Get the facts: find out what really happens in Australian slaughterhouses
Meat, dairy and egg products involve the slaughtering (killing) of animals, whether directly for human consumption, or as “waste products” of the industry. Most of this killing is carried out at slaughterhouses, also known as abattoirs.
Australia has approximately 300 abattoirs (including boning rooms) with a workforce of around 25,000. It is a predominantly young workforce with around half of all workers younger than 35. It is usually not possible to know which slaughterhouse was involved in the meat, dairy and egg products found in supermarkets.
Every year in Australia, 520-620 million animals are killed at abattoirs, mostly for meat (direct human consumption), roughly broken down as follows:
- 460-550 million broiler (meat) chickens (see www.aussiechickens.com)
- 3-5 million turkeys (see www.aussieturkeys.com)
- 8 million ducks (see www.aussieducks.com)
- 4-5 million pigs (see www.aussiepigs.com)
- 11-12 million layer hens (see www.aussieeggs.com)
- 4 million bulls, bullocks and steers
- 3 million cows and heifers
- 7 million cattle
- 700000-900000 calves (“waste products” of the dairy industry)
- 5-7 million sheep
- 17-19 million lambs
A further 12 million male chicks are killed at hatcheries as unwanted by-products of the egg industry. A significant number of killing also occurs on the farm, whether direct killing or as a result of neglect (e.g. smaller dairy farms may leave their unwanted calves out in the paddock to starve; an estimated 15 million lambs die every year within 48 hours of birth due to inadequate protection from harsh weather).
Most animals killed at Australian abattoirs are supposed to be rendered unconscious by various stunning methods before having their throat cut open to be bled out (referred to as the “sticking” process; a slash across the throat for sheep, a stab into the throat for pigs and cattle), however this is not always the case:
- As of 2011, at least 15 abattoirs in Australia have permission from state governments to slit the throats of fully conscious animals, as part of the religious practices of “halal” and “kosher” slaughter
- Due to the high demand for meat and other animal products, abattoirs are required to kill very large quantities of animals per day, resulting in a typically rushed environment where ineffective stunning can easily occur. Animals that reach the kill floor without first being properly stunned are then “stuck” and bled out while still conscious. In the case of pigs, they can end up drowning in the scalding tank, even though they are meant to be unconscious or dead by that point. Animals that are still conscious at the point of sticking and are not restrained may be beaten with a sledgehammer, pole or other tool in order to kill them (as seen at LE Giles & Sons Abattoir, and Hawkesbury Valley Meats), as an escaped animal can be dangerous to the workers.