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    War of words after piggery case collapses

    Sun 30 Nov 2014 by Colin Bettles (Stock Journal)

    This article relates to the following facility: Wally's Piggery (Aussie Pigs)

    Aussie Farms' note: The author behind this article (Colin Bettles), along with RSPCA NSW and APL, are all fully aware that nothing from Wally's Piggery was posted on social media or given to mainstream media until *after* the authorities had concluded their inspection. Going back through our Facebook timeline verifies this. It's also important to note that two activists *had* written statements relating to the gathering of the footage, but RSPCA refused to accept or use them.

    RHETORICAL warfare has broken out between key players in the high profile case against Wally’s Piggery, after cruelty charges were dropped in the Yass Local Court last week.

    Controversy erupted in August 2012 when video footage was publicly released showing animal cruelty taken via a covert surveillance operation at Wally’s Piggery at Murrumbateman, NSW.

    Backlash at the horrific nature of the animal cruelty sparked a media and regulatory frenzy, with in a helicopter hovering over the property as journalists raced to capture and release the story.

    The business was subsequently inspected by Yass police, the NSW Food Authority, RSPCA NSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

    The inspection resulted in 53 charges being laid against Wally Perenc and his wife, Stephanie Perenc, and their financial backer WSL Investments Pty Ltd, for various animal cruelty-related offences and compliance to industry regulations.

    Mr Perenc said three police cars and about 20 people were involved in the regulatory raid on his property, fuelled by the intense media exposure.

    “If I murdered someone there wouldn’t be that many people,” he said.

    Mr and Mrs Perenc pleaded not guilty to the allegations after stating their intention to fight the charges rather than agree to an out of court settlement.

    However, last week in the Yass Local Court Magistrate Mrs G Beattie dismissed the entire case after charges were withdrawn by the prosecutors, RSPCA NSW.

    In a statement, RSPCA NSW said it was disappointed at having to make a very difficult decision, on November 17 this year, to withdraw its prosecution against Wally’s Piggery.

    “The RSPCA NSW investigation of this matter arose as a result of footage that has been widely circulated on the internet,” the statement said.

    “We are disappointed that this footage was not lawfully substantiated by Aussie Pigs and/or Animal Liberation, who initially released the footage to the media instead of giving it directly to one of the enforcement agencies.

    “Those responsible for capturing the images subsequently would not provide a statement to RSPCA NSW so none of the evidence released by them could be used in the prosecution.”

    Blaming activists is 'pathetic'

    The Wally’s Piggery incident provided the catalyst for an activist campaign against piggeries throughout Australia and intensive livestock farming, underpinned by covert filming operations.

    Former ACT-based animal rights activist and website designer Chris Delforce said the campaign was triggered after he was approached by Animal Liberation ACT and NSW to edit and publish the video footage from Wally’s.

    Animal Liberation NSW (ALNSW) campaigns manager Emma Hurst said the statements made by the RSPCA blaming animal rights groups “are really rather pathetic”.

    “The truth is, the extreme cruelty that occurred at Wally's Piggery would never have been uncovered if it wasn't for the activists that gathered and filmed the evidence,” she said.

    “In fact, without them, the cruelty would likely still be occurring.”

    Ms Hurst said when authorities arrived at the property Mr Perenc admitted he’d been “tipped off” by Australian Pork Limited (APL) and had been “cleaning up all morning to reduce evidence of cruelty”.

    “Therefore, if any finger pointing should be done it should be at the APL who, through giving him warning, reduced the evidence available to the RSPCA at the time of their inspection,” she said.

    However, APL general manager communication Emily Mackintosh said the ALNSW claim her group had tipped off Mr Perenc were incorrect.

    Ms Mackintosh said APL was obligated to inform a member that images of their business had appeared on social media and that industry policy did not tolerate animal cruelty.

    She said dismissal of the court case “clearly demonstrates that a potential animal cruelty case was sacrificed for the extreme ends of animal rights groups”.

    “The way video footage was collected and subsequently presented by them, firstly on social media and then given to authorities, and the lack of witness support from these groups ultimately meant that the case against the piggery was untenable,” she said.

    “It is clear that these campaigns are not about genuine animal welfare; it is all about seeking publicity for extreme animal rights philosophies and the cessation of farming animals for food.

    “To that end, all real context, truth and reason are sacrificed for their own extreme ideologies.

    “Sadly these actions have in fact robbed the animals of having their rightful day in court.”


    RSPCA NSW under fire

    Ms Hurst said there was growing concern amongst animal groups that the authorities are not fulfilling their duties.

    “Footage from Wally's Piggery was handed to authorities before it was given to media, but this is an example where if we rely entirely on the authorities, we may end up with nothing being done,” she said.

    Animal Liberation ACT (ALACT) said it was “appalled the case against Wally’s Piggery had been withdrawn”.

    ALACT said: “No compelling reason for dropping the charges has been provided by the animal welfare organisation”.

    “Indeed, for most of its brief statement about the dismissal of the case it blamed the very activists who brought the case to light,” they group said.

    “Without these activists, there is little doubt the operators of Wally's Piggery would be still be farming pigs today.

    “Now, thanks to the dismissal of the case, they can do so again.

    “This is a catastrophic failure of the legal system to protect the most vulnerable and exploited beings in our society: farmed animals.”

    The Animal Defenders Office (ADO) said in a statement it was “extremely disappointed” the serious animal cruelty charges had been dropped.

    “Inexplicably, the RSPCA spends a large part of the otherwise fairly brief statement about the case expressing its disappointment in the activists and their alleged failure both to ‘substantiate’ the footage and to provide it to an enforcement agency before giving to the media.

    “However, if the RSPCA was not going to use the footage, it’s not clear why it needed to be ‘substantiated’.

    “In addition, the ADO understands that individuals in question were in fact prepared to provide statements and that the RSPCA was advised of this during the preparation of the case.

    “The ADO also understands that the footage was provided to the media after it had been provided to various enforcement agencies.

    “It is therefore still extremely unclear as to why the case was discontinued.”