Story transcripts

The Hidden Truth

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reporter: Liam Bartlett
Producer: Howard Sacre

For many of us, Christmas just wouldn't be the same without the traditional ham.

But few people tucking into their festive feast would spare a thought for where that ham actually comes from beyond the supermarket.

Sadly, most ham and bacon comes from highly intensive factory farms — nightmarish places where animals almost never see daylight.

In many parts of the world, consumers are forcing pork producers to ban the worst practises and make piggeries more humane.

But here in Australia, change is coming at an agonizingly slow pace — especially for the pigs.

Full transcript below:


EMMA HASWELL: She loves going for a walk. She goes to schools regularly and walks into classrooms and things.

LIAM BARTLETT: This little piggy is not just clever. She's very, very lucky. She was one of a pair rescued during a night-time raid on a piggery in Tasmania.

EMMA HASWELL: I shoved them up my jumper and, yeah, I couldn't leave them there.

LIAM BARTLETT: It's hard to believe she was almost dead because have a look at her. She's porked up beautifully, hasn't she?

EMMA HASWELL: Choose your words better! She's, um, she's a healthy little pig now. She's a bit small, but that's because of her poor start.

LIAM BARTLETT: Emma Haswell, a veterinary nurse, rescues all kinds of sick and neglected animals and gives them sanctuary on her farm near Hobart. But it's the pigs that are her real mission ever since she found out what goes on behind the walls of hundreds of Australian piggeries.

EMMA HASWELL: It's a dirty, dirty, dirty secret and they have to keep it hidden because people would be up in arms if they saw it, and I can say that. You know, I come from a long line of farmers. I have worked in all these places. I've seen horrific cruelty as someone who's worked on properties for a large part of my life, but what is not acceptable is the way they farm pigs in Australia.

LIAM BARTLETT: When we found out, years ago, that most of our eggs were from chooks locked row upon row into tiny cages, it set off something of a consumer revolution. Battery hens were a no-no. Free range became the new mantra. Caged eggs were out. Well, now, there's a new battleground in the food war. This is about as close to pig farms as you and I will ever get - neatly packaged, all ready to take home. What we don't see is the conditions that some of the animals have to endure in order to get it here. This is how bad it gets on our pig farms - pregnant sows locked up for weeks on end in tiny stalls to breed the bacon that ends up on our tables.

PROF. DON BROOM: The vast majority of sows in Australia are living all their lives - except for the period when they're actually giving birth - in a stall like this. And that is a very, very confined condition. I think people just don't realise how the animals are having to live.

LIAM BARTLETT: Professor Don Broom, of England's Cambridge University, is appalled that Australia still uses sow stalls in piggeries. It was his research that led to the practice being banned throughout the UK.

LIAM BARTLETT: The industry says it's acceptable if you have 1cm on that side and 1cm the other side..


LIAM BARTLETT: ..for a 300 kilo sow. Do you think it's acceptable?

PROF. DON BROOM: No. No sows are able to adapt properly to being confined in that small a space. And this is a very intelligent animal which has a very complex behaviour and to be in such a very confined environment poses enormous problems for those animals.

LIAM BARTLETT: But Australian producers disagree with Professor Broom's research. They insist locking up sows is actually better for their welfare. The bitter argument is being thrust into public view by determined animal activists, like Emma Haswell, who've mounted illegal midnight raids on piggeries, armed with video cameras. Do you think animal activists are extreme in opposing sow stalls? DR

KATRINA WARREN: Absolutely not. Sow stalls are now banned in the UK, parts of Europe, and seven states of America, so why are they being extreme? Parts of the rest of the world are saying, "We don't want them," so why have we got them in Australia?

LIAM BARTLETT: Dr Katrina Warren is one of Australia's best-known vets, and we showed her the results of an activist's raid.

DR KATRINA WARREN: Oh, there's a lovely rat for you as well.

LIAM BARTLETT: There's a rat running around in the piggery.


LIAM BARTLETT: If more people were aware of conditions inside piggeries, what do you think the reaction would be? DR

KATRINA WARREN: I think people would make an informed decision either to not eat pork products, or to buy products that they knew was from ethically treated pigs. So, potentially, free-range pigs.

LIAM BARTLETT: So, a little bit like the battery hen argument?

DR KATRINA WARREN: Absolutely. And you look at the way the shift against caged eggs in the last few years - I don't know anyone that would choose to buy a caged egg now, and I believe once this information is out there about how the intensive pigs are raised, the consumers will not want to buy it.

ANDREW SPENCER, CEO AUSTRALIAN PORK: That's an old shed. It's filthy, doesn't look good and I can imagine people seeing that and being a bit revolted by that.

LIAM BARTLETT: A bit revolted?

ANDREW SPENCER: However, look at the pigs. Those pigs were in fantastic condition.

LIAM BARTLETT: We showed the pictures to Andrew Spencer, chief executive of the Australian pork industry. He argues the alternative to sow stalls is much worse - sows on the loose, fighting, and he gave us his pictures to prove his point.

ANDREW SPENCER: They're trying to run through each other's ribs at 20km/h. That does bad things to pigs. That is an unacceptable welfare situation.

