Woolworths and Coles source pork from abattoirs featured in ‘horrific’ pig slaughter video

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Australia’s two supermarket giants source pork from Victorian abattoirs depicted in “horrific” footage recording the effects of carbon dioxide gassing on pigs prior to slaughter.

Although the technique is legal and widely used, Woolworths has now announced it will examine the “circumstances surrounding this footage”, while Coles says it is “committed to working with suppliers who have animal welfare standards that meet the high expectations”.

The Farm Transparency Project group released footage on Monday depicting the use of CO2 to stun pigs prior to slaughter at three Victorian abattoirs.

The gassing technique is generally considered the most humane possible method, including by the RSPCA, and is deemed industry-wide best practice in Australia and the US.

But the footage, first revealed by the ABC, shows pigs thrashing in the tightly packed metal chambers used for gassing, screaming, gasping for air and in some cases foaming at the mouth and writhing in distress.

Experts say not enough has been done by industry to either improve CO2 stunning or research alternatives.

Chris Delforce, the activist who obtained the vision, says the big supermarket chains also have an onus to ensure their supply chains are cruelty free.

Related: Activists lose challenge to NSW laws banning secret filming of animal cruelty

“Woolworths and Coles both know that animal welfare is increasingly important to their customers,” he said. “They have a responsibility to be open and honest about the horrific cruelty in their supply chains, so that people can make an informed choice between buying pork, ham and bacon products, knowing they’re funding such cruelty, or the great plant-based alternatives available.”

Woolworths uses pork from facilities owned by Diamond Valley Pork and Australian Food Group, which were both depicted in the activists’ footage. The facilities are annually audited to comply with industry standards and Woolworths’ own standards.

Woolworths said it was now “looking into the circumstances surrounding this footage”.

“Animal welfare is a crucial part of delivering quality Australian meat to our customers,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“We will continue to look to the expert guidance of scientists, animal welfare professionals, regulators and industry groups on this issue.”

Coles uses Diamond Valley Pork in its supply chain. A Coles spokesperson said animal welfare was a “critical sustainability issue” for the company.

“We are committed to working with suppliers who have animal welfare standards that meet the high expectations of Coles and our customers,” the spokesperson said. “We believe any mistreatment of animals is unacceptable, and actively engage with our suppliers and animal welfare groups to protect and improve the welfare of animals in our supply chains.”

As well as independent auditing, Coles also subjects suppliers of its branded pork products to more stringent requirements developed by it and the industry, including on husbandry practices, stocking densities, antibiotics, growth promotants and hormone use.

Both Diamond Valley Pork and Australian Food Group were contacted for a response.

The Australian Meat Industry Council (Amic), a peak industry group, said it did not comment on illegally obtained video because it was inherently biased, without context and used to push an agenda. The council said it works with industry bodies, government and animal welfare groups to develop best-practice animal welfare standards, which include independent auditing and certification.

“Amic and our membership are committed to proper, stringent and accountable animal welfare practices across the supply chain,” a spokesperson said. “Amic runs a welfare committee that is solely focused on understanding and implementing best practice around welfare.

“Amic considers animal welfare to be vital in the sustainable operation of processing establishments and we are committed to proper, stringent and accountable animal welfare practices across the supply chain.”

Amic told the ABC on Tuesday that it “didn’t see any mistreatment of any animals”.

It also suggested the footage was “actually repeated on a loop” and showed only a small portion of the process.

Delforce rejected both claims.

The Farm Transparency Project has published hours of footage on its website captured over an extended period, depicting multiple stages of the process at multiple facilities.

“The claim that ‘the footage that was utilised was actually repeated on a loop’ is utterly ridiculous and easily disprovable by the hours of footage we’ve made available on our website,” Delforce said.