Demand for 'extreme' piggery and farm restrictions

Closed-circuit television cameras would be made mandatory at piggeries and farms under changes recommended by a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into pig welfare.

A report from the upper house inquiry, tabled in state parliament on Thursday, has made 14 findings and 18 recommendations.

Chief among them were for the Victorian government to impose mandatory closed-circuit television in all processing and farming facilities, a ban on sow stalls and farrowing crates and phasing out the use of side-loader carbon dioxide (CO2) stunning systems.

Under Australian law, pigs must be stunned before their death in a bid to ensure they do not feel pain.

The only legal forms of stunning are by carbon dioxide exposure or by knocking them out with an electrical current to their head.

Other recommendations include working to find an alternative to the use of blunt force trauma in piglet euthanasia, support for pig farmers to transition to outdoor group housing and consideration to establish an independent office of animal protection.

Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell.
Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell is urging big changes in piggery management in Victoria. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Inquiry chair and Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell said the codes of practice, regulations and legislation surrounding the Victorian industry are complex, with many different farms subject to different levels and standards of care.

"A clear theme throughout the inquiry process was concern surrounding self-regulation," she wrote in the report.

"Despite the pork industry acknowledging pig cruelty and committing to a voluntary phase-out of sow stalls by 2017, there are still farms that have not complied.

"Without oversight, consumers are misled into purchasing products they might falsely believe is sow-stall free."

Sow stalls are designed to protect pregnant pigs from being injured in fights with other pigs by confining them alone in a tight space in which they cannot turn around.

A minority report from three Liberal and Nationals inquiry members dubbed the inquiry's findings and recommendations "ideologically motivated".

They accused Ms Purcell of using emotive language in a deliberate attempt to discredit what they described as a highly regulated industry known for its "excellent compliance".

Opposition agriculture spokeswoman Emma Kealy said it was concerning Labor members of the upper house committee voted in favour of the "extreme restrictions".

"This report should send a shiver down the spine of not only pork producers, but all agricultural producers in Victoria," she said.

The contentious inquiry was inundated with 10,000 submissions and survey responses and heard evidence from animal welfare groups, pork industry organisations and producers across three days of public hearings in March.

A man slams a piglet on the ground.
Cameras caught a Victorian piggery worker killing an unviable piglet by slamming it on the ground. (HANDOUT/THE TRANSPARENCY PROJECT)

Footage of workers euthanasing piglets by slamming their heads on concrete floors or cutting their tails and teeth without pain relief was played to inquiry, along with a video appearing to show a worker performing a sex act on a pig confined to a sow pen.

However, the inquiry heard roughly 0.1 per cent of the 8000 animal welfare complaints to Agriculture Victoria since 2018 related to pigs in abattoirs.

Almost seven times more complaints were connected to pigs on farms over the same span.

Of the more than 6000 survey respondents, 65.2 per cent said they were prepared to pay more for pork products if the industry advanced better welfare practices.

A spokesman for the Victorian government said it would consider the inquiry's findings and recommendations and respond in due course.

The government is legally required to respond to the report within six months.