Government yet to respond on Westpork matter
One of Australia’s largest pork producers, Westpork, has been fined $225,000 for cruelty to pigs under the Animal Welfare Act 2002. Never before has such a large fine been issued for farm animal cruelty in Australia.
The piggery, located in Gingin Western Australia, was raided by West Australian Police in 2007 after an employee alerted the authorities to the appalling conditions at Westpork. Charges were laid in 2009 for offenses identified by a series of inspections that occurred in January and February of that year.
Inspections of the piggery revealed pigs suffering from ailments such as chronic photodermatitis, necrotizing arthritis and ulcerative photodermatitis which impacted on the ability of the animals to move, stand or bear weight to some degree. These animals were destroyed only after their condition was discovered by inspectors.
Westpork is the largest piggery in Western Australia supplying approximately 30 percent of the local market with pork, and at the time of the offenses, housed 55,000 pigs on their site. The piggery had a mortality rate of approximately 34 pigs per day at that point.
Thirty charges, ten charges each for Westpork, its General Manager Neil Ferguson and one other employee were laid.
The matter was heard in the Perth Magistrates Court on the 9th April 2013, with Magistrate Tavener commenting that any fine imposed must discourage such behaviour and not simply be seen as a fee for cruelty. Westpork was fined a total of $250,000 with 10% discount afforded for their plea of guilty.
At the time the charges were laid, Neil Ferguson also held positions on the Board of Australian Pork Limited (the peak industry body) and Pork Training WA. Calls for Mr Ferguson to be stood down from these leadership positions were refused.
Neil Ferguson is currently the Chairperson of the Western Australia Agriculture Produce Commission (Pork Committee) and Humane Society International (HSI) will be calling on the West Australian Government to relieve him of this position.
The RSPCA, Australian Pork Limited and the West Australian Pork Producers Association all refused to comment on this matter while the case was before the courts. We now call on them to offer assurances to the public that the practices at Westpork are unacceptable and that the management of this company will not hold positions of importance or leadership in the pork industry.