News & Media > Editorials > Activists shut down Benalla Slaughterhouse and chain themselves to the gas chamber

Activists shut down Benalla Slaughterhouse and chain themselves to the gas chamber

Farm Transparency Project & Harley McDonald-Eckersall
Sat 15 April 2023, 12:09pm

On April 13th 2023, 25 activists from Farm Transparency Project shut down Benalla slaughterhouse in Northern Victoria, preventing pigs from being killed for over 7 hours by chaining themselves inside the gas chamber and in the race, as well as occupying the roof of the abattoir.

Benalla is one of Victoria's three largest pig slaughterhouses. It was first exposed in a 2015 investigation by Animal Liberation NSW and Animal Liberation Victoria, which captured footage of their deadly gas chamber as well as shocking footage of pigs in agony when forced into the chamber, including by the use of a mains powered electric prodder, identified as illegal by multiple experts and reported to the authorities. Eight years later, investigators returned to Benalla, installing hidden cameras to once again capture footage inside the gas chamber and reveal that the very same illegal prodders were still in use. This footage formed part of our campaign to ban gas chambers, which used footage from all three of Victoria's gas chambers and launched in late March with an exposé on ABC's 7.30 program. 

In the early hours of the morning of Thursday April 13th, 25 animal activists entered Benalla slaughterhouse. For many of them, they had never been inside a slaughterhouse before, never heard the squeals of pigs as they spent their last night alive lying on hard concrete, covered in dirt and faeces, and never broken the law. Those inside quickly chained themselves to each other and to the bars of the holding pens and the narrow, metal corridor, known as the race, where pigs are herded into the gas chamber. Others entered the gas chamber itself, with one climbing inside one of the metal crates, or gondolas, used to lower pigs into the gas, and others chaining themselves to bars. A third group of people climbed onto the roof of the slaughterhouse, unfurling a massive banner which read Stop Gassing Pigs for Pork - Ban Gas Chambers.

For the first few hours, we waited, sitting quietly in the dark, shivering in damp, cold clothes and trying to rest despite our surroundings. Some spent time with the pigs, giving them some small moments of human compassion and taking note of those who were injured and sick. At around 4am, the first worker arrived, sticking his head through the door and seeing those locked on in the pre-race pen, as well as the banner suspended above them. He smiled, shook his head and went to call the police who arrived shortly after. 

At the same time, a rally began to form outside, with people traveling through the night to protest on the public land outside the slaughterhouse. Despite police attempting to intimidate and threaten people, they held their ground and formed a strong presence with placards and banners. They also were a crucial support for those arrested, clapping and cheering as they were led out and waiting outside the police station until everyone was released and safely returned home. 

For over 7 hours, we disrupted operations at the slaughterhouse, with bold activists refusing to move or walk away and instead having to be cut out of their chains and carried out. Those inside the race and gas chamber and sitting on its roof, held out for as long as they could before police and Search And Rescue managed to use bolt cutters to break the chains that attached them to this deadly machine. Most people were released as soon as they were cut out, with only 7 people arrested and charged from the action. One activist attempted to run back inside after being escorted out, with her only thought being of the pigs who were safe only because of our presence. She was charged with trespass and refusing to leave when asked to do so.

The team on the roof stayed up there for over 12 hours, letting off smoke flares in the early hours of the morning and providing crucial support for those locked on below by filming arrests and police violence. After everyone inside was removed, they chose to come down voluntarily and weren't arrested. 


We received enormous mainstream media coverage, including primetime TV news across three major channels, drawing further attention to the plight of farmed pigs and the use of these archaic chambers.

This action came after a massive week asking for urgent action to ban gas chambers, following the release of our footage. We drove through the night from Melbourne to Canberra to ask Australian Pork Limited to meet with us and watch our footage of their 'humane' gas chambers, engaged in hours and hours of public outreach to raise awareness about the issue, visited the Victorian offices of the federal Department of Agriculture, collectively sent thousands of emails to the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Gayle Tierney, and coordinated a march where hundreds of people took over the streets of Melbourne asking for a kinder world for animals. 

Both the government and the pig meat industry refused our requests to meet or talk. The CEO of APL snuck out a back door to avoid us, while the federal Department of Agriculture hired several security guards, who ushered workers out a fire escape to avoid our peaceful protests and requests to organise a meeting with the Minister, Murray Watt. The Minister had ignored the email we sent to him after his own comments describing our footage of pigs being gassed to death as 'distressing.'

When the industry hides behind lies and deception and the government refused to act, we will intervene. This action was a response to a complete lack of accountability on the part of the Australian pig meat industry and the government. They will never act until we show them that there is no alternative and that kind, compassionate, bold people will continue to take action until they take the issues affecting animals seriously and take action. 

Our campaign to ban gas chambers is growing every day. Join the fight by following us on social media to hear about upcoming events and by taking online action at

Photos from Neth Kud, Gav Wheatley, TD Events and Catriona Marshall.

View more photos from the Benalla slaughterhoue shut-down


Harley McDonald-Eckersall

Harley McDonald-Eckersall is an activist, ally and anti-speciesist. With a focus on Animal Justice, Harley was the former co-founder of Young Voices for Animals before moving to the UK to work for Animal Rebellion. Back in Melbourne, she now works for Farm Transparency Project as the Strategy & Campaigns Director. Harley has also been involved with many other groups in Melbourne and was part of the April 8th Flinders Street Shut-down, organised by Vegan Rising as part of the Dominion Anniversary actions which were co-organised by Dominion Movement and Vegan Rising. To read more of Harley’s writing visit her blog at

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