Southern Farmed Rabbits owner-operator Shane Moodie said he was aware of the investigation but denied any systemic cruelty had taken place at his family’s farm. He said his animals were cared for and his breeding stock even given names.
Mr Moodie said one rabbit seen in the undercover footage, named Phil, was being treated for his facial disease and, while he admits he should have euthanised the animal earlier, the farmer said he’d grown attached to the six-year-old buck.
Others, he said, had sustained injuries during fights. Many of those captured on the footage, including Phil, had been euthanised in recent weeks.
“It was an oversight because of my attachment to him. But he wasn’t in any pain,” Mr Moodie said. “The allegations [of animal cruelty] are unsubstantiated.”
A Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation’s five-year forecast report released in 2014 found the country’s rabbit industry had an annual turnover of about $3.1 million.
It found demand for the product was good but due to disease and welfare issues the industry had “negative growth prospects”.
Mr Moodie said he welcomed increased oversight in the industry and visits from the department whenever it wished. He pledged to work towards achieving best practice at his farm in the future. He said demand for the product across Australia remained high.
Animal Liberation’s farmed animals campaign manager Roscoe Osborne said factory farming industries had low levels of proactive oversight and enforcement. He renewed the call for the formation of an independent office of animal welfare to increase best practice.
“How can the public have any confidence in government and regulators when the only time the public becomes aware of these atrocities is from the work by animal protection organisations, whistleblowers and members of the public, rather than the agencies who are tasked with upholding laws intended to protect animals from cruelty and abuse?” Mr Osborne said.
Agriculture Victoria confirmed it had undertaken an investigation into the allegations.
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