• Defending introduced animals against state funded suffering

    Last week the NSW government passed a bill, that, on first glance looked innocent enough.

    However, when we dug a bit deeper, the bill enables the Minister to spend nearly $3 million dollars a year on providing farmers with 1080 baits and other cruel so called ‘control’ methods for killing animals deemed pests. Among these introduced animals deemed pests by livestock graziers and the like are foxes, pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, deer, and even our native Dingo. How did we as a society get to the point where we treat innocent animals with such disdain, such venom? That, in order to ‘ farm’ animals for slaughter and ruin the environment we then give money to promote suffering to introduced animals trying to survive in an ever decreasing natural habitat, is a massive contradiction.

    Mark ensured these animals had their say and urged the government to support a proposed AJP amendment that would see 25% of these funds to fund research and development for non-lethal methods of management.

    Watch or read the full speech below.

    I speak to the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2017. First, while the Animal Justice Party does not support the bill, I note that we oppose only one key section. That is the increased funding for killing so-called “pest species”. We had hoped to propose some sensible and proactive amendments but, as this is a money bill, that can only be done in the other place. I will touch on those amendments a little later. In relation to the Animal Justice Party’s concerns, my understanding is that the bill seeks to join general pest animal management funding with the existing locust fund, which generates its income from a levy placed on the landholders. While funding for locust control remains the main priority, residual funds will be used to target those species that are deemed to be pests with the cheapest, yet cruellest, forms of killing control—a control method that has been proven time and time again not to work in the end. In fact, it has the opposite effect in that mass slaughter provides only a quick, forced population control result.

    Professor Tony English of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine stated that, despite 200 years of shooting, poisoning and trapping, feral animal numbers continue to rise. Feral animal populations have thrived not due to the setting aside of national parks, but due to the massive degradation and devegetation of the landscape that has compromised natural ecosystems and their native specie, thus creating a niche for feral animals. Much research has been published about the crude killing methods of control. It reveals that removing an introduced species from an ecosystem that has adapted to its existence, to a point, has a negative ripple effect for other animals. A basic example is the wiping out of rabbits in certain areas. While farmers rejoiced, it caused a dramatic decrease in quoll numbers because our native raptors, rather than preying on defenceless, prolific rabbits, turned to preying on quolls. Quoll numbers decreased, raptors struggled for food, and more and more consequential changes occurred down the food chain.

    We cannot go back to 1769 in relation to introduced species. Foxes, wild dogs, wild pigs, rabbits, cats, mice and rats have been born here for many generations and now fill an ecological niche. Given the massive habitat loss and changes in landscape, mostly due to agribusiness and the forestry industry, we must accept that our ecosystems are evolving and adapting. Rather than, as this bill appears to propose, providing a new avenue of funding for 1080 poisoning programs, mass slaughters, cruel hunting techniques and lethal viruses that cause long, lingering deaths, we should be investing in the research and development of more humane and non-lethal, but effective, control methods. While I note that there is a research and development area within the Department of Primary Industries, it is limited by general funding that is provided to the entire department. There is no designated fund to evolve the area past being more than a mechanism to support more profitable animal farming. Sadly, in regard to animal welfare it is merely a token gesture.

    Our amendment idea is simple and, since I cannot move the amendment in Committee, I urge the Minister and the Government to think seriously about its intentions and desired outcomes. Simply put, we call for a proportion of the residual funds—that is, what is left once the allocation for locust control has been made—to go to funding specific research and development of more humane and non-lethal methods of introduced animal control. We propose that no less than 25 per cent of the residual funds be provided and utilised only for introduced animal control research and development, and for such programs that are shown to be effective in other parts of the world, such as immunosterility contraceptive methods. These methods are being used with wild horses in Canada and with elephants in Africa, and are being trialled with some success with possums in New Zealand.

    But to ensure transparency and an accurate cost-benefit measurement, we also suggest that an annual report be provided outlining where the funds were spent and the outcomes and trials conducted as part of the specific introduced animal management plan. This report should also show the percentage of funding allocated in excess of the minimum of 25 per cent. Overall, our aim with this proposal is to ensure that introduced animal management provided by government tackles the long-term strategic view of genuine population control through humane and effective, non-lethal means. If funds are to be used to kill animals in the most barbaric and cruel ways, based purely on cost, it is only reasonable that a portion of those funds go into research and development of, not just more humane methods, but better long-term outcomes in reducing innocent introduced animal populations.

