NEW England MP Barnaby Joyce has labelled high-profile animal rights organisation PETA an “extremist group” after it released footage allegedly shot by undercover operatives of the barbaric treatment of sheep at 19 shearing sheds in Australia.
The federal Agriculture Minister said although he was “appalled” at the “disturbing” images, which show sheep being mutilated, punched and even struck with a hammer, he did not support the group or its tactics used to document the apparent mistreatment.
The US branch of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claims the footage was filmed by three undercover “investigators” in shearing sheds across NSW, Victoria and South Australia between October 2013 and February 2014.
The vision, which PETA allegedly sat on for up to a year before passing on to state authorities and the RSPCA, is now being used to spearhead a campaign against the Australian wool industry.
As The Leader reported last week, Mr Joyce is an advocate of tougher penalties on “vigilantes” who break into farms and secretly film, despite animal rights groups claiming the strategy is necessary for exposing cruelty.
“I don’t, and the Australian government does not, condone the mistreatment of animals,” Mr Joyce said in a statement yesterday.
“I am very concerned at the vision that shows absolutely unacceptable treatment of sheep and I know woolgrowers would be as appalled as I am.
“That said, there are appropriate ways to deal with allegations like these and that is by immediately reporting it to the state or territory government.
“I do not condone the method by which this footage was obtained and I understand it was filmed over a period of seven or eight months.
“An emotional response without full investigation, including why it has taken so long for PETA to release the footage, does not result in better animal husbandry practices, it just reinforces the belief that PETA is an extremist group that wants to end livestock production and to irreparably damage the economy and the reputation of Australian farmers.”
However, in a statement to Fairfax Agricultural Media, Jason Letchford of the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia said the group “applauds the investigation by PETA and believes that this work by such organisations is necessary to remind all industries around the world to be vigilant against complacency when it comes to animal rights and welfare”.