• Mark’s powerful speech in support of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018

    The Animal Justice Party expresses its overwhelming support for the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 and commends all of the work done by the Hon. Paul Green and everybody who has worked with him. The extraordinary thing about slavery is that it has been an insidious, ugly instrument in our societies for thousands of years. Unfortunately, people who travel the world to look at the tourist attractions are often enjoying the fruits of slavery. I am talking about buildings such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt and some of the most glorious buildings that have been commissioned by churches and governments across Europe. When we go to these countries and walk among the attractions we are filled with awe, but the one menacing, disturbing truth is that, in the main, they were created by slaves. Many of those slaves suffered long, lingering deaths; they were crushed by the work they did on the very beautiful buildings that we can admire today.

    But slavery affects our everyday lives in Australia. Most of the t-shirts that are worn during summer are produced as a result of acts of slavery in sweatshops. We are learning, more and more, that it is very difficult for companies to find sources of garments—even shoes—where slavery has not been involved in some part of the production. Some of us feel uncomfortable when we walk across the beautiful rugs we have procured over time and put on the floors of our houses, only to learn that it is quite possible that children who were chained to carpet‑making operations in India and Pakistan were forced to make those carpets. Children work long hours making carpets and, in some cases, are never allowed to leave the factory in which they work.

    In Australia, it has become apparent that slavery has been used in fruit-picking, in other agricultural industries, and in construction industries. There have been instances where people who have come to Australia on particular visas to do part-time work have found themselves enslaved. In the worst cases, people have been involved in the sexual exploitation of children; they pay a very small amount of money and cause a child or a person to be kidnapped, taken to a place, raped, tortured and, in some cases—for example, in the production of snuff movies—murdered. It was a big step forward when legislation was passed so that when Australians committed sexual offences against children in other countries they could be extradited back to Australia and, even better, face charges in Australia for that sexual abuse. These have been welcome advances in legislation.

    I have some concerns about the Modern Slavery Bill. It could have more teeth—more strength—and be more compelling. I think the commissioner should have far more powers. The commissioner should have the power to investigate and to compel the relevant authorities to investigate and issue warrants. The bill should have the strength and power to support the principle and spirit of the bill. I understand the Government will move amendments to the bill, but this is a bill which is about stopping slavery—about preventing harm of the vulnerable—and no amendment should detract from the spirit of the bill. Any amendment, from any member of any party, should go only to galvanizing the spirit of this bill, which is about protecting the most vulnerable—being a shield and a sword for them. The vulnerable include children and women. It has been said that domestic violence is a form of slavery. If people, including children, have to flee to refuges it means that they have been enslaved. We must be very aware that slavery manifests in very subtle, sinister ways. An act of slavery might be for only half a day, but it is still slavery.

    I implore the Government that any amendment—whether it is introduced here or in the other place—strengthens the bill. This bill should also cover all Government departments. There should be no exemptions—even for small businesses should not be exempt, in any way, from the requirements and the powers of this bill. I note the amendment to be moved by Mr. David Shoebridge, which would include tissue trafficking. We should be introducing amendments such as that, which will strengthen the provisions and provide more detail so that this bill captures all the exploiters and all of the evil actions that can cause such harm and such brutal exploitation of any living being in Australia or around the world. I commend the bill to the House.

  • Adjournment Speech – Veterinarians Mental Health

    A series of studies conducted in recent years have identified elevated rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among Australian veterinarians, with a suicide rate four times higher than the general population. These figures are consistent with studies conducted in Great Britain and America. There is clearly a common thread concerning the mental health challenges of the profession. Murdoch University is currently conducting research on the mental health of Australian veterinarians, which will hopefully assist the profession in improving the mental well-being of its members.

    Multiple studies cite risk factors such as long hours and highly stressful decision-making, the difficulty of recruiting locums to take much needed breaks, and in rural areas these difficulties are compounded by professional isolation. These are common stressors across many professions, but there are additional emotional stressors, such as the regular killing of animals, combined with easy access to lethal drugs, that are unique to the veterinary profession. The 2016 Australian National Coronial Information System report noted a history of self-poisoning suicides linked to drugs available in veterinary clinics.

    While there are no equivalent Australian figures, British studies showed that 81 per cent of veterinarians entered the profession due to their desire to work with the human-animal bond. Women veterinarians in particular were identified as having high levels of empathy towards animals. This empathy towards animals may, in a large part, be the cause of the mental distress experienced by veterinarians. Across a range of international studies, young and female veterinarians are at greatest risk of job dissatisfaction, leading to mental health difficulties and suicidal ideation. “Compassion fatigue” or “vicarious trauma” was identified as a risk factor leading to suicide.

    The realities of veterinary practice can be emotionally gruelling. Many vets speak of the distress of being responsible for ending animals’ lives, either directly in the case of euthanising sick or injured animals, or worse, being required to kill perfectly healthy unwanted animals, or indirectly in the case of the slaughter of farmed animals. Vets also found themselves in professionally challenging situations where they encountered animal abuse and neglect. Some studies have questioned whether the routine euthanising or killing of animals impacted on attitudes towards death more generally.