  • The REAL story on NSW Council pounds

     

    For many years I worked at Animal Liberation NSW and it was not unusual for me to receive complaints from distressed individuals about the fate of companion animals held in council pounds. When I was elected to Parliament, amongst the first calls my office received were in regard to the terrible conditions of some council pounds—allegations of outright cruelty and neglect of impounded animals, high kill rates and unacceptably low rehoming rates. For a nation that prides itself on its relationship with “man’s best friend” and the frequently cited observation that companion animals are “part of the family”, we discard tens of thousands of dogs and cats each year. These animals often end up in council pounds and face an uncertain future. That future is dependent upon the resources invested by individual councils to provide decent facilities, caring staff and a commitment to working with rescue groups to rehome as many animals as possible.

    Improvement in reducing kill rates and increasing rehoming rates across New South Wales must be acknowledged as being due to the enormous efforts of volunteer and self-funded rescue and rehoming groups that outperform council pounds and authorised agencies such as RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League. New South Wales statistics collected for the period 2013-14 show that council pounds rehomed 5,549 cats and dogs, and killed 14,641 animals, the vast majority being healthy animals. The RSPCA rehomed 10,718 but killed 12,641, with one-third being killed for failing the behavioural temperament test. Community rescue groups rehomed approximately 8,000 and euthanased fewer than 200, all for genuine illness or severe behavioural problems.

    In my travels to regional areas, I will often meet with carer groups that work hard to improve the lives of impounded animals and do their best to work with councils to rehome cats and dogs. Frustration is evident in pound reform advocates who observe a lack of accountability and transparency in regard to councils discharging their obligations under the Companion Animals Act. Advocates complain about being referred between the Office of Local Government and NSW Department of Primary Industries when complaining about animal welfare in pounds.

    Although councils are required to comply with both the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Code of Practice for Cats and Dogs in Animal Boarding Establishments, many councils are either unaware or fail to comply. Examples include Griffith pound’s failure to provide daily exercise for dogs, pounds such as Singleton where animals are exposed to the extremes of weather, and Wagga pound where cats were placed alive in freezers. Evidence from the McHugh Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry found that Kempsey Shire Council Dog Pound’s record-keeping was so deficient it could not account for the number of greyhounds surrendered. The use of more than 250 millilitres of euthanasia drugs was not recorded

    I note that pounds are still legally allowed to shoot dogs and kill cats by direct needlestick to the heart or peritoneal cavity. These are marked down in reports as “euthanasia”, with some councils dumping bodies at the local tip. The public would be outraged if they knew. The public are generally unaware of the state of pounds, which can be hidden away near council tips and water treatment sites. A number of council pounds are failing to adhere to the requirements to be open for a minimum of four hours per day, making it difficult for people to reunite with their lost cats or dogs. Many pounds also refuse public access, making adoptions and rehoming difficult. I believe that a comprehensive audit undertaken by the Office of Local Government of all New South Wales council pounds, with findings and recommendations, is the only way the public can obtain a truly accurate account of the state of New South Wales pounds and the care that they provide to impounded companion animals.

  • Love is Love – Why I support Marriage Equality

    I fully support the right of each person to marry the partner of their choice, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

    Marriage has changed throughout the ages, reflecting the values and aspirations of each succeeding generation. Up until the 1950s, children could legally marry; brides as young as twelve and grooms fourteen years of age. It is not that long ago that wives pledged to ‘honour and obey’ their husbands and married women were unable to own property or earn an equal wage. Matrimony was once an obligatory life-time commitment, regardless of the breakdown of the marriage, with divorce a rarity until the family law reforms of the 1970s. Reliable contraception, smaller families, changing social attitudes and longer lifespans mean that marriage is no longer primarily about raising children. Our current ideal of a loving marriage between two consenting adults who wish to share their lives together as equals is very much a 21st century concept.

    I consider that our society is well and truly ready for another change; to include same sex couples in the modern definition of marriage. It is in reality a very small step; widening the arc of love and legal commitment to include two adults that are of the same gender. The Netherlands enacted same sex marriage in 2001 and the dykes haven’t collapsed into the sea. Belgium still makes the best chocolate, even vegan chocolate and in Australia any wailing or gnashing of teeth as a consequence of gaining marriage equality, will all be over by morning tea.

    I believe that the public celebration of loving, happy and respectful relationships in all their diversity is a social good. Every Australian should have the same rights under law, including the expression of their sexual love in a State-approved marriage. Marriage equality fosters inclusiveness and acceptance which advances the physical, mental and spiritual health of same-sex attracted people. Surely such an emotionally mature and enriching relationship will provide a strong foundation for a loving family environment in which to raise children. I believe the right to marry is an inalienable and fundamental human right for all consenting adults, regardless of gender.

