A scandal surrounding retired racehorses being mistreated before being slaughtered has prompted urgent action on federal and state levels.
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the welfare of the animals would be a top priority at Friday’s meeting with her counterparts in Melbourne.
In Queensland, an independent inquiry will investigate the treatment of retired racehorses and allegations of animal cruelty at abattoirs, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced.
Ms Palaszczuk said the inquiry will be overseen by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission and will be headed by retired judge Terry Martin SC.
“Anyone who viewed the 7.30 program last Thursday night and witnessed the vision of retired racehorses being mistreated at a Queensland abattoir would have been sickened and appalled,” she said.
“This was deeply disturbing, horrendous footage and I was just as appalled.
Ms Palaszczuk said the inquiry will determine what processes can be put in place to end cruelty to animals in Queensland.
“The inquiry will also engage the expertise of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and is expected to report back to the Minister for Agriculture and Racing early next year,” she said.
“I reiterate that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Queensland and that’s why my government has implemented this inquiry with the urgency it requires.”
Ms Palaszczuk said a separate Biosecurity Queensland investigation into one of the abattoirs at the centre of the 7.30 story is continuing.
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The ABC’s 7.30 program was given hidden-camera video taken at the Meramist Abattoir in Caboolture, which showed former racehorses being kicked, dragged and shocked before being slaughtered.
Senator McKenzie said the vision was horrific, while noting animal welfare was a state government responsibility.
“It’s really important that we have a discussion as the country’s agriculture ministers about how we adopt and practice world’s best animal welfare standards,” she told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Tuesday.
The federal agriculture department tabled a statement for the Senate committee.
“The Department of Agriculture’s role is limited to export abattoirs where it works to ensure Australian export standards are met,” it said.
“Consistent with the department’s responsibilities, we are conducting a critical incident audit of the facility at the centre of recent footage depicting the mistreatment of horses.”
The department will produce a preliminary report this week before determining any regulatory action that might be taken.
Queensland authorities have requested the footage from the ABC to help work out when the incidents took place.
“The department urges anyone with evidence or concerns about animal welfare to immediately report it to the relevant state jurisdiction,” it said in a statement said.