It left an indelible mark on me as a child watching Dad wiping away tears the afternoon his favourite cow, Queen Bessie, left the farm. She was getting old and arthritic, the last cow to reach the dairy. He couldn’t bear to see her fail or to pull the trigger himself.
And so it is for me these days. I hate watching trucks roll out the farm gate with any of our cows on board. A dairy farmer is in fact a shepherd, watching over our cows and willing each a long, healthy life in the herd.
We see off every threat imaginable, from making sure she gets enough colostrum at birth to making sure she has the right diet before and after giving birth herself.
It matters to me that cows sent to market have a gentle ride on the truck, so I choose a driver I know takes care. But once at the yards, all I have left for these cows we have raised is faith in the system. That we have done everything we can to give them a good life that ends without fear or pain.
So you can imagine how it felt to read of horrific cruelty at Echuca abattoir, Riverside Meats. Worse still, Riverside is a repeat offender. How could this happen?
I rang Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford’s office and asked if I could send in some questions. Her advisor was keen. Ten days later, my questions remain unanswered despite assurances.
In an online statement, Riverside Meats says it will “support the installation of 24-hour CCTV surveillance of its Echuca meat processing facility, with independent monitoring” and that four workers “have been moved to other roles”.
Now that Riverside has rolled over and the media has moved on, I guess there are higher priorities than answering questions about abattoirs and animal cruelty. But this farmer certainly has not forgotten and the thought of sending another cow to market leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I do hope the minister’s office provides answers so I can post them for you here. In the meantime, here’s the list, which I will now also send to our local MP. Will you do the same for your cows, too?
- What are the laws surrounding animal cruelty and what are the penalties for abuse?
- What can people do when they see animal cruelty?
- If you are concerned a neighbor is not coping and animals are suffering but do not want to see them get in trouble, what are your options?
- What is the process for dealing with animal cruelty allegations and who is involved?
- How can people who trigger animal abuse investigations feel confident their call is being acted on?
- Are people found guilty of animal abuse allowed to continue working with animals?
- Riverside has a history of animal abuse allegations. How can repeat offenders be stopped?
- Why did it take almost a month for the minister to become aware of the Riverside abuse footage? How does Ms Pulford plan to respond?
- Are animal abuse cases becoming more frequent?
- How can farmers feel confident our animals are not suffering at abattoirs?