Poultry producer Inghams says it is investigating procedures in one of its processing plants following the release of footage showing cruelty towards turkeys at the site.
In a statement, Inghams chief executive officer Kevin McBain said the company wanted to "reassure" Australians that Inghams does not "tolerate the mistreatment of its livestock".
"We condemn the animal abuse we have seen in the footage and will – as a matter of urgency – work to review, retrain and reinforce our animal welfare standards throughout our organisation," McBain said.
ABC's Lateline program was provided with an hour's worth of the footage by the group Animal Liberation.
It was secretly filmed over two weeks in an area of the Tahmoor abattoir where workers take the birds from cages and place them into shackles to be stunned and slaughtered.
The footage, submitted anonymously to Animal Liberation, shows turkeys being bashed, kicked and stomped on at the poultry processing plant in Sydney’s south-west.
"Inghams has a strong commitment to animal welfare. We have Best Practice Animal Welfare Programs and Standards in place. We work with regulatory animal welfare specialists to ensure these programs are active and operating throughout all aspects of the company," the statement reads.
"The programs are regularly audited internally and by second and third party auditors to ensure compliance with standards.
"We are investigating and working with all relevant parties to address and resolve this intolerable incident."
Animal Liberation and the RSPCA are now calling for mandatory CCTV monitoring at all Australian abattoirs.
“The vision we witnessed [on Lateline] highlighted disturbing acts of animal cruelty and is a clear reminder of the need for CCTV to be installed in these facilities,” said David O’Shannessy, RSPCA NSW chief inspector.
“What goes on in abattoirs is too often out of sight and out of mind. Installing CCTV sends a strong signal to those people working with animals that animal welfare is of the highest priority and that cruelty will not be tolerated.
“I have no doubt staff within Inghams will be shocked and horrified, as we were, by the events that took place in this facility. Inghams undertaking to review its animal welfare standards and improve staff training is one step towards addressing this problem, but installing CCTV is a crucial tool in identifying poor practice and driving out cruelty and they should commit to this as part of their review process," O'Shannessy said.
This story comes at a time when animal cruelty and meat processing standards are in the limelight. This week is Meat Free Week, a campaign organised by publishing colleagues and friends Melissa Dixon and Lainie Bracher, and aimed at raising awareness of factory farming practices, with funds going to a not-for-profit animal protection institute, Voiceless.
The campaign has generated mixed reactions with a number of consumers supporting the event and the attention it places on animal welfare, while NSW Farmers president, Fiona Simson, says the campaign lacks compassion and is encouraging consumers to turn their backs on meat producers, who are already struggling with what several natural disasters have left behind, the high Australian dollar and tough conditions imposed by the supermarket duopoly.
Inghams Enterprises was recently sold to a US private equity firm, TPG for approximately $850m.