ABC Apologizes for Misleading Public Over ‘Swearing in Front of Sheep’ Story

ABC Rural Station Failed to Say That PETA Complaint Involved Sheep Being Punched, Stomped On, Beaten, and Otherwise Physically Abused as Shearers Swore at Them

For Immediate Release:
July 20, 2015


Following an investigation into a story by the Australian Broadcasting Association’s (ABC) ABC Rural department that incorrectly implied that a PETA complaint involving Boorungie Station was merely about swearing at sheep, the ABC removed the biased story, issued an apology, and is airing corrections on the programs that reported the misleading information. After a complaint from PETA Australia, the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs unit, which is not associated with the company’s content-producing departments, concluded that the story breached several of the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy, corrections, and clarifications, including that reporters must “make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context,” “not present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience,” and “acknowledge and correct or clarify, in an appropriate manner as soon as reasonably practicable.”

PETA’s complaint to the New South Wales branch of the RSPCA detailed incidents in which shearers working at Boorungie Station viciously punched sheep in the face, punched a lamb in the torso, stomped and stood on sheep’s heads and necks, struck the animals with a pipe and electric clippers until they bled, picked up one sheep by the hind legs and threw her head first through a gate, and crudely stitched up large, gaping wounds without any pain relief whatsoever.

The ABC’s response to PETA Australia’s complaint stated:

Audience and Consumer Affairs have concluded that the stories materially misled the audience; undue prominence was given to [the sheep farmer]’s claims and the story lacked the necessary context which was made available to ABC Rural by the statement provided by PETA. The presentation of the story would reasonably lead audience members to believe that verbal abuse claims were central to PETA’s complaint against Boorungie Sheep Station; which was demonstrably not the case.

A witness report filed with the authorities about Boorungie Station included the following:

[W]itness 2 saw this [X] worker … punch a sheep in the head, bouncing his or her skull off the hard wooden floor at the [X] shearing shed. Witness 2 then saw [X] hold the sheep’s head in his left hand as he punched the animal in the head, three more times, bloodying his knuckles and the sheep’s head. Witness 2 heard [X] repeatedly yell, “F**k” and then saw [X] stomp on the sheep’s head, twice, audibly bouncing the animal’s head off the hard wooden floor. After again yelling, “F**k,” [X] punched the sheep in the head a fifth time – again bouncing the animal’s head off the floor – and kicked the sheep in the torso. Witness 2 saw that the sheep bled from the head following the sustained beating and that the blood pooled on the floor.

“It was disgusting and shameless that they cut from the story every single detail of physical abuse, including that sheep were punched in the face, stomped on, cut open with clippers, and crudely stitched up without painkillers,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “We are grateful to the ABC oversight agency for finally revealing how sheep suffer and are deliberately injured in Australian shearing sheds.”

A redacted copy of the complaint to the RSPCA, along with copies of PETA Australia’s complaint to the ABC and the broadcaster’s response, is available upon request. A summary of the ABC’s findings is available here. To see video footage from the exposé of Australian shearing sheds, please visit

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