• 22/03/2016: Question without notice, Hard shell crustaceans

    In the lead up to the Easter celebration in which many of society consume seafood Mark asked the Minister if he is aware of any breaches in relation to boiling hard shell crustaceans alive. Currently this is illegal in restaurants but no such legal protection is afforded in seafood markets or similar. Our office will follow up on the answer when it is provided.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries. The website of the Department of Primary Industries and the code of conduct of the Master Fish Merchants Association state that the boiling of live hard shell crustaceans is an unacceptable method of killing. It has been brought to my attention that hard shell crustaceans are being boiled alive in seafood markets or other outlets which sell directly to the public as opposed to restaurants, which sell seafood for consumption.

    If this is so, why is this practice being allowed?

    Will the Minister advise members whether there has been any breach regarding the unacceptable methods of killing crustaceans at New South Wales seafood markets in the past 12 months?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA) only applies to a crustacean when at a building or place (such as a restaurant) where food is prepared or offered for consumption by retail sale in the building or place.
    The Department of Primary Industries’ guideline on humane harvesting of fish and crustaceans is not prescribed under POCTA, but is used by POCTA enforcement agencies to inform compliance and enforcement.
    The Department’s guideline does not say that boiling of live hard shell crustaceans is an unacceptable method; it recommends that all crustaceans be immersed in a salt water/ice slurry for a minimum of 20 minutes before boiling, broiling, pithing or cutting.
    The Department of Primary Industries administers POCTA but does not enforce it or have information on breaches relating to crustaceans. The enforcement agencies are RSPCA NSW, Animal Welfare League NSW and NSW Police.
    RSCPA NSW has advised the Department that it has issued a penalty infringement notice to a proprietor at the Sydney Fish Markets in the past 12 months.

  • 23/03/2016: Adjournment speech ‘See No Evil-Treatment of Animals’

    SEE NO EVIL-TREATMENT OF ANIMALS

    My adjournment speech is based on the writings of Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan in regards to the equitable treatment of animals in governance and policy. Since the time of the Industrial Revolution animals have been slowly excluded from the lives of most humans. Until relatively recently both rural and city dwellers had direct experience of the economic exploitation of animals, from horses used for transport and in agriculture, cattle and sheep driven to be slaughtered at open markets, to eggs collected from backyard chicken coops.

    Increased urbanisation and agricultural industrialisation ended the eye witness observation of the lives and deaths of animals used by humans. This dislocation has resulted in the invisibility of the lived experiences of farmed animals and those animals used in medical research. Slaughterhouses with all their blood, gore and stench have been exiled from our cities. Intensively farmed pigs and chickens spend their few miserable weeks of life contained in massive, windowless sheds far from the casual observation of passers-by. While farmed animals may live their lives almost entirely unseen that does not mean that they are not subject to the law.

    We have animal welfare legislation such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and a multitude of codes of practice, standards and guidelines which detail the ways in which animals may be lawfully treated by industry. A thin veneer of animal welfare sits alongside a prohibition upon unnecessary suffering. However, if the average citizen could see the suffering caused by lawful practices such as mulesing, castration, de-horning, tail-docking and eye teeth removal—all without pain relief in the main—I am sure that they would demand higher levels of standards of care. Our citizens rely upon their members of Parliament and regulatory bodies to safeguard that what happens in these hidden places meets community standards concerning animal wellbeing. Time and again it has been shown that the public’s expectations are not being met.

    Exposes by animal rights and welfare groups have shown cruel treatment of pigs, ducks, turkeys and chickens, to name a few instances where animal activists have recorded images that horrify the nation. Community outrage occurs each and every time these images of suffering are broadcast and it clearly shows that the public does care about the lives of animals. It is disturbing, however, that the Government and industry response is not to improve animal wellbeing standards and better resource enforcement agencies, but rather in the main to attack and criminalise the messenger.

