Record fine for animal cruelty in Australia
One of Australia’s largest pork producers, Westpork, has been fined $225,000 for cruelty to pigs under the Animal Welfare Act 2002. Never before has such a large fine been issued for farm animal cruelty in Australia.
The piggery, located in Gin Gin Western Australia, was initially charged with cruelty in 2009 after an employee alerted the authorities to the appalling conditions at Westpork. The West Australian Police raided the property in 2007.
Pigs at Westpork were reported to be wallowing in their own faeces so deep that some drowned after they had been left to die of illness, their carcasses consumed by other pigs.
Westpork is the largest piggery in Western Australia supplying approximately 30 percent of the local market with pork, and housing 40,000 pigs on their site at any one time.
The initial charges against Westpork were dropped due to a technicality but fresh charges were again laid in 2011 resulting in 10 charges each for Westpork, its General Manager Neil Ferguson and one other employee.
A culture of poor management of the animals with no regard for the welfare of the pigs appears to be endemic at Westpork.
At the time the new charges were laid, Neil Ferguson also held positions on the Board of Australian Pork Limited (the peak industry body) and Pork Training WA. Calls for Mr Ferguson to be stood down from these leadership positions were ignored.
Neil Ferguson is currently the Chairperson of the Western Australia Agriculture Produce Commission (Pork Committee) and Humane Society International (HSI) will be calling on the West Australian Government to relieve him of this position.
The RSPCA, Australian Pork Limited and the West Australian Pork Producers Association all refused to comment on this matter while the case was before the courts. We now call on them to offer assurances to the public that the practices at Westpork are unacceptable and that the management of this company will not hold positions of importance or leadership in the pork industry.