Cruelty charges dropped 

The State Government remains silent amid heightened criticism over its handling of animal abuse accusations at a Trafalgar abattoir, which shut down a 60 year-old family business in late 2011.

Animal cruelty charges filed against LE Giles Abattoir management, for butchering practices documented within an animal rights activist group’s video, were unexpectedly dropped on Monday by the Department of Primary Industries.

The DPI issued a statement offering little explanation of its decision, adding it would not pursue further action and it had no further comment to make.

“The department thoroughly investigates any allegation of cruelty and when the circumstances are warranted, prosecutes those involved,” the statement read.

The abattoir shut down operations in late 2011, forcing at least 25 employees out of work, after PrimeSafe flagged its intentions of closing the abattoir before any thorough investigation had been held.

Upper house member for Eastern Victoria Matt Viney said the issue, which put a $20 million operation out of business, was “shameful” and “bordering on scandalous”.

“The minister must conduct an inquiry into what has gone wrong – the DPI have made a statement which addresses the issue of animal cruelty, but have now essentially said they have no grounds to pursue the matter – but they have effectively closed that company down,” Mr Viney said.

“There is no question as to whether animal cruelty has occurred, but this is an issue of natural justice – and if a company is accused of behaving improperly, that needs to be pursued properly in which the company has certain rights, which don’t seem to be respected (in this case) – the situation is frankly appalling.”

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh declined to comment on the case, while government-appointed meat industry regulator PrimeSafe has not returned calls to The Express. In an alternative criticism of the government’s handling of the issue, Animals Australia communications director Lisa Chalk said the organisation was “disappointed the reasons for this course of action have not been forthcoming”.

“The public will understandably be questioning why those who were ultimately responsible for the behaviour of workers at this abattoir will not be held accountable in court,” Ms Chalk said.

“At a time of such intense public scrutiny of the treatment of animals in domestic abattoirs, the Victorian Government needs to send a strong message to the managers of such facilities that they are ultimately responsible for how their workers behave.”