  • Notice of Motion – Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition

    THREATENED SPECIES CHILDREN’S ART COMPETITION 2017

    On Threatened Species Day 2017, I was privileged to host the Threatened Species Day Children’s Art Competition. This is an amazing event which has grown by 250% since last year. It is exciting to see the connection children have with individual animals and their right to a free life in this world. Interestingly, ever piece of art I saw showed animals in the natural habitat, free from the bars of zoos and cages of captivity. To commend the event and congratulate the winners and organisers I gave a Notice of Motion to the House which was unanimously agreed to.

    Children have an inspiring connection with animals and this is a trait that must be nurtured into adulthood so that we can have a better life for ALL.

    1. That this House commends Forestmedia Network Incorporated for facilitating the 2017 Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition, which helps children unleash their artistic creativity while learning about the extinction crisis facing our native plants and animals; and which aims to encourage the next generation of environmental leaders.
    2. That this House acknowledges that with more than 1,000 species now threatened in New South Wales alone, environmental leaders have never been more needed.
    3. That this House congratulates the organisers of the event held on Threatened Species Day at Parliament House: Lorraine Bower, Susie Russell, Lindie Ward, Penny Walton, Stephanie Knox, Jenny Ellyard, Jenny Symons and Bri gid Dowsett.
    4. That this House thanks the Hon. Gabrielle Upton, MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage , and Minister for Local Government, and Dr Mehreen Faruqi, MLC, for their attendance and contributions to the discussion.
    5. That this House notes:
      1. entries to the 2017 competition have grown by 250 per cent, with more than 1,600 children entering, involving 68 schools and 14 other programs;
      2. the quality of the artistic work was inspiring and it is a testament to the future environmental leaders concerns for the future of our unique threatened species of flora and fauna—a future where they may never be able to see their chosen species in the wild, or see it at all;
      3. two exhibitions are being held—one at Surry Hills from 9 to 23 September 2017 and one in the open space at the Botanic Garden from 15 to 29 September 2017; and
      4. that the following schools and children’s programs participated in the competition: Alma Public, Beecroft Public, Ben Venue Public, Blue Mountains Steiner, Booligal Public, Broadwater Public, Brighton Le Sands Public, Burraneer Bay Public, Canley Vale Public, Capa Marks Point Public, Castle Cove Public, Cessnock West Public, Corndale Public, Jerrabomberra Public, John Colet School Belrose, Lawson Public, Lane Cove West Public, Largs Public, Larnook Public, Maribyrnong Primary, Middle Dural Public, Molong Central, Mother Teresa School, Mount Keira Demonstration School, Mullion Creek Public, Murray Farm Public, Murwillumbah public, Neville Bonner Primary; North Wagga Public, Ocean Shores Public, Oxley Park Public, Parramatta North Public, Paxton Public, Peterborough School [SSP], Plunkett Street School, Point Clare Public; Quakers Hill Public, RED inc—In school support, Roseville College, Sherwood Grange Public, St Clair Public, St Mark’s Catholic Primary, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary, St Patrick’s Primary, Sydney Children’s Hospital School, Sylvania Heights Public, Tamworth Public, Telopea Park Public, Tambelin Independent School, The Channon Public, Thomas Acres Public, Waitara Public, Weethalle Public, Westdale Public, West Ryde Public, Young Public, Ultimo children’s program, King George V children’s program The Rocks, Pyrmont children’s program, Crown Street children’s program, Redfern children’s program, Woolloomooloo children’s program, Girls and Boys Brigade holiday program Surry Hills, Girls and Boys Brigade after school program Surry Hills, Naidoc Festival, Art Box Workshops, Class Artz at Woollahra, Clovelly, Paddington, Kensington, Waverley and Randwick school s, Young Artists, and Art Zone- Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery.
    6. That the House thanks the following supporting organisations and individuals for their considerable contribution to the event and subsequent exhibitions: the Animal Justice Party; the City of Sydney Matching Grants program; Sophie Daniel, Team Leader, Community and Education Programs—Botanic Garden, and Mary Bell, Education Coordinator, School Programs—Botanic Garden ; Bren Weatherstone and the ACT Chapter of the Australian Association of Environmental Educators; Victoria Johnstone, Creative Director, Surry Hills Festival; Cassie Tilbrook, Gillian Elliott and the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre; Trish, Robyn, Georgia and the Byles Creek Valley Association; Donna Upton and the Capertee Valley Association; Jill; Helen and STEP Inc; Taronga Zoo; Featherdale Wildlife Park; Hoyts; the National Parks Association NSW; the Wilderness Society Sydney; Nature Conservation Trust; WIRES; Humane Society International; Nature Conservation Council NSW; Australian Forests and Climate Alliance; Animals Australia; North Coast Environment Council; South East Coast Regional Council; Nambucca Valley Conservation Association; and Caldera Environment Centre.
    7. That this House congratulates all the entrants in the competition and makes special note of the 2017 award winners:
      1. Kevin Yeh, (6)—first place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      2. Emily Nees, (6)— second place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      3. Amelia Gutwenger, (6)— highly commended in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      4. Jasper Hartmann, (8)—first place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      5. Anneliese Gutwenger, (10)—second place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      6. Jaccob Trevisan, (10)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      7. Natalie Barclay, (9)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      8. Claire Camilleri, (11)—first place in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      9. Sarah Chen, (11)—second place i n the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      10. Sonia Pillai, (11)— highly commended in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      11. Michelle Ciu, (9)—first place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      12. Mahli Barnes, (9)—second place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      13. Buraneer Bay [Skeleton]—First place in the category of Group Work;
      14. Art Box Workshops [Lepidopteras] —second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      15. Oxley Art Group [Fragile Beauty]—second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      16. Art Box Workshops [Rosenberg’s Goanna]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      17. Forrest Public School [Golden Sun Moths]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      18. Jake Fergusen, (11)—first place in the category of Best Written Explanation;
      19. Alyssa Sim, (8)—second place in the category of Best Written Explanation; and
      20. Kieren Kelly, (9)— highly commended in the category of Written Expression.
  • When will the Minister responsible for Animal Welfare understanding animal suffering?

