The AJP Submission to the "Inquiry into Pig Welfare in Victoria" is now available here.
Pig welfare is a critical issue, considering their cognitive abilities and emotional capacities, which are often likened to those of small children and dogs. Despite this understanding, the Australian pork industry, with approximately 2.4 million pigs in factory farms and an annual gross of 5.6 billion dollars, predominantly employs intensive farming methods, leaving only 5% of pigs as 'free range'.
Our submission meticulously addresses the Inquiry's Terms of Reference (ToR), covering a wide range of pivotal aspects to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of pig welfare in Victoria:
Regulatory Frameworks: Assessment of the scope, application, compliance, and enforcement of existing regulations, and their effectiveness in promoting pig welfare outcomes.
Stunning Methods: Examination of the common practices used for stunning pigs before slaughter in Victorian slaughterhouses, focusing on their ability to minimize pain, suffering, and distress, and the investigation of available alternatives.
Outcomes of Sow Stall Phase-Out: Analysis of the impacts resulting from the 2017 industry-led initiative to phase out the use of sow stalls.
Breeding and Housing Practices: Review of current industry practices in pig breeding and housing, with a particular emphasis on the use of different forms of confinement.
International Best Practices: A comparative study to determine the adherence of the local industry to international best practice standards.
Other Relevant Matters: Consideration of any additional issues deemed relevant to the overall objective of improving farmed pig welfare in Victoria - waste management, animal agriculture, addressing the climate emergency, promoting an ethical economy, and reforming farming practices.
In the current landscape of pig welfare and industry practices, it is clear that more needs to be done to align with humane treatment standards. Our research indicates that none of the commercially available methods for stunning pigs before slaughter can be classified as entirely humane. Recognizing that a shift in dietary habits and industry practices will require time, immediate actions must be taken to enhance the welfare of pigs raised for consumption. The Animal Justice Party (AJP) strongly advocates for intensive research and investment into developing stunning methods that do not inflict pain, fear, or distress on these sentient and intelligent animals. Currently, alternatives such as individual electrocution, when supervised by a vet to ensure correct technique and confirm unconsciousness, seem to be marginally more humane than carbon dioxide gassing but still fall short of being considered truly humane. Further exploration into more compassionate methods is urgently needed.
To address these concerns, we propose several additional recommendations. First, a rapid phase-out of carbon dioxide stunning is essential, with a clear and mandatory cessation date set within the next 12 months. This should be accompanied by regular, monthly audits and compliance checks of slaughterhouses, conducted by an independent authority to ensure adherence to welfare standards. Concurrently, there should be an active pursuit of research into more humane alternatives to carbon dioxide stunning, including the exploration of gases like argon or nitrogen, and lower concentrations of CO2. It is also vital to consider the psychological well-being of the animals in their final moments. Keeping pigs that are familiar with one another together before slaughter can significantly minimize their stress. Finally, the Inquiry Committee should have the opportunity to observe common slaughterhouse practices firsthand, including the responses of pigs to these practices, by conducting unannounced visits to various slaughterhouses. These steps are crucial in moving towards a more ethical and humane treatment of pigs in the industry.
The Animal Justice Party contributed a 30-page submission to this consultation and made 40 recommendations. You can download and read our full submission below.