    This lack of transparency disenfranchises citizens and helps generate inconsistencies in animal welfare laws. It undermines the role of citizens as policy participants and forces animal activists to engage in illegal behaviour in an attempt to put animal welfare on the political agenda. The introduction of ag-gag laws via the Biosecurity Act and the Inclosed Lands Amendment (Interference) Bill increase penalties for animal activists who in the public interest capture footage of animal suffering on private lands. Ministers talk of activists as vigilantes and terrorists but our regulatory system makes independent oversight of intensive farming facilities virtually impossible.

    Dr O’Sullivan stated:
    The only people who see agricultural animals are those who financially benefit from bringing them into the world, and then killing them. Such people are not reliable witnesses. They cannot be trusted as the only source, or even the primary source, of information about whether an animal’s life is good or not.
    How can we ensure that the laws regulating the lives of animals reflect community values, when the community has little to no capacity to see or engage with animals? How can the community inform animal welfare laws, when we know very few animals? If the community is unable to drawn its own conclusions about the suitability of animal protection laws made in its name, what type of challenge does this pose to liberal democratic values?

    Watch the video of the speech below.

  • 17/03/2016: Question without notice, Baboons used in medical research

    Mark asked the Minister for Medical Research and Assistant Minister for Health. An answer was provided on the 4th of May. Apart from the general lack of oversight revealed in the answer the alarming fact that the Animal Research Act 1985 restricts the disclosure of information obtained about specific research projects. If everything is ok and acceptable to community expectations then what does the government and researchers have to hide? Transparency is key for community trust so why is it that anything relating to animal use hidden from the community and the citizens whose taxes fund this research?

    Would the Minister advise the House of the critical outcomes of the medical research conducted from 2012 to 2015 on baboons kept at the Wallacia facility, pertaining to xenotransplantation, including whether xenotransplantation was performed on a baboon known as Conan?

    1. If so, was this the first of its kind in the world?
    2. Did Conan die due to complications from this procedure?
    3. What experiments were performed on the baboons known as Scar, Belvedere and Frazer? What were the causes of their deaths?

    ANSWER

    The Department of Primary Industries administers the Animal Research Act 1985.
    The Department accredits animal research establishments and receives reports on animal use statistics from them each year, which are collated and reported in the Animal Research Review Panel Annual Report. The information collected is general and deals with numbers of different species of animals used for categorised purposes and categorised levels of impact. The Department does not routinely collect more specific information about individual research projects.
    On a needs basis, information is obtained about specific research projects in the course of administration of the Act. The Act restricts the disclosure of this information.
    Each accredited establishment is responsible for ensuring that research applications are approved by their Animal Ethics Committee. The research applications must include detailed information including the justification for the use of animals, as well as the impacts of all parts of the research project on the animals, and how these impacts will be minimised.
    Published articles are available in the scientific literature on the use of baboons from the National Baboon Colony for xenotransplantation studies. See for example the American Journal of Transplantation June 2014

  • Close up shot of stranded barbed wire

    24/02/2016: The Devils Rope-The history of barbed wire

    On Wednesday 24th of February i gave an adjournment speech about the deleterious effects of the Devils Rope more commonly known as barbed wire.

    THE DEVILS ROPE

    For millennia, the great American plains were covered in fertile grasslands grazed by countless herds of buffalo, but that all changed with the coming of the cowboys and their cattle, followed by settlers planting their crops of corn and wheat. When the interests of these two groups collided, American ingenuity came up with a deadly solution that the American Indians called “the devil’s rope.” In the 1860s, Joseph Glidden designed a fence with sharp metal barbs twisted around a strand of smooth wire. This fencing kept the cows in, the buffalo out and the crops safe. By the late 1870s, three million pounds of barbed wire was produced annually and the buffalo died in their millions, cut off from food and water. By the end of the century, the west was crisscrossed with the devil’s rope.