    The Minister for Primary Industries clearly doesn’t have any concerns about the pain and suffering caused to introduced animals such as foxes and wild dogs when baited with 1080 poison. His ministerial responsibilities include the welfare of all animals, and that includes so called ‘pest’  animals. Instead of addressing the question about options for non-lethal and humane controls, Minister Blair decided to attack me for the hypocrisy of once eating fish and wearing leather and wool (not true).

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: During question time on 5 April the Minister stated support for the widespread use of 1080 poison to kill introduced animals such as wild dogs and foxes. Given that the welfare of all animals in New South Wales is his ministerial responsibility, irrespective of the category status imposed by humans, will the Minister advise whether his department has considered humane or non-lethal alternatives to 1080 baiting?

    If not, does the Minister accept the scientific evidence that so-called “pest” species are capable of experiencing pain and suffering, and the ingestion of 1080 poison causes immense suffering to baited animals irrespective of which animals they are?

    The Hon. NIAL L BLAIR: I stand by the comments I made in relation to pest animals and 1080 poison. I know my department, along with other agencies, looks at alternatives to poisoning for some of these pest animals. For example, a good bullet in the head would be appropriate for a wild dog that attacked poor defenceless lambs or left some of the sheep they attacked with their guts hanging out and suffering. As I have said previously, 1080 is licensed for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. It is a Federal issue.

    The member should not think for one second that he can enter this Chamber and have me start feeling sorry for introduced species that inflict pain and suffering upon livestock and, importantly, to many native animals. Native animals, including birds, suffer attack by feral dogs, foxes and feral cats. I will not change my mind. The member is wasting parliamentary question time. The 1080 poison is registered for use. The producers and agencies must stay within the protocols of that registration. The agencies that make those decisions do not report to me. That is my answer.

    It is one thing to say that members should be concerned about animal welfare that is governed by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, it is another matter to suggest that these introduced pest animals are in the same class. They inflict damage upon the economy and environment of this State. I am not going to apologise for one second for the fact that our agencies and farmers are using 1080 to eradicate those pests. The damage they do far outweighs any other consideration. My answer stands and I will not apologise for it. As long as those responsible for the control of the pest animals adhere to the requirements and protocols attached to the products I will help producers to gain access to 1080 poison that eliminates feral animals.

    I have stood with farmers while Local Land Services handed out chicken heads injected with 1080 for use on their properties to control foxes. I will accept criticism that I am not doing enough in this space and I will go back to the agencies and say, “Let’s do more”, but I will never say in this Chamber that we should do less. I do not accept the member’s hypocritical view. We joke in this place about media reports concerning the member, but he walks in here with leather on his feet, wool in his suit and fish in his belly and attempts to impose his ideology on us. The member has been caught out as a hypocrite. The question is hypocritical. The member should stand up for our native animals. If the member spent more time on that area I might take the question seriously.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate upon his answer as to what is the research that the department is doing into humane and non-lethal methods for “pest” control?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: As I have previously stated, the department looks at other methods for control of these animals, including a bullet in the head or chest of some of the feral animals.

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