THE START OF THE LWCC
The founding of LWCC in 1978 came about as follows:
Dr Michael Levien, Chairman of the Livestock Animal Welfare Association (LAWA), neither in his private capacity nor as an official of an animal welfare organisation was permitted access to the Pretoria abattoir, so he surreptitiously (and illegally) gained access via an unguarded gate to the adjacent Railways Yard. There he would take photographs with a telescopic lens of the very frequent acts of total insensitivity to the welfare of the livestock in their charge. Abattoir personnel, all too frequently, callously permitted animals to be subjected to conditions and procedures which permitted totally avoidable, and often very severe suffering, stress and even cruelty. There were occasions when even deliberate cruelty was perpetrated.
These photographs of reprehensible acts and unacceptable conditions were offered to the editors of local print media. Needless to say they were enthusiastically accepted and published. Eventually, the General Manager of the Meat Board, Dr Lombard demanded that the Chairman of LAWA attend a meeting with him.
Dr Lombard commenced the meeting by saying “Dr Levien, this damn nonsense has got to stop!” Dr Levien replied to with the words: “Yes sir, I agree. This damn nonsense has to stop!” After a few moments of silence, Dr Lombard enquired“What do you mean?” The answer was: “You cannot stop me from exposing the blatant cruelties and avoidable sufferings that livestock in transport are being subjected to or in the abattoir. The animal welfare domain is too entrenched and supported for them to be quietened. We are too strong. You cannot defeat us. But, I am not so naïve as to think that concern for the humane treatment and handling of slaughter animals in South Africa will make the whole of South Arica, vegetarian! You, the meat industry, are too strong! So I suggest we stop fighting each other. Neither of us can win such a fight!” After a few moments Dr Lombard thoughtfully enquired: “So, what do you suggest?” Dr Levien replied: “I suggest that, instead of our fruitlessly fighting each other, let us join forces and fight together. It can be a ‘win-win’ solution. From the industry, your needs can be profited by the scientifically established fact that the more humanely, within practical bounds, a slaughter animal is handled and slaughtered, the better will be the quality of the meat as well as its ’keeping quality’ (shelf-life). The meat industry will gain in profitability. Similarly, animal welfare will be satisfied that slaughter animals will be subjected to less suffering, stress and pain; hence a gain for animal welfare; hence a ‘win-win’ solution.” On agreeing that this made sense Dr Lombard enquired as to how this could be implemented. LAWA put the suggestion to him that a Liaison committee consisting of both elements, the meat industry and animal welfare be created. After a brief discussion it was mutually agreed that such a committee should consist of, as an initial minimum, the Meat Board, the South African Abattoir Corporation, veterinary services, animal welfare and Government representation. Dr Lombard immediately phoned and got agreement from representatives of the various bodies proposed. Dr Lombard proposed the name Livestock Welfare Coordinating Committee–and the Livestock Welfare Coordinating Committee here and then came into existence and has, not only survived, but has thrived in respect, effectiveness and success in its endeavours to promote
Initially the LWCC concentrated on activities around abattoirs and has succeeded in achieving a significant reduction in the amount of pain, stress and suffering of slaughter animals in transport, handling and slaughter. Particularly in regard to cattle, this has been estimated to be a ninety percent (90%) improvement!
What is quite remarkable is the extent in terms of which such divergent elements such as representatives of organisations involved in the slaughtering of animals can work meaningfully in cooperation with NGOs representing animal welfare dedicated to the “saving of life” and the well-being of animals. How they can work hand-in-glove together with the common aim of reducing the suffering, pain and stress of the slaughter animal.