Animal activists’ attack labelled ‘industrial sabotage’

Christopher Knaus
March 13, 2012
The Age (Australia)

A raid on a Canberra battery hen farm by animal activists overnight has been labelled ‘‘one of the worst examples of industrial sabotage in Australia’’ by an industry body, which has claimed the attack puts the lives of the facility’s 30,000 hens at risk.

Activists forced entry into the Parkwood Egg Farm, owned by Pace Farm Pty Ltd, in Macgregor between 11pm and 6am this morning,and allegedly slashed conveyor belts and destroyed grading and packaging equipment.

The facility is the only battery hen farm in the ACT, and currently holds about 30,000 chickens, with a total capacity for well over 100,000. Office equipment was also allegedly damaged, forklifts were wrecked, and production at the battery egg farm has been forced to a standstill.

There are no witnesses to the raid and police have not taken anyone into custody. An anonymous person named ‘‘The Blackbird’’ claimed responsibility for the attack and posted YouTube footage that purported to show conditions inside the facility. The vision shows chickens packed tightly into cages, with barely any room to move. Police plan to trace the YouTube user who uploaded the video as part of the investigation.

Australian Egg Corporation Ltd, which represent the interests of egg producers, lashed out at the activists, questioning the accuracy and veracity of the video footage. Corporation managing director James Kellaway said the animal activists had used battery acid in the raid, and electric tools to cut up conveyor belts and wreck forklifts.‘‘These home grown extremists have put at risk the welfare of 30,000 hens currently housed at the Pace Farm, Canberra,’’ Mr Kellaway said. ‘‘It remains to be seen whether any alternative accommodation can be found [for the hens] at such short notice. ‘‘The welfare of the hens has been placed in complete jeopardy as a direct result of this commercial vandalism.’’

Those claiming responsibility also issued a statement this morning, warning Pace Farm to shut down the battery farm and leave the ACT. ‘‘This action was intended to highlight not simply the atrocities of the ‘cage egg’, but the ethical impossibility of justifying the unnecessary torture and murder of any sentient being,’’ the statement read.

The ACT facility was targeted due to its ‘‘significance as the only factory farm in the seat of Australia’s parliament’’, the statement said. The facility has been the target of numerous attacks and break-ins by animal rights activists in the past.

Last night’s attack was discovered by the farm manager about 6am this morning. It is believed the offender forced entry through a locked gate. Staff and management at the farm refused to comment on the incident this morning.

The ACT Greens have previously tried to close down the Parkwood facility, introducing legislation to make the use of battery hens illegal by 2011. That bill was defeated in the Legislative Assembly in 2009, with former chief minister Jon Stanhope arguing that a ban would simply cause Parkwood to relocate production across the border and continue using battery hens.

The ACT Government had previously offered $1 million to Pace Farm to convert the facility to use barn eggs, an offer the company has rejected.

Animal Liberation ACT, which has long been opposed to the use of battery hens, has denied knowledge of the attack.