    In surveys, vets showed higher support for human voluntary euthanasia than the general population. This attitude to death may even facilitate self-justification and lower their inhibitions towards suicide as a rational solution to their personal problems.

    As a society we could do a much better job of providing funding and resources to ensure that no vet is required to kill perfectly healthy animals that have been abandoned or surrendered to council pounds or RSPCA shelters. The growth of no-kill shelters not only is a more humane approach to companion animals but also removes the risk of psychological harm to vets who are forced to administer the “green dream” to healthy animals. Even the upside of being a veterinarian—having clients with strong emotional ties to their companion animals—could create distress. The emotional intensity of that bond adds stress when the time arrives for euthanising sick or aged animals that are considered part of the family.

    I commend the work of our veterinarians in alleviating animal suffering. My personal heroes are those vets who find the time to work pro bono or provide discounted fees to companion animal rescue groups, wildlife carers and farmed animal sanctuaries. Perhaps the Australian Veterinary Association may consider supporting veterinarians as they deliver these services as a way of providing a channel for their compassion and empathy towards animals.

  • Mark visits the South Coast to meet grassroots AJP members

    Mark Pearson addressed an enthusiastic and concerned local crowd of animal lovers and advocates at the Soldier’s Bay club in Batemans bay on Monday 19th of February.

    Mark discussed his work in parliament and his proposed bills on banning the whipping of racehorses, banning animals in circus and the Right to Release bill. Many local people expressed their concern at the annual Huntfest in Narooma which takes place on the June long weekend, in particular, the fact that organisers are billing this as a family friendly event. Concern was also expressed about the ongoing legitimacy of ‘sport’ fishing in the area given the extreme cruelty involved.

    There was a great amount of will in the room to start up a local South Coast branch of the Animal Justice Party in the region. Louise Ward the NSW State Director of the Animal Justice Party will be returning to the South Coast next month to work with local people in establishing a South Coast Animal Justice party regional group.

    Mark also met with representatives of Wildlife rescue South coast, south coast animal rescue, Coast to Coast animal friends along with other individual animal carers and rescuers. Of great concern is the loss of habitat for our native animals coupled with the threats posed by both legal and illegal hunting, leaving wildlife carers fear and fear safe places to release animals. We also heard of the incredible, personal, emotion and financial burden experienced by carers and rescuers, who spend thousands and sometime hundreds of thousands of dollars on the animals in their care, without any government assistance.

    Mark with a wildlife and rat rescue volunteer in Nowra.

    Mark with Leon from the Animal Justice Party Southern Highlands RG, as well as Woody, Kirsten, Greg and Justine from Wildlife Rescue South Coast.
  • Mark questions the NSW government’s ludicrous Visit My Farm Initiative

    The NSW Department of Primary Industries, with the support of the Minister responsible for animal welfare, is trailing a new charade initiative called “Visit My Farm”.

    According to the Minister this new initiative is “helping to open farm gates all over the state as part of on a new initiative to bring urban and farming communities closer through the ‘Visit My Farm’ agri-exchange trial.”

    HOWEVER, while the Minister likes to speak glowingly about the department’s new industry backed charade, a quick visit to the website reveals not a single intensive farm in its list of farms to visit. Not a single observation of sows in farrowing crates and stalls, hens in battery cages, artificial insemination, routine mutilations without analgesia such as eyeteeth removal and tail docking of piglets, de-beaking of layer chicks, and sheds where 22,000 or more broiler chickens are packed in. How can such an initiative be accurately representative of the true reality of animal farming?

    Well we asked the question……..

     

  • Animal Justice MP Mark Pearson calls for mandatory CCTV cameras in abattoirs

    MEDIA RELEASE


    Animal Justice Party MP, Mark Pearson calls for mandatory CCTVs in all abattoirs after yet another expose of animal cruelty; the latest in a poultry processing plant in Melbourne where footage shows spent layer hens entering scalding tanks whilst still alive.

    “The suffering of these birds would have been immense as their shackled bodies were lowered into the boiling water. These animals should have already been stunned and killed before they were immersed in the boiling water for feather loosing. We are constantly told by the regulatory authorities that such events are ‘isolated incidents by rogue employees’, but in fact such incidents occur frequently, often due workers being pressured to keep the kill chain going even where malfunctioning machinery causes harm to animals.”

    “For the sake of animal protection and to put management on notice that any acts of cruelty will be filmed and exposed, CCTV cameras should be mandatory in all places where animals are being slaughtered. There also needs to be resourcing for regular inspections of CCTV footage by the relevant authorities and a truly independent animal welfare regulator that has the capacity to ensure that any cruelty that is uncovered, is prosecuted.”

    The Animal Justice Party MP currently has before NSW Parliament a bill for mandatory CCTVs to be installed in all abattoirs. Debate and vote on the bill is expected next week in the Legislative Council’s final sitting for the year.

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