Abattoir footage prompts fresh think on animal welfare

New animal welfare standards and mandatory CCTV in abattoirs are being considered as part of a review of Tasmania's livestock industry.

The RSPCA and Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association are among the peak bodies on a new task force examining the sector after a major abattoir was accused of animal cruelty. 

An animal activist group installed hidden cameras at Tasmanian Quality Meats (TQM) with footage allegedly showing calves being slaughtered without being properly stunned and instances of workers kicking, whipping, beating and throwing calves and sheep.

On Thursday, Primary Industries Minister Jo Palmer described the footage as "really disturbing" while setting out the government's response.

The industry's culture is also set to go under the microscope while two new positions will be added to Biosecurity Tasmania.

Ms Palmer said animals could be slaughtered humanely and respectfully and action was needed to protect the reputation of the red meat industry.

"It's put into jeopardy this industry where there are hundreds of people doing a great job, who are working really hard, who do do this the right way," she told reporters in Launceston.

It was revealed last week TQM's export licence could be suspended in the wake of the footage, potentially putting up to 200 jobs at risk.

TQM is currently Tasmania's only export-accredited processor and can handle up to 17,000 animals per week.

Operations manager and owner Jake Oliver said he condemned the mistreatment of animals and had implemented changes in response to the video.

Tasmanian Greens Leader Rosalie Woodruff
Tasmanian Greens leader Rosalie Woodruff calls the government's response "entirely inadequate".

He said the company had appointed an animal welfare officer, employees in the video had moved to roles away from animals, a new stunning system had been implemented and all employees would be re-trained on welfare obligations.

RSPCA Tasmania chief executive Jan Davis promised the task force would not be "all talk".

She said her organisation was pushing for greater accountability in abattoirs including more cameras, monitoring of footage, education requirements for staff, and independent spot-check audits.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association agreed, with president Ian Sauer telling reporters he would not tolerate abattoirs "trashing" livestock or Tasmania's brand.

"As far as we're concerned one strike and you're out," he said.

"We cannot be here again."

However, the task force was not universally welcomed.

Labor's primary industries spokeswoman Janie Finlay asked why regulatory work had not already been completed considering the impact to the state's branding, economy and agricultural sector.

"Today’s announcement by Minister Jo Palmer is completely underwhelming and should be taken with a grain of salt," Ms Finlay said.

Greens leader Rosalie Woodruff described the government's response as "entirely inadequate" while Animal Liberation Tasmania claimed it was "weak" and called for CCTV to be mandated immediately.

The task force will be formalised before Christmas.

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