    The devil’s rope quickly found its way to Australia and by the late 1860s barbed wire fencing was being rolled out across the country, creating death traps for wildlife and causing untold damage to introduced animals, including farm animals. As the twentieth century progressed, a new and searing image of barbed wire would enter the modern consciousness. Barbed wire became the symbol of World War I trench warfare and, later, the deathly emblem of the world’s concentration camps. Barbed wire truly is the devil’s rope.

    Today, barbed wire fencing is ubiquitous throughout New South Wales. One hundred and fifty years of barbed wire fencing has left a blight on the landscape and an ever-present danger for animals, killing and maiming flying foxes, gliders, native birds, and other vulnerable and endangered species as well as livestock—cattle, horses and sheep. More than 60 native specie’s across New South Wales have been recorded in barbed wire entanglements, and they are just the ones that have been witnessed. Two of the greatest risks are the proximity of the wire to food trees and water sources.

    There are simple solutions to this problem and it is a tragedy that more landholders are unaware of or have not considered these options in removing risks to animals: removing barbed wire from orchards and plantations where there are no livestock; removing barbed wire from old fencing no longer in use; replacing the top two strands of barbed wire with plain wire; covering the top strand of barbed wire with polypipe tubing; and stringing fencing with plain wire, which is now significantly cheaper and stronger than barbed wire.

    Many landholders use barbed wire out of habit from previous times when wire was not as strong and fencing labour was cheap. There is no longer any need for barbed wire fencing, except in limited circumstances. In the vast majority of cases, barbed wire can be reduced or removed without any adverse impacts on livestock management. Removal of barbed wire from agistments will also reduce the number of serious injuries caused to horses each year. Landholders should also be aware that they may be liable under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 for causing harm to protected animals caught up in barbed wire on their property. It is important for landholders to check their fencing regularly so that it does not become a death trap for native animals.

    The most enlightened legislation for the use of barbed wire can be found in Norway. Under the Norwegian Animal Welfare Act barbed fences must be constructed and maintained to reduce the risk of harm to grazing animals, and courts may order the removal of fences deemed dangerous to animals. Local councils are also empowered to prohibit the use of barbed wire for fencing on private lands. As parliamentarians we can mandate the removal of barbed wire fencing from national park boundaries and government-owned lands. We can provide funding for education materials to highlight the fencing options available to farmers to reduce the risks to wildlife, farm animals and other animals. Is it not time the devil’s rope was consigned to history?

  • 29/02/2016: “Ways Out Of A Cruel Deadly Maze” – Companion Animal Roundtable

    After several months of planning including meetings with and visits to a number of rescue groups, our office held Companion Animal Roundtable on the 26th February at Parliament House. The purpose of the Roundtable was to consult with 16d and other grassroots rescue groups to discuss “Ways Out Of A Cruel Deadly Maze”- the theme of Mark’s inspiring introductory speech.

    The Roundtable highlighted the problems of oversupply of companion animals including stray and surrendered animals, high kill-rates in pounds and shelters and the need to improve re-homing rates. We noted that the system for protecting the well-being of these animals is BROKEN, and that rescue groups were very much a successful part of the solution for solving these issues.

    We discussed ways of supporting free-living animals such as colony cats and considered calls for an extension of the definition of companion animals to include horses, chickens, guinea pigs rabbits and others. Education of the general public, carers, rangers and pound staff was also identified as a high priority. Funding, better resources and greater recognition for animal rescue groups was seen as crucial in supporting their work, as well as dismantling barriers within the local government bureaucracy that prevents 16d groups from accessing and re-homing animals that are otherwise abandoned on death row.

    From here our office will be developing a framework for legislative and policy reform with input from selected stakeholders, including consultation with the RSCPA and the Animal Welfare League.

    From Mark and his staff we truly appreciate all those that participated and made the event a success. This is the vital first step that has been long overdue towards finding the way out of the cruel deadly maze.

    Mark Pearson making his introductory speech to attendees of the Companion Animal Roudtable held by our office

    Mark Pearson making his introductory speech to attendees of the Companion Animal Roudtable held by our office

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