STAFF at a piggery have been blindsided by the sudden death of 500 pigs from extreme heat stress.
An anonymous whistleblower yesterday revealed employees at the Pig Improvement Company (PIC) in Grong Grong arrived at work on February 23 to be confronted by an “ocean” of pigs lying dead in a holding shed.
The company, which has been left hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket, claims a broken cooling system triggered the tragedy.
A Brisbane-based security company was alerted when the system failed but was unable to reach on-call employees to notify them.
PIC CEO Paul O’Leary said staff were deeply traumatised by the incident.
“The welfare of our animals is our highest priority at all times,” Mr O’Leary said.
“This is why we have 24-hour monitored alarm systems.
“Despite these precautions, in this instance the alert was unable to avert a disaster – a situation every business dreads.
“The consequence was distressed staff arriving onsite the following morning to discover the stock losses.
“These animals are their livelihoods and they care for them every day. Losses like this cut deep emotionally for all staff.”
He said a subsequent on-farm vet investigation revealed the deaths were caused by a lack of ventilation.
The company is reviewing the integrity of its warning system and has vowed to make changes if necessary.
The whistleblower, who claimed to be an employee of the piggery, said staff were ordered to remain silent about the deaths or be sacked. “Employees were told if anyone disclosed information about the dying pigs they would be sacked,” he said.
Mr O’Leary strongly denied the claims.
The PIC site at Grong Grong was established in 1974 and has 25 employees.