reinforces the belief that PETA is an extremist group that wants to end livestock production and to irreparably damage the economy and the reputation of Australian farmers.”
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The AWU’s Victorian co-ordinator of pastoral industries Sam Beechey said footage filmed by the animal rights group on Victorian, South Australian and NSW sheep stations was “totally disgusting” and said the shearers and their contractors ought to be named and shamed.
A PETA Australia spokeswoman said the "abuse" was filmed during the past 12 months.
The investigators are believed to have been employed at the sheep stations and, while some of the footage was filmed secretly, some was openly filmed.
"For their safety we were unable to say what their jobs were," the PETA spokeswoman said.
It comes as a Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries spokesman this morning confirmed the department had received a formal complaint and was investigating.
“These people from the owner of the sheep if that owner knew what was going on, to the shearing contractor who must have known what was going on, to the shearers, they ought to be banished from this industry,” Mr Beechey said.
“Those contractors should never be allowed to go near another shearing shed and the same with those employees that took part and the employees that tolerated it.
“It is an absolute blight on the whole industry.”
Mr Beechy called on PETA to re-release the footage obtained across 19 Australian shearing sheds, which shows shearers stomping on animals and hitting sheep over the head with hammers and clippers, without the employees faces pixelated.
“No shearing contractor should go anywhere near them (the shearers), you drive them out of the industry and the only way you can do that is by PETA releasing a film of those people mishandling sheep without the pixelated faces so that we can go and identify them and name and shame them and get them out of the industry.”
The Shearing Contractors Association of Australia said it was appalled by the footage and had contacted all of its members to reinforce the need to have “zero tolerance” towards animal abuse by employees in their work place.
“The SCAA applauds the investigation by PETA and believes that the work by such organisations is necessary to remind all industries around the world to be vigilant against complacency, when it comes to animal rights and welfare,” SCAA spokesman Jason Letchford said.
“That said, the Association appeals to PETA subscribers to understand that wool producers in Australia are striving to improve their industry as fast as possible, so that it is 100% compliant with International Animal Welfare Standards.”
A PETA petition, urging people to boycott buying wool products, has received more than 40,000 signatures online.
Victorian agriculture Minister Peter Walsh told The Weekly Times this morning he did not support the behaviour in the PETA footage.
“We have worked very hard to stamp out any acts of animal cruelty and will continue to do so,” Mr Walsh said.
“The overwhelming majority of farmers do the right thing and they understand the value of the animals in heir business.”
WoolProducers Australia president Geoff Fisken yesterday said he didn’t “condone that kind of treatment to animals anywhere”.
“I’ve been in the sheep industry for 40 years and lived on a farm for 60 years and I’ve never seen anything like that happen,” he said.
Mr Fisken said what concerned him the most that the PETA investigators could “sit there and take the footage and not do anything to stop it and then use it to sensationalise and sell their message to the media”.
“I find it extraordinary that this hasn’t been passed to the local authorities until now.
Mr Fisken said the sheep industry was spending a significant amount of money on shearer and shedhand training.
In a statement, Australian Wool Innovation said they “categorically and unequivocally” condemn the mistreatment of animals.
AWI has invested $2.8 million in the training of shearers and shedhands in world’s best practice animal welfare in the last year alone and over $7 million in the past five years.
In a statement to media, the RSPCA said they received cruelty complaints from PETA regarding the alleged ill treatment of sheep during shearing in NSW and South Australia between August 2013 and March 2014.
“The allegations relate to workers beating, kicking and stomping on sheep, and stitching wounds without anaesthetic,” the RSPCA said.
However, the RSPCA did note that “shearing is stressful for sheep” and it should be carried out by trained and competent workers.
The RSPCA will investigate the complaints as information comes to hand for potential breaches of the relevant state animal welfare legislation.
VFF Livestock president Ian Feldtmann said he was appalled at the shearers’ cruelty towards sheep shown in the footage.
“If I saw anyone treating my animals like that I’d kick them off the property,” Mr Feldtmann said.
He said footage release to the media of animal abuse in shearing sheds shows behaviour that was completely unacceptable to all farmers.