• VETERINARIANS MENTAL HEALTH

    2nd May 2018

    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.

  • MEET THE NSW SOUTH COAST GRASSROOTS AJP MEMBERS

    19th February 2018

    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.
  • NSW DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES VISIT MY FARM INITIATIVE

    16th November 2017

    Questions without notice.

    DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES VISIT MY FARM INITIATIVE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:43): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries. The Minister recently spoke glowingly about the department’s new “Visit My Farm” initiative, which will invite the public, including families with young children, to experience the realities of animal farming. After following the necessary biosecurity precautions, will these visits include 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 and are routinely suffering from hip dysplasia and pulmonary cardiovascular failure?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:44): I thank the member for his question. These visits will show the next generation where their food and fibre comes from. They will show the hardworking people who have chosen agriculture or horticulture that this is not just a job but a vocation and part of their lifestyle. They will show the vital role that our New South Wales primary producers play not just for this economy but for the social fabric of New South Wales. These visits will show all of our farming systems, which are legal and vital in supplying food and fibre not just for our domestic consumption but for consumption overseas and for other domestic markets.

    We want to highlight to the next generation the great job our farmers do. We want families to learn where their food comes from and to understand more about the production systems involved in that. That is why I am proud to stand up in this House and promote programs like this. That may be not what the member wants. I know he disagrees with some of the production systems that are legal in this State. The member disagrees with some of the production systems that our regional communities rely upon. He disagrees with some of the production systems that our farmers utilise. However, that does not mean that because it is not what he wants, everyone else should follow. It is important to show family members and children who have never been exposed to some of these operations where their food and fibre comes from, to help them understand production systems so that they do not get spooked by some scare campaigns, get the wrong end of the stick or have misunderstandings about production systems.

    That is why these farms are opening the gates and inviting people in. Without our farmers we could not spend the time doing what we are doing here; we would have to worry about where our next meal comes from. We can all get on and do what we want with our lives because of our farmers. We can follow other vocations because we do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from. Instead of talking down the production systems, through this program we have chosen to educate, inform and enhance the role of our farms in the minds of those who have not been exposed to them previously. We are proud of this. We have nothing to hide and it is something that should be encouraged.

    The member disagrees with some of these production systems and he listed a range of areas that he believes should be outlawed. Some aspects of those production systems give no credit to the industries that are looking at those systems themselves and in some cases, as with the sow stalls, are phasing them out themselves. Primary producers and industries in this State also understand the concerns of consumers and are responding to them. Where there are animal welfare issues they are looking at other production systems and meeting those issues head on. They do not need us to dictate to them. We should provide consumers with a choice of product, allow farmers to provide that choice and get on with the production systems. We support our farmers.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:48): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer as to how the families and young children will be educated and informed about the intensive methods of production that I outlined in my original question?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:48): I refer the member to the publicly available details in relation to the program.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————-

    Although the Minister speaks glowingly of the department’s new industry backed scheme, a quick visit to the website reveals not a single intensive farm is on the list of farms to visit. 

  • THE ANIMAL JUSTICE PARTY CALLS FOR MANDATORY CCTV CAMERAS IN ABATTOIRS

    17th November 2017

    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.

  • MARK PEARSON VISITS POZIERES TO PAY RESPECT TO THE ANIMALS FALLEN IN WAR

    10th November 2017

    Lest We Forget

    Throughout history, in war and in peace, animals and mankind have worked alongside each other.

    As “beasts of burden”, messengers, protectors, mascots, and friends, the war animals have demonstrated true valour and an enduring partnership with humans.

    The bond is unbreakable, their sacrifice great – we honour the animals of war.

    Mark Pearson has been spending the parliamentary break visiting the WW1 killing fields of Northern France.

    One destination was particularly poignant; the Animal War Memorial at Pozieres.  Amidst the war graves of fallen soldiers there lies a small memorial garden set aside to honour those horses, donkeys, dogs, and pigeons that were conscripted into war service and killed in action.  These forgotten heroes finally have a place where their sacrifice can be remembered.

    The Animal War Memorial at Pozieres was only opened in July 2017 and has already become a focal point for visitors around the world.  The establishment of this memorial is owed in large part to Nigel Allsop, a former veteran who worked in all aspects of military canine operations and training, and who established the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation. Allsop raised the funds for the Pozieres memorial, and has intentions to further enhance the the site with more statuary, in honour of animal war service.

    I will honour and pay tribute to all those fallen in WWI – both human and non-human.  Animals did not choose nor were conscripted to war but forced by our hand.  Despite this, their loyalty and trust still came through.

    I am so appreciative of the French government and, in particular, the village residents and Mayor of Poziers for establishing a special Memorial for them there.  A place where so many horses and dogs died from gun shot or a long lingering death from injuries whilst trapped in mud.

    What I discovered on this visit to Pozieres Australian Animal War Memorial is something I will never forget.  Here, in only three weeks, more Australian soldiers and animals fell than anywhere else during WW1.  These were just kids in uniforms and animals forced into a living hell.  Despite this, even upon hearing the discharge of a bomb shell which they sensed could target them, horses and dogs were seen to lean over and ‘cover’ their soldier comrade to shield them from the impact.  Horses with their heads, dogs with their bodies.

    Extraordinary.”

    Lest We Forget them too.

    Mark Pearson will be wearing a purple poppy during his visit, signifying the sacrifice of those animals who endured the horrors of the battlefields. Some 9 million horses and unknown numbers of other animals were killed during wartime.  Tragically, surviving horses were denied return to Australia and soldiers were traumatised at having to leave their companions behind to an uncertain fate.  Many shot their horses rather than risk their ill-treatment or slaughter for food.

    The “Animal” Poppy

    Most people are unaware that as well as the traditional red poppy worn to mark the Armistice Day of 11 November 1918, that there is also the purple poppy, worn in remembrance of the animals who died during conflict.

    The Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation (AWAMO) issued this purple poppy, intended to be worn alongside the traditional red one, to signify and pay respect to the sacrifice the animals made alongside their human comrades.

     

    Mark Pearson with Mayor Bernard Delattre at the Australian Animal War Memorial, Pozieres, France

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