FARMERS have welcomed government plans to establish a taskforce to update animal welfare standards in Tasmania’s meat processing plants in the wake of disturbing activist footage taken inside Tasmanian Quality Meats and other abattoirs.
However, the Greens have condemned Minister for Primary Industries’ Jo Palmer’s initiative as “hopelessly inadequate.”
TasFarmers — formerly known as Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association – yesterday said it applauded the government’s swift decision to establish an independent taskforce to review Tasmania’s meat processing industry.
TasFarmers president Ian Sauer said the body fully supported the formation of the task force.
“I, like everyone else in the community, never want to revisit this issue.
“Minister Palmer’s announcement to form this committee is one of the quickest government actions I’ve ever witnessed.
“We want to see the relevant legislation and acts reviewed to ensure fast, meaningful, and measurable outcomes; driven by CCTV cameras, snap audits, education training and a change in industry culture,” he said.
Taking immediate action – Palmer
Ms Palmer said the Tasmanian Liberal Government will not tolerate any actions that tarnish the world-class reputation of Tasmania’s brand, and its produce.
“The recently released footage obtained from livestock processing facilities in Tasmania is deeply concerning and completely unacceptable,” she said in a statement.
Ms Palmer said the Tasmanian Government was taking immediate action to ensure the highest standard of animal welfare across the livestock processing industry.
“We have immediately stood up an investigative team which has already hit the ground, gathering evidence, interviewing operators, and carefully reviewing all the footage against the provisions of the animal welfare act and the primary produce safety act.
“The Tasmanian Government is establishing a taskforce to develop new Tasmanian standards for animal welfare in livestock-processing establishments and to look at practical and meaningful actions to ensure the wellbeing of animals.”
She said the taskforce will be formalised before Christmas and will bring together all the key stakeholders including organisations and peak bodies such as the RSPCA, TasFarmers and industry representatives.
“Resourcing of Biosecurity Tasmania will also be bolstered with two additional positions to work with industry to make sure they are aware of, and comply with, their obligations.
“The importance of abattoirs for jobs and regional communities cannot be understated, but we must demand the highest standards of animal welfare,” Ms Palmer said.
“This is what our farmers expect, it is what our community expects, and it is certainly what our Government expects.
“We have acted to protect the local, national and international reputation of our vital red meat industry,” she said.
“We will not allow the actions of some to put at risk our brand and reputation as a world leading agricultural producer, to risk jobs and livelihoods in regional communities and to create uncertainty for our farmers.”
Tasmanian processors need mandatory CCTV – Greens
However, Tasmanian Greens leader Rosalie Woodruff yesterday said the taskforce was a “hopelessly inadequate response to animal cruelty in Tasmanian slaughterhouses has already been further undermined by her statements on statewide radio today.
“When she announced the unnecessary new taskforce yesterday, Minister Palmer spoke about needing to address cultural issues across the meat industry.
“By this morning, however, she’d reverted to the industry’s talking points that animal cruelty is isolated to the bad behaviour of a handful of staff.”
Ms Woodruff said animal activists installed cameras in a quarter of Tasmania’s abattoirs, “and in every single one of them horrific and illegal animal cruelty was recorded.”
“The footage shows systemic, ongoing cruelty, not just a few ‘bad apples’,” she said.
“Given the widespread and regular cruelty exposed by animal activists, how can Jo Palmer claim there’s nothing to worry about at other Tasmanian slaughterhouses?
“How could she possibly be sure when her government hasn’t even looked?” Ms Woodruff said.
“Minister Palmer has no excuse for not immediately introducing mandatory, independently-monitored CCTV, and seizing existing footage from all Tasmanian slaughterhouses.
“To her shame, in the space of a week the Minister has gone from saying no actions to prevent cruelty are off the table, to taking no action at all.”
Ms Woodruff said Tasmanian slaughterhouses need mandatory CCTV and government regulation.