LIAM BARTLETT: So, you are completely happy with the welfare of those pigs in those pictures?

ANDREW SPENCER: No. I'm disgusted with the filth in that piggery, let's make it absolutely clear. But I have seen the pigs and what's important to me, and what's important in a welfare discussion, is what is the state of those pigs. They look good.

LIAM BARTLETT: It turns out that a shareholder and director of the company operating that filthy piggery is Dr Ian Parish, who also sits on the board running the pork industry. Dr Parish declined our request for an interview. So the industry, the pork industry, is run by people who are happy to keep their animals in that sort of condition?

ANDREW SPENCER: No, and I think that's a pretty unfair extrapolation. You've got an activist who's gone into one piggery because their ultimate objective is a vegetarian one for our society, they want us out of business, so they will do anything that they can to do that.

LIAM BARTLETT: But when we asked to see conditions at any piggery in the country, we were told 'no'. Instead, the industry provided footage of the Queensland University piggery and said research showed pregnant sows were actually happier in stalls.

ANDREW SPENCER: It's a big, pregnant animal that's not looking to frolic around. It wants to eat and sleep - that's pig heaven. Sow stalls are good for sows, the research shows it.

EMMA HASWELL: If you were to keep a dog or a cat in the conditions that we're keeping pigs in, you would be prosecuted. And, yet, because we have a situation where it's for economic gain, pigs are being kept in crates that, if you or I were to do it to an animal, it would be an offence.

LIAM BARTLETT: So, how is it that farmers don't go to jail for locking up pigs? Well, about 20 years ago, the farming lobby and the Federal Government came up with this - a code of practise which allows for pigs to be kept in stalls This code makes it totally legal. And, so, animal-lovers like Emma Haswell have taken up the fight, and they're getting results. Last February, Emma was tipped off about conditions in a Tasmanian piggery. She took her camera to investigate, and what she found was so shocking, there's only so much of her footage we can show you.

LIAM BARTLETT: Was it the worst you've seen?

EMMA HASWELL: Yeah, it was a living hell for animals. In factory farms, animals are living in urine and faeces and ammonia and, you know, they're marinated in their own faeces as far as I can see.

LIAM BARTLETT: When police watched Emma's video, they charged the farmer with four counts of animal cruelty. Incredibly, that very same farmer, Gary Oliver, had been featured in a brochure for Woolworths supermarkets as one of its 'fresh food people' - An irony the company describes as 'disappointing'.

MICHAEL BATYSKI, WOOLWORTHS FRESH FOOD MANAGER: The disappointment comes about through us having relied upon a standard to be externally audited with our producer.

LIAM BARTLETT: That clearly wasn't met? MICHAEL BATYSKI: In this instance, wasn't met, you're right.

LIAM BARTLETT: Michael Batyski, Woolworths Fresh Food Manager, says he relied on standards, administered by Australian Pork Limited, that are supposed to certify producers and maintain quality. Woolies says the piggery was inspected and recommended for re-accreditation just three months before Emma's incriminating video. I mean, the pork industry has really put Woolworths in it, hasn't it?

MICHAEL BATYSKI: Look, the industry's actually let itself down. Very clearly, the producer has not managed his farm to the standard that was set, the industry association has not audited to that standard and verified that the standard was actually being met effectively. From that position, I think they've let themselves down enormously.

LIAM BARTLETT: Mr Spencer, your industry inspector gave that farm the all-clear, gave it the thumbs up. There's the report, there you go. I'm sure you've seen it before. You can re-refresh your memory if you like.

ANDREW SPENCER: I have never seen it before. What happened on that piggery is horrific. I don't know anything about this report that you have just ambushed me with. I'm prepared to go and find out some stuff about it and -

LIAM BARTLETT: Hang on, you're the CEO and you don't know about your own auditors' report?

ANDREW SPENCER: I don't - no, I don't go through auditors' reports. There's thousands of those happening every year.

LIAM BARTLETT: Animal activists believe there's a simple solution to the cruelty - it's up to the public and a new breed of free-range pig farmers, like Lee McCosker. Lee bought an old piggery, sow stalls and all, in northern NSW.

LIAM BARTLETT: So, what's going on? Where have all the pigs gone?

LEE MCCOSKER, PIG FARMER: They're out in the paddock.

LIAM BARTLETT: Why did you stop using these?

LEE MCCOSKER: I believe that they're incredibly cruel and I couldn't bear to keep my sows in this sort of environment.

LIAM BARTLETT: Lee says her sows are now passive and more productive. The only downside is that the free-range pork she produces is more expensive than meat from intensive farms, which means we all have a role in this issue. If we want to liberate pigs, we have to pay a bit more for it. How much more expensive would it be?

LEE MCCOSKER: Going on estimates from this farm, it's roughly 20% more expensive to produce.

LIAM BARTLETT: Are you really telling me that all pigs could be raised like this and we'd all be able to afford it?



LEE MCCOSKER: Yeah. If they were treating their pigs like this, you definitely could still afford to be able to purchase free-range bacon.

EMMA HASWELL: Australia is so far behind when it comes to farm animal welfare, it's appalling. You know, if other people can do it, then so can we.

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