A SECOND piggery near Young in NSW has been targeted by animal activists in another covert operation to obtain video footage.
Ean Pollard, Lansdowne Piggery, Young, said he felt like he was being set up when a commercial television station reporter contacted him last week looking to produce a story around video footage from the farm - footage Mr Pollard was completely unaware had been taken.
It comes just a week after Fairfax Agricultural Media revealed Young district piggery, Blantyre Farms, had found elaborate video surveillance equipment in a farrowing shed they believe was planted by activists.
Video from Mr Pollard's piggery was posted on YouTube last week and shows footage taken in the early hours of the morning in a sow-stall shed.
While they still don't know who filmed it, based on the sows visible they believe filming occurred some time in the past three to five weeks.
While it did not show any animal cruelty, Mr Pollard said he and his staff were livid at seeing the video and knowing trespassers had broken into the shed, upsetting the animals' routine.
“These people have entered the building in the early hours of the morning and the sows have got up thinking they're going to get fed. But they've become agitated because there's no feed, only people running around with flashlights, filming,” Mr Pollard said.
“That's a real torment for the animals and we know this torment has gone on for a while because the video on YouTube runs for eight and a half minutes but the animals are already agitated when it first starts playing.”
Mr Pollard, who is also chairman of the NSW Farmers' pork committee, said photos taken in his shed without his permission had also been posted on several Facebook sites including that of Animal Liberation NSW.
Animal Liberation NSW executive director Mark Pearson confirmed he had supplied the footage from Mr Pollard's piggery to a television network after it arrived at his office, from a source he declined to name.
Mr Pearson said he was “astounded” someone in a farm leadership position was still using dry sow stalls and had not already phased out “old draconian methods of animal abuse”.
He said the video footage showed pigs in a distressed and agitated state, but it was “rubbish” to suggest the activists caused the frenzied reaction because the animals were already “desperate and hungry” due to confinement.
But Mr Pollard said there was nothing illegal about dry sow stalls, with the Australian pork industry adopting world-leading standards to be sow-stall free by 2017 and already 50 per cent towards reaching that goal.
Mr Pollard said he had spent large sums of money buying materials and new housing for the sows, to improve his on-farm standards.
He said his farm was also independently audited yesterday by the NSW Department of Primary Industries and was told his 12,000 pigs were in “marvellous condition” and in compliance with animal welfare regulations.
Mr Pollard said he’d phoned Mr Pearson to discuss the issue but had not yet heard back.
He said he had also alerted Young Police to the issue to make a formal report.
He also wants the footage removed from YouTube but can’t identify who is responsible for posting it.
Mr Pollard said he was also concerned about the activists breaching accepted biosecurity practices by entering the farm illegally.
He said there was no way of knowing if they’d directly been on other farms in the area previously – like Blantyre farms – or had any exposure to animal diseases that could easily be transferred by footwear or other methods.
Mr Pearson said he was unsure if the same activists took the video footage by trespassing on both farms, or of there was any connection.
But he said activists understood the importance of biosecurity risks to animal health and ensured they adhered to NSW DPI standards when entering properties to conduct investigations or filming.
Mr Pearson said activists had to balance out what constituted trespass in the eyes of the law to obtain video footage, with the benefits of exposing unacceptable animal welfare standards.
“We’re not backing down, we don’t care how much they cry,” he said.
“Our methods and our equipment are becoming more and more sophisticated.
“Industry needs to be more candid and honest - perhaps they could put a sign out the front of their farms and open their doors to show people what’s going on inside.”
Mr Pollard said his on-farm security measures were now being increased, albeit reluctantly, to fend off future activist attacks.
“We’ll need to build a six foot fence around the farm now but that’s just more expense,” he said.
“We’ve got about 50 doors to all of our sheds but how do you alarm all of them?
“Protecting against activists should not have to be part of my day to day business.
“We do all that we can to ensure high animal welfare standards and comply with the proper regulations, but when these people come along in the middle of the night it rattles your cage and you start doubting yourself.”
Mr Pollard said he felt “gutted” by the incident and was concerned about activists continually pushing animal rights but warned they’re also facing a more educated and determined farm lobby.
“They turn up in the middle of the night, get this exaggerated footage then sensationalise it with some emotive music, and then try and promote it to the media or on social media to impinge on our consumers, make them feel guilty or responsible for being meat eaters,” he said.
“But I believe the community is being hoodwinked.
“If animal activists get their way and are successful at shutting down intensive farming practices in Australia, we’ll have to import products like pork or chicken because there will still be demand here.
“But where do we get those products from?
“Do we have more faith in the animal welfare standards of farmers overseas than Aussie farmers?
“I’m sure our standards are as high, if not higher, than any of those countries we’d be importing these products from.
“And if we don’t import these products, the price of meat would become ridiculous?”
Mr Pearson acknowledged exchanges between activists and farmers could potentially escalate and become violent.
But he said the pork industry’s own advice to producers was to call police and not to chase or try and make citizens’ arrests when activists are sighted.