The operators of an alleged illegal slaughterhouse outside Melbourne should face the harshest available penalties, the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) says.

Agriculture Victoria is investigating after it received graphic video of sheep being slaughtered without being stunned. The video also revealed several additional concerning practices including a complete disregard for biosecurity.

AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson says the illegal facility is a disgrace and is not in any way representative of AMIC’s membership or the wider red meat industry.

“The appalling lack of basic animal welfare awareness is distressing and disgusting,” Mr Hutchinson says of the practices shown in the video, which captures animals taking several minutes to die. “Animal welfare and safety for stock and staff are the two most critical priorities in any legal operation and our members are simply horrified by this footage.”

Beyond that, he says breaches of food safety standards undermine the good work the Australian industry has done to build and protect a global reputation for high quality product.

“The video shows workers butchering meat in their street clothes. There are other animals, including rather ludicrously, a peacock inside the shed, and meat products are transported in the boot of a car. Every element of the entire operation is completely shonky and we urge PrimeSafe not only to prosecute the operators but to pursue the maximum available penalties. This kind of operation damages our whole industry.”

AMIC was a key collaborator in the creation of the industry’s voluntary certification program, the Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS). The AAWCS is independently audited by AUS-MEAT and helps livestock processors demonstrate compliance with industry best practice animal welfare standards, from the delivery of livestock through to its processing.

“This is a robust system which highlights the importance of animal welfare, personal safety and food standards, and we’re working hard to ensure all legitimate abattoirs operate based on the underpinnings of the AAWCS,” Mr Hutchinson says.

“Illegal, illegitimate operators have absolutely no place in our industry.”