In bed with the abusers
The RSPCA chooses some strange bed-fellows, including the largest battery-egg producer in Australia. Conflict of interest anyone?
by Romeo Gadze
Dr Hugh Wirth, national RSPCA President had only two words for Animal Liberation’s Action Animal Rescue Team when they walked into his Balwyn clinic seeking help for sick and dying battery hens: “GET OUT!”
Dr Hugh Wirth, national RSPCA President, orders activists with dying hens out of his surgery. (Photo by Micheal Chapman)
Channel 7 news screened his hospitality that evening and the nation read about it in the morning papers. The night before, the team rescued 14 hens they found trapped and dying in a manure pit at Wallan. Nature’s Dozen Egg Farm at Wallan, north of Melbourne, is a huge battery egg factory notorious for allowing hens to starve in the manure pits below cages. Several prior rescues and inspections of these sheds revealed ongoing neglect, which was reported to the RSPCA and the Police to no avail.
Appeals to the RSPCA to prosecute battery hen cruelty over the past eight years have become ‘routine’, so the activists in frustration decided to take the hens directly to the National President of the RSPCA, veterinarian Hugh Wirth for help. He obviously wasn’t interested.
Over recent years the RSPCA has been busily setting up accreditation guidelines for animal production systems (barn-laid eggs and free-range pork), usually in partnership with the intensive industry. The Action Animal Rescue Team continues to expose animal cruelty, even at RSPCA-approved farms, yet the RSPCA consistently refuses to prosecute. Hugh Wirth states that the team has attempted to destroy community confidence in the new RSPCA accreditation systems because they hold the philosophy that animals shouldn’t be used for food. The Team does not think that animals are merely commodities for humans to kill and eat, but that has nothing to do with the RSPCA carrying out its job of preventing cruelty to all animals.
"Mr Frank Pace, World President, Egg Producers Association with Dr Hugh Wirth Hon. RSPCA President at the launch of RSPCA Coles Barn Laid Eggs at Coles in Malvern."
This photo is taken directly from the front cover of RSPCA News, Summer 2001. The RSPCA is flaunting its friendly relationship with the biggest egg producers in the country. That year's RSPCA annual report lists a sponsorship to the tune of $35,000 from Pace Farms. This is in addition to the royalties they receive for each barn-laid egg sold.
FOR ALL CREATURES...?
The RSPCA, and particularly their national President, is very gung ho when it comes to marketing farmed animals. From their failed pet food venture (where the “all creature’s great and small” pictured on the can were also in the can) to accreditation of barn-laid eggs (Liberty and Mrs McKechie’s in Victoria; MacQuarie in Tasmania) and now free-range pig meat (under the Ottway Pork brand). The RSPCA receives a royalty from the sales of these animal products which they claim satisfy their guidelines for humane production.
These weak guidelines are bunk anyway: how can a bird who has her beak seared off, is crammed into a shed with thousands of other birds, then trucked to the abattoir, be free from pain and distress? There is also major concern that the token barn-laid sheds being set up by major battery battery producers (including Pace, the largest egg producer in Australia) are happily continuing their major animal abuse enterprises under the auspices of the RSPCA!
GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER
The core of this issue is raised with the advent of RSPCA-approved pork. Hugh Wirth publicly denounces vegetarianism, always skirts the slaughterhouse issue, and with his written word in the RSPCA newsletter, fosters an attitude that farmed animals are not beings. Referring to “...meat...being humanely produced, transported and killed” is not only grammatically incorrect but promotes an attitude that meat, milk and eggs have nothing to do with animals. This is exactly the kind of attitude the animal industries have promoted to the public for years. The same industries who pay the RSPCA to approve their products.
While Wirth nobly touts the RSPCA’s “duty...to achieve the best possible and most humane production systems...for the vast majority of Australians...who eat meat and eggs and drink milk...”, the RSPCA can never be “for all creatures great and small”. As long as they receive money for animals in systems where they can and are subjected to cruelty, the RSPCA can not be about preventing cruelty to animals. Whether or not they agree with vegetarianism, it is not the RSPCA’s duty to help set up animal production systems, it is their duty to prevent cruelty to animals. That is what the community expects from them, nothing more.
The question now facing the RSPCA as it sends pigs off to slaughter, is how does it justify contributing to the appalling situation for farmed animals?
RSPCA APPROVED "BARNLAID" EGGS
Peter Barber of the RSPCA posing with Frank Pace, Australia's largest battery egg producer.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
Peter Barber and Frank Pace chat amicably inside one of their joint Liberty-Pace barn-laid egg production sheds. This photo featured prominently in RSPCA News (summer 2000). The photo caption claims they are experiencing “the RSPCA barn-laid system with happy chooks.” The RSPCA receives royalties from the sale of these eggs, laid by debeaked and prematurely slaughtered hens.
What's wrong with this picture?
1. Peter Barber, RSPCA Chief Executive Officer
2. Frank Pace, Australia’s largest battery egg producer
3. Shrunken comb, ruffled feathers, drooping tail - signs of poor health
4. Hens straining to eat, naturally feed at ground level