The Meramist Abattoir in Caboolture is now at the centre of an animal cruelty scandal, but those who live near it say they have tried to raise concerns for years.
- Naomi Rizniak, who lives behind Meramist Abattoir, says she started complaining about the noise of distressed horses two years ago
- She says she complained to the abattoir but trucks of horses had continued to arrive after dark
- Since seeing the footage from ABC’s 7.30, she says she wishes she had done more
“It wasn’t always noisy,” says neighbour Naomi Rizniak.
At least not until they started to bring horses in at night.
Naomi Rizniak and her family moved into a quiet cul de sac in Caboolture about four years ago.
The property backs onto a reserve, where there’s a creek that is home to a platypus.
It seems the perfect place for her and her husband to raise their three young children, with their two friendly rescue pups.
A locked gate at the end of the street, though, is a disused back entrance to the Meramist Abattoir.
Meramist slaughters cattle, camels and horses — exporting horsemeat to Russia, Japan and parts of Europe for human consumption.
Multiple industry analysts estimate the business to be making $10 million to $20 million a year.
The slaughtering of racehorses is not illegal in Australia.
Last week, footage obtained by the ABC’s 7.30 program seemed to show some staff at Meramist kicking, beating, shocking, and verbally abusing former racehorses before they were slaughtered.
Racing industry leaders, a former jockey of one of the horses and politicians have slammed the treatment of the animals, while investigators have been brought in.
Now neighbours of the Caboolture abattoir are beginning to speak out about the horrific sounds that have been heard coming from the slaughterhouse at night.
Complaints about sounds of distressed animals ignored
Residents say it is under the cover of darkness that the truckloads of seemingly distressed horses arrive at the abattoir to be killed.
“It’s frantic … they’re scared … they could probably be walked off a truck into a paddock anywhere else, but here they’re not being walked off,” Naomi Rizniak says.
She says she hears staff swearing and yelling at the animals.
“They’re about to be killed. Isn’t that bad enough? Can’t they be given a bit of dignity?” she says.
Then there’s the sound of the hooves.
She describes the frantic clanging, like things hitting a steel fence. Enough to wake her at 2:00am, from 100 metres away, through fences, bushland and her home’s brick walls.
One day an enormous Brahman cow bolted, breaking out of the abattoir, smashing through a neighbour’s fence and running off.
“You could see the fear in the animal’s eyes,” Ms Rizniak says.
“It was escaping whatever was going on in there.”
She says after the incident, Meramist workers offered her a cooler box full of dog food.
Before buying their home, Ms Rizniak says she checked the operating hours of the abattoir and it was not meant to operate at night.
Two years ago, though, the night time noise became too much.
Ms Rizniak says she’s made noise complaints to the Moreton Bay Council about the night-time horse slaughters but that the council has done nothing about it.
She also complained to the company and was told to move house if she didn’t like the noise.
In a text message received in May, the company confirmed it had received and investigated a complaint from her.
It told Ms Rizniak that a truck had arrived at 10:50pm and left at 11:15pm and that the driver had turned on slaughterhouse equipment, known as a “slaughter floor screw”.
“We have removed the company gate code from the system and advised them in writing on the breach of our policy and they can only access the site during normal operational hours,” the text message says.
“My apology for this breach of our truck access policy,” it says.
But the trucks have continued to arrive at night, including one truck reported as arriving there after dark on Saturday night.
Another resident described the night-time scene at the front entrance to the facility as chaotic, with truckloads of horses, some of them unrestrained, queuing to get in the gate.
“You need to come here in the middle of the night,” the man, who didn’t want to be named, told the ABC.
“I did ask [Meramist] why, ‘why are you only bringing horses in during the night?’ Because they do not bring them in during the day,” Ms Rizniak says.
She was told her it was none of her business.
Of the staff seen in footage mistreating animals, Ms Rizniak suggests they get some of their own medicine.
“They deserve it back those blokes. They deserve … a good kick up the arse, to put it nicely,” she says.
“And I’d love to give it to them,” she adds jokingly.
While she started complaining to the Moreton Bay Council two years ago, now that she has seen the 7.30 footage she wishes she had done more.
‘I had no idea’
“We’ve been listening to that every other night,” she says in frustration, “but I had no idea what was really going on there.”
“What could we have done? Could we have anything? It just makes you sick.”
A spokesman for the Moreton Bay Council said it could not yet confirm whether it had received noise complaints.
Meramist has not responded to the ABC’s attempts to put all claims and allegations to the company.