No. 1.9 - The Hobart Abattoirs

Otago Witness , Issue 1901, 27 April 1888, Page 13

Before entering upon my subject I must make a few introductory remarks in regard to the progress of Hobart during the last quarter of a century. When Mormon carried off the Hobart Town Champion Race there was no such place as Franklin square, nor a bronze statue of Sir John Franklin (a popular Tasmanian Governor), nor a massive Town Hall building. No, this part of Macquarie street was only fit for menagerie and circus shows and the rubbish of the city. There was no Church of England cathedral, Lady Franklin's Museum, Cornelian Bay cemetery, and important buildings at the corner of such streets as Elizabeth, Collins, Liverpool, Brisbane, and Murray. What was known in those days as St. George's Hill (a large common) is now built on. Leaving Battery Point and the old ship yard, the tourist approaches the flagstaff and esplanade and opposite stands the residence of the Hon. A. McGregor, one of the oldest and most respected pioneers of the south of the island. Not unlike the city of St. Peter — Rome — the capital of Tasmania is built on seven hills so to speak. When leaving the Iron Pot (Derwent Lights house) to the right passengers from Dunedin sight Mount Nelson and then Mount Wellington, and further up the river catch a pretty view of Brown's river, Sandy Bay Point, and Sandy Bay.

Shortly after 10 a.m. "Warrior" arrived at the Hobart slaughter yards and commenced his inspection. To commence with, this establishment surpasses any other in Victoria, New South Wales, or South Australia, for I have been over them all, and can't forget the old proverb," Cleanliness is next to godliness." This slaughter house was erected about 32 years ago, and formerly belonged to the Government of Tasmania, who handed it over to the Hobart Corporation. Mr William Dossetor was the first inspector of this establishment, having been engaged in England by the Government. This gentleman continued in office when the yards were transferred to the City Council, when bylaws of the Municipal Council for the Hobart public slaughter house were made, ordained, and agreed to in pursuance of section 29 of " the Hobart Slaughter House Act."


The following is a most important bye-law, dated September 11, 1871.

"That the inspector of stock prohibit calves from being slaughtered for sale which are under the age of six weeks within the limits of The Hobart Town Slaughter Act, and that he also prohibit absolutely the practice of blowing either with the human mouth or by any other means whatever in or upon the carcass or carcasses of slaughtered calves or lambs for sale within the limits of 'The Hobart Town Slaughter Act,' and also the ejecting thereon any substance, liquid, matter, or thing, either by the mouth of the butcher or of any other person, or by any instrument whatever. Now therefore the said Municipal Council, pursuant to the powers given by the said act, doth hereby order, ordain, make, and enact that, from and after the due passing of this bye-law, every person who slaughters for sale within the limits of 'The Hobart Town Slaughter Act,' any calf or calves under the age six weeks shall forfeit and pay a penalty of not less than 20s nor more than £5 for every animal so slaughtered and it shall be lawful for the inspector of stock, the city inspector, the superintendent of police, or any sub-inspector of police to enter any shop or other place where the carcass or carcasses of any calf or calves so slaughtered as aforesaid are exposed for sale as the food for man, and to seize, take away, aud destroy the same. And the said Municipal Council doth hereby also ordain, make, and enact that, from and after the coming into operation of this bye-law, every person who blows either with the human mouth or by any other means whatever in or upon the carcass or carcasses of slaughtered calves or lambs for sale within the limits of 'The Hobart Town Slaughter Act,' or ejects thereon any substance, liquid, matter, or thing, either by the mouth of the butcher or of any other person, or by any instrument whatever, shall forfeit and pay a penalty of not less than 20s nor more than £5 for every animal so blown or ejected upon, and such animals shall be seized and dealt with in the manner hereinbefore provided. A. KENNERLEY, Mayor (L.S.) Henry WILKINSON, Town Clerk."

THE PRESENT INSPECTOR OF STOCK can thank Mr Dossetor for all he knows, having served eight years under that gentleman, during the last 12 months of which Mr Rheuben was really doing the work. Mr Dossetor was very infirm when he retired to make room for Mr George Propstring, who remained in the position for about 14 years. Mr S. Rheuben then took up the running. In addition to the duties of the slaughter house, this gentleman was appointed luspector of Stock at a very mean and contemptible salary.


Over 25,000 souls are daily fed upon the cattle, sheep, and pigs which are slaughtered at the Hobart abattoirs. This establishment, which I have already remarked, is one of the finest in Australia, stands upon an area of nearly six acres. Upon this enclosure are 15 private slaughtering pens with all necessary appliances, aud they are capable of holding 15 bodies of beef, 100 carcasses of mutton, and alarge number of pigs. The price per pen is 6s, so that a very fair revenue is made from the letting of private pens. Parties renting them must pay in advance, and lime wash the same at his own cost every three months. Mr Rheuben next showed me a very large slaughtering pen used by butchers who pay slaughtering dues in preference to rent. Every convenience was noticeable, and it was nearly equal to the same branch of the business which I inspected under Mr Conningsby's supervision in Launceston. What pleased "Warrior" most was the cleanliness of the 25 (private) cattle pens, which Mr Luke Walton (one of the most useful men to be found in any cattle yard in Australasia, and a man who can classify cattle and sheep in such away that owners can depend upon their bringing good prices under the hammer) informed me were capable of holding 12 head. Water is laid on, and there are hay racks fixed here and there for feed. Next we come to 29 cattle sale pens, each of which will contain about six head for sale purposes only, and two large yards for receiving cattle before being yarded. These two yards will hold comfortably 160 head of cattle.


