HERE'S a news flash: that lamb chop, rasher of bacon, porterhouse steak and barbecue chicken was once, not that long ago, a living animal. Yes, that's right, a cute calf, a frolicking lamb, a contented pig and a clucky chook.

Then, at some stage, they were slaughtered, cut into pieces and became the food we so enjoy.

OK, so I'm not breaking any big news story here. But how long has it been since the connection between what is on our plates and the fact it was once a live animal been so clearly spelt out?

In our modern world, a fair while. At a time when the disconnect between a large urban population and a smaller farming community grows, the subject of where meat actually comes from has almost become taboo.

Farmers don't want to raise the subject, too scared that the notion they allow animals to be killed will turn people off eating meat.

And with visits to an uncle's or grandparents' farm - where kids usually twig to what is going on - becoming rarer, the link between the live animal and the end product has broken.

Add to this the mollycoddling of children - where we mustn't expose them to anything that would upset them (think no scores in junior sport and participation ribbons for all) - and you can see why there is a whole generation that doesn't know what goes on prior to the microwave.

So the move by Australian Pork Limited to create a website that shows, warts and all, what happens to a pig in an abattoir is both surprising and refreshing.

Surprising because the pig industry is one of the sectors often a target of animal activists as being cruel. So you could excuse it for withdrawing into its shell.

And refreshing because it doesn't dance around where we get our meat. The site - aussiepigfarmers.com.au - deals with all steps in getting pork on your fork.

From mating and pregnancy to birth, weaning and moving the young pork to market, it is all described - including the final stage.

"All pigs arrive at the abattoir on a truck especially fitted with misters that keep the pigs cool in hot weather," the site says.

"Approximately 85 per cent of pigs are stunned with carbon dioxide (CO2) gas while the remainder receive electrical stunning," it says.

"The pigs are checked for unconsciousness before being stuck with a blade and are deemed dead."

A video by the pork industry pulls no punches in informing consumers where their meat comes from.
A video by the pork industry pulls no punches in informing consumers where their meat comes from. Luke Bowden

As you can see, there is no mucking around with the story.

"We need to be upfront about what we do," APL chief executive Andrew Spencer told The Weekly Times.

"I'm not sure it'll make you want to run out and buy a pork chop," he admits. "It's for people who want to see it; it's not for everyone."

But perhaps it should be for everyone.

Most of us like meat, and want to eat meat, so we should know where it come from. We all love to know how wine and cheese is produced.

It ought to be the same for meat.

Apparently it's OK to build a monument in Richmond to celebrate the fact taking drugs will kill you, yet we can't possibly tell our children that lambs are slaughtered to produce the chops they so enjoy.

Too much of what we see and hear in relation to farm animals comes through the biased eyes of animal activists, with their jaundiced view of the world.

Australian Pork Limited ought to be congratulated for telling it like it is.

• Ed Gannon is the Editor of The Weekly Times

News Corp Australia


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