The Department of Local Government in Western Australia today confirmed that thirty charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2002 have been laid in relation to the Westpork piggery in Gingin, stemming from an investigation commencing in January 2009. The thirty charges involve Westpork Pty Ltd and two of it's staff members.
The charges relate to Sections 19(1) and 19(3)(h) of the Animal Welfare Act 2002, which the Department administers and enforces. The State Solicitor’s Office is handling the case on behalf of the Department. A first mention has been listed for Wednesday, 16 March 2011 at the Perth Magistrates Court.
This is not the first time Westpork has faced animal cruelty charges. They were previously charged in 2009 (HSI media releasehttp://www.hsi.org.au/index.php?catID=494) for animal cruelty but the Department discontinued the case on a technicality.
Westpork is operated by Neil Ferguson, a board member of Australian Pork Limited, chair on the WA Agriculture Produce Commission (Pork Committee), and a Pork Training WA Committee member.
HSI has today written to the boards requesting that Mr. Ferguson stand aside from these positions until the case has been heard. When the previous case was being investigated we made the same request of both Boards, but they declined. Given the new charges are unrelated to the original case it would be prudent of both Boards to stand him down till the case concludes.
“The fact that any person charged with animal cruelty offences can remain in such a prominent position within the industry is inconceivable,” says Verna Simpson, HSI Director.“What makes the situation so shocking is that this is now the second time Mr. Ferguson has been charged. Such irresponsible behaviour should not be permitted to represent and guide industry best practice.”
HSI Director, Verna Simpson further stated,“Considering past and current charges, HSI believes Mr. Ferguson should stand aside till the case concludes. The Australian pork industry has been at the centre of the national animal welfare debate thanks to consumer and retailer demand for welfare friendly pork. With such scrutiny on the industry this is no time to play the ‘mates’ card as this will only hurt the many other producers who are trying hard to meet consumer expectations.”