There are 51 pens for sale purposes, each holding 30 head. These pens are covered over by a large and lofty shed. I certainly had my eyes opened as I walked into the large receiving yard for sheep, which is fully 200 ft long by 30ft wide. At the end of this yard there is a sheep dip, in which all imported sheep are dipped before being allowed to go out of the city boundary. We next come across the private sheep pens set apart for the use of butchers. There are 25 in all, and they are capable of holding 250 head each. These pens are not exposed to the weather, but are comfortably covered in. Water is also laid on here. Adjoining this portion of the slaughter house are four yards for the use of those who pay killing dues.

After reading the bye-laws of the Hobart slaughter house, I don't at all envy Mr Rheuben his position. He appears to be at the mercy of any alderman, especially the mayor. Gentlemen holding high positions, earned by 20 years of hard work and endurance, should be protected from every Tom, Jack, and Harry who may be pitchforked into the municipal aud borough councils of the colonies. No doubt Mr Rheuben requires a certain amount of clerical assistance, which I hope before I visit Tasmania next year, the City Council will see their way to grant him. Before concluding this article, allow me to thank Councillor Amott (acting mayor), the inspector of stock, and my worthy and esteemed friend Mr Luke Walton, for their kindness in receiving the representative of the Otago Witness in the handsome manner in which they did. Having partaken of slight refreshments at Mr Rheuben's residence, which is not far from the establishment, "Warrior" made tracks for the Hobart gaol, a description of which will be given in my next letter.


There are 16 sale pens in all for pigs, and large brick slaughter house for dressing pork with two coppers capable of holding 200 gal hot water each. As many as 150 pigs have been dressed in one day. At any rate 300 pigs can be put through the mill in this department, but the average per day slaughtered (very few Jewish families now reside in Hobart) is from 20 to 30.

Mr Rheuben was not very long in office as superintendent of the slaughter house when the Corporation took a very wise step in erecting 27 pigstyes capable of holding 540 pigs, namely, 25 in each pen. This department beats anything of the kind in Australasia and reflects great credit on the alderman who introduced the project to the council. I fancy he must have been a butcher who knew more about his business than the average proprietor of a newspaper knows about picking up type. This piggery, which is equal to anything of the kind south of the line, stands on an area of 981 square yards, and is asphalted, while the pens are floored with concrete. This branch of the abattoirs, I must confess, has all the best of it. Fronting these pens, aud within 40yds, are the beautiful waters of the Derwent. On the day of my visit a refreshing sea breeze was blowing and everything smelled clean and healthy.

Many people in Australasia, and especially in New Zealand and Queensland, fancy Tasmania cannot produce a sufficient number of cattle and sheep for home consumption. I must confess I was under this impression myself until figures proved to me the fallacy of the idea. So that my readers may depend upon facts, I submit the official return of stock slaughtered at the public slaughter house Hobart, during the year ending December 1887.

Stock Slaughtered
Cattle ; Colonial, 2785 ; imported, 1758.
Sheep ; Colonial, 27,380 ; imported, 22,855,
Lambs ; Colonial, 13,652 ; imported, 1626.
Colonials ; Calves, 491 ; pigs, 8626.
Nearly all the imported cattle are from New South Wales — hardly any from New Zealand. The greatest number of imported sheep are from the Victorian side.


After carefully inspecting the establishment, we made our way round to Mr Thomas Westbrook, auctioneer, who was disposing of some cattle which had only a few days before arrived from New Zealand. I was really astonished at the low prices these cattle brought, and questioned myself: Does it pay to send cattle from Queensland, New South Wales, and New Zealand ?. From the statistics I have before me, and the wretched prices brought by the New Zealanders, I cannot help concluding that it does not. How can the South Island of New Zealand compete against New South Wales; which is scarcely a third of the distance off. Facts speak for themselves, and therefore I submit to my readers the Superintendent's and Inspector of Stock's report, which he has kindly allowed me to publish. Strange to say, for the year ending 31st December 1887, out of the 29,369 sheep imported to Tasmania and sold, only 22,855 were slaughtered. I would like to know what became of the rest. There is no doubt Tasmanian butchers prefer foreign cattle to their own, for you will find in Mr Rheuben's two reports that there were 1824 cattle imported, 1758 of which were slaughtered. The following is a return of stock sold at the public slaughter house, Hobart, dating the year ending 31st day of December 1887.

Stock Sold.
Cattle ; Colonial, 2299 ; imported, 1824.
Sheep ; Colonial, 19,307 ; imported, 29,369.
Lambs ; Colonial, 6042 ; imported, 2192.
Colonials ; Calves, 159 ; pigs, 4679.