Slaughterhouse Rules

Reforming the Barrier's Noxious Trades

Officially opened on October 6 1908, Broken Hill’s council-owned abattoir was built to provide better sanitation than that provided by existing private or backyard slaughterhouses. In September 1909, keen to show his constituents that the public money was well-spent, Mayor Alderman Long toured the facility with The Barrier Miner’s photographer, James Wooler. Wooler captured the men of the ‘noxious trades’ at work, and the newspaper published a full-page photographic feature detailing the abattoir’s cleanliness and efficiency.

Animal slaughter was administered by the New South Wales Board of Health when the Noxious Trades and Cattle Slaughtering Act was passed in 1894. Typhoid and other food- and water-borne diseases had plagued Broken Hill, and drainage was poor, causing the smell of effluent to permeate. In the late 1880s, the town’s mortality rate was more than twice the New South Wales average. As a result of a growing awareness of germ theory, the abattoir was located six miles from town to keep the noxious trades – abattoirs, piggeries, tanneries, fellmongers, wool scourers and glue makers – outside densely populated areas.

News about the arrival of the abattoir rippled through the community with varying effects. Although Russian émigré and shochet (a person trained in the Jewish laws related to humane animal slaughter and cleanliness, which include bleeding out the meat and salting it), Louis Edelman had previously supplied the Jewish community with kosher meat, their continued access to privately slaughtered animals would have been in violation of the Noxious Trades Act. The council gave shochet Rev. Zalel Mandelbaum access to the abattoir, providing the congregation with legal kosher meat.

Spiritual practices and the health board’s regulation over slaughter was a catalyst for the notorious Picnic Train attack on January 1 1915. Mohammedan (Muslim) laws forbid the slaughter of any animal where pigs are also killed because they are considered impure. Halal butcher, Mullah Abdullah had been fined repeatedly by local Sanitary Inspector, Cornelius Brosnan for killing animals at the camel camp. He was so incensed by the incursion on his spirituality that he joined Gool Mahomed in the attack on the Picnic Train.