Serious allegations of laxity in meat inspection in the north and north-west of New South Wales were made yesterday by the newly-appointed president of the Institute of Stock Inspectors (Mr. C. J. Woollett).
Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute, he said there were reasonable grounds to assume that over 230 head of diseased cattle went into human consumption last year in these areas.
"Out of 20,959 head of cattle killed in the north and north-west," said Mr. Woollett, "only 11 were condemned, whereas, assuming the incidence of disease to be the same as among those killed at abattoirs, there would have been over 240 head condemned had the standard of inspection been the same.
"In the case of pigs, things are equally unsatisfactory. At the abattoirs nine per cent. were condemned, whereas in the country centres there were six per cent. From my personal knowledge of the way slaughtering premises are kept, and the amount of uncooked offal fed to pigs, the amount of disease at these places is far greater than among the pigs killed at abattoirs.
"To put it mildly," Mr. Woollett went on to say, "the supervision of the meat supply in most country towns is entirely unsatisfactory, and calls for action that will safeguard public health to a much greater extent than at present."
The fault, he contended, lay with the custom of handing over the inspection of slaughter-yards in the shires to the police. To expect them to carry out such technical work without training was a farce. As to cleanliness, a satisfactory police report would probably be correct, but the vital question of the wholesomeness of meat was largely overlooked. Because of the multiplicity of their duties, the police inspected very few of the animals slaughtered. A general supervision was exercised by an officer of the Board of Health, but in the north and north-west he had to control 120 slaughteryards, and 600 dairies.
"I do not wish to infer," Mr. Woollett added, "that disease is rampant among food animals In this State, but there is enough to warrant a tightening up of the supervision of the meat supply."
He advocated the establishment of country abattoirs, the payment of a higher inspection fee to encourage inspectors to take more interest in the work, the training of the police concerned at abattoirs, and the employment of trained health inspectors, when practicable, instead of police and other officers.
Mr. F. F. Forster (Goulburn) said he could not find language strong enough for the condemnation of meat-killing conditions in the country, conditions, which, to say the least, wero vile. At most country slaughter-yards the filth was beyond conception. At Goulburn, for instance, there was no supervision whatever of slaughtering, and under the present system of widely-scattered private slaughter-yards, meat inspection was impossible.
Mr. W. J. Smith (Young): If the authorities are so insistent on a careful inspection of Homebush-killed meat, why are such precautions deemed unnecessary in the country? To some old-fashioned folk the more mention of the word abattoir is like holding a red rag to a bull. We hear a lot about baby clinics, health centres, country women's associations, and so on, but one of the roots of much ill-health and disease, the lack of properly-supervised country killing centres is quite neglected.
Mr. F. J. Madden (Tamworth) said that in Tamworth things were far from perfect. Carcases in the process of being dressed were exposed to flies and dust, the cloths used for wiping the carcases were dirty, as also very often was the water in which they were rinsed.
Mr. F. Hildred (Hay) instanced a case where out of 1700 cattle at the saleyards seven had been condemned. When the owner was asked what he intended doing with them, he answered: "Oh, I'll get a local butcher to take them, and he will knock out any portions that are unfit." Mr. Hildred also mentioned the case of a butcher, who had a sick pig, which was killed and sold to a Chinaman, who did not know what he was buying, and of a fat bullock, with an actinomycosic ulcer, which had been given to a butcher "to be worked into the sausages."
Mr. C. W. Sabine (Grafton) said that during the swine fever epidemic of two years ago he had seen six of a pen of six apparently healthy baconers, all from one farm, condemned for T.B. Quite recently, 12 of 16 pigs from another farm had been condemned, and the remaining four taken home. He would certainly have a look at them as soon as he returned.
Mr. J. G. Johnston (Albury) said that at the last municipal election, when one of the burning questions was as to the advisability, or otherwise, of establishing central abattoirs, the butchers had informed the people that the provision of abattoirs would mean dearer meat. The Mayor, himself a butcher, and a strong advocate of the abattoirs, had characterised that as nonsense, and had promised to give £500 to the local hospital if his customers were charged anything additional. As a result of the elections, the butchers won the day, for not a supporter of the abattoirs proposal, except the Mayor, was returned. There was no inspection whatever at Albury, and the council did not want it.
It was unanimously decided that Mr. Woollett's paper, be printed and circulated, at the expense of the institute, among all public bodies concerned throughout the State.