By CASEY NEILL
WITH blood and egg dripping down her face, Kelly Lachman continues to shout into a megaphone.
“You are all animal abusers,” she tells those attending the Dandenong Poultry Auctions on Tuesday 5 July through cyclone fencing from the EastLink trail.
The RSPCA has confirmed it is investigating the sales, held at 21 Mills Road, Dandenong, on Tuesday mornings.
Auctioneer Damien Wirtanen said he was co-operating and was happy for RSPCA representatives to attend the auction and stamp out any inappropriate behaviour they found.
“I have a duty of care to look after them (the birds) while they’re on this property,” he said.
“If people tell me about something that goes on that I haven’t seen, I stop the auction and I go and sort it out.
“I’ve got nothing to hide. There’s nothing illegal going on.”
But not according to Ms Lachman.
“What you are doing is illegal,” she shouted.
“We have footage of you abusing animals.”
One man replied “you’re an outright liar” to the accusations and approached the fence.
Like the six vocal protesters, he dodged the eggs and doughnuts being hurled over the fence from auction vendors and buyers.
Ms Lachman played a police siren sound effect on the megaphone, drowning out his explanations.
She alleges he then assaulted her through the fence, causing a cut to her face.
“We came here for a peaceful protest and they’ve been nothing but hostile,” she said.
Ms Lachman relayed her experience to police, called in by Mr Wirtanen after protestors refused to leave the auction site.
The protesters were pelted with eggs:
The officers allowed the group to continue their demonstration from outside the site.
Antoinette Walker, wearing an Oscar’s Law hoodie, said she felt compelled to take part.
“It’s third world market practice and it doesn’t belong in our society in 2016,” she said.
Veterinary nurse Priscilla Dennis held five-month-old son Rupert in her arms and fled the egg impact zone.
“I didn’t think they’d be violent, but I guess it just shows the kind of people we’re dealing with,” she said.
“I’ve seen the condition of the birds they’ve brought into the clinic.
“I don’t think it’s to be accepted.
“It’s unimaginable cruelty that’s been documented.
“In this day and age it’s unacceptable.”
Ms Lachman said she’d been attending the auctions for several weeks.
“We’ve pulled dead and dying birds from cages,” she said.
“We’ve seen multiple birds tied together.
“There are birds being killed here.
“We hope that we raise some awareness and let them know that we are watching.
“We’re going to stay here until the auction ends.
“We’ll be back every Tuesday until the auction shuts down.”
Mr Wirtanen said they were welcome to protest, but said their siren sound effect was distressing the birds.
“They have a right to demonstrate and the right to have their opinion,” he said.
He said their actions hadn’t kept buyers or sellers at bay, and he wasn’t worried about them showing up again.
“We’ll just lock them out,” he said.
“They can stand there and protest all they like.”
Mr Wirtanen said he didn’t witness the egg throwing or the alleged assault.
“That would have to be a matter for the police,” he said.
“I don’t condone anyone being violent.”
He welcomed the Journal to take a look around the auction room and to take photographs.
He explained that the birds arrived about 7.30am on auction day and were gone by noon.
Mr Wirtanen said that contrary to claims from the protestors, the birds were provided with water “but poultry can go without water for 36 hours”.
He restricts the number of birds allowed in each cage.
“The cages are old but not in a condition detrimental to the animals,” he said.
Mr Wirtanen said the operation was no different to any other poultry auction, and more than 300 chickens moved through each week.
“I may get an incident once or twice a year,” he said.
He said animal welfare advocates had been attending the auction for about seven weeks, that he’d watched their footage “and what I’ve seen is not what should be done”.
“But I can’t categorially say to you that that was at our auction,” he said.
Mr Wirtanen said auction attendees came from many cultural backgrounds and “a small minority” mistreated birds.
“I’m trying to educate people that there are things you did in your country that you can’t do here,” he said.
On accusations there were diseased and dying birds, Mr Wirtanen explained that chickens became stressed when they were moved and were prone to a disease known as ILT.
“If they’re a carrier, it can be brought out when they’re moved,” he said.
“They can show symptoms. If I see that, I ask the vendor to remove them.”
He said that most of the birds auctioned were roosters or over-age hens that would otherwise be dumped by their owners and taken by foxes.
Springvale Acting Sergeant Paul Ackerman said police would attend the site on coming Tuesday mornings as a pro-active measure.
He said he was waiting for Ms Lachman to provide footage she offered up of the alleged assault before taking any further action.
RSPCA chief operating officer Jon McGregor appealed for public help to verify two anonymous complaints received in the past month or so about the sales.
“Our inspectors have attended the market, accompanied by City of Greater Dandenong officers, and provided directions to purchasers on how to appropriately handle and transport the birds,” he said.
Mr McGregor said the RSPCA had viewed a video said to have been filmed at Dandenong Poultry Auctions and “is appealing to the public to help identify the individuals depicted in the video”.
The footage shows people using tape to bind birds’ legs together, and to bundle multiple birds together.
Mr McGregor said the society was trying to establish whether breaches of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA) had been committed and “charges would be filed accordingly”.
“This investigation is ongoing,” he said.
He urged anyone with information about animal cruelty to call RSPCA Victoria on 9224 2222 or visit rspcavic.org.
Protesters behind the Dandenong Poultry Auction site, dodging doughnuts and standing in a mess of egg shells hurled earlier: