• Opinion: Who benefits from silencing animal activists?

    Recent media publications by The Land and The Guardian of meeting documents provides disturbing details of a forum held in August last year between agribusiness owners, NSW Farmers Federation, Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair along with Police and the RSPCA. They reveal the extent to which industry and government are working together to silence activists seeking to expose animal cruelty in farming.

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    Federal agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce

    The documents obtained under freedom of information laws confirm what many activists have argued for a long time; the interconnected links between animal agriculture, government and sadly, the RSPCA. The forum participants committed to an action plan to harmonise state laws regarding the supposed threat of “farm trespass” by animal activists. The plan reflects the fears of an industry that understands the implications of its routine practices being exposed to the public. Transparency and truth are to be avoided at all costs. We also see Federal and State governments intent on ensuring cruel practices remain hidden from view. Rather than listening to community concerns and accepting that animal welfare standards need to be radically reformed, government is determined to keep animal welfare legislation in the 1970s.

    One of the more alarming revelations is the active participation of the RSPCA in such discussions. The RSPCA’s willingness to side with industry and government is an affront to their charter, and would no doubt come as a surprise their many supporters. The fact that the RSPCA participated in such discussions which made no mention of enforcement or prosecution of animal cruelty laws is concerning. One is entitled to ask, what is the role of the RSPCA in farm trespass policy discussions? Why are they not holding industry to account for their cruel practices? As has been said many times; if we kept a dog in the same conditions that industry keeps pigs in intensive farms, animal cruelty charges would be laid.

    The document identified that;

    38 piggeries in the Young area of NSW, along with poultry farms in other states, were known to have been “invaded for the purpose of installing unauthorised surveillance devices, ostensibly to ‘reveal’ animal husbandry practice believed to be poor”.

    Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, this statement reflects the absolute lack of concern for animal well-being. The treatment of these animals is appalling, not poor. Animal cruelty is standard industry practice, not an aberration. Activists seek to bring transparency and truth to the public arena, enabling consumers to make balanced decisions about their purchases and food choices.

    If industry is confident that their practices are acceptable then there should be no issue with footage showing industry practice. If the government is confident that their animal welfare laws are so robust, then let’s show those lawful practices to the public. Tail docking, castration, eye teeth clipping, debeaking, removal of skin (mulesing), battery cages, farrowing crates, faeces laden broiler sheds- let’s shine the camera light onto the everyday cruelties that these animals suffer.

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    NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie is documented as stating that;

    “These incursions fall into the ‘trespass with intent’ category, NSW Police have been investigating these incidents actively, but evidence gathering around such incidents presents significant challenges”.

    No comment on the crimes exposed by activists?

    Many may not be aware, but the NSW Police are also an enforcement agency under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is not just the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League that has powers to enforce and prosecute animal cruelty crimes, yet the attitude of government and the NSW Police is to leave enforcement to a poorly resourced charitable organisation that is almost completely unaccountable to government. Yet significant police resources are being used to investigate and pursue animal activists.

    Statistics show that cruelty committed against animals often leads to crimes committed against people, yet, as can be seen from this attitude of the NSW Police, significant police resources are being used to investigate and pursue animal activists filming intensive farms. This shows a narrow-minded approach to tackling crime and future protection of the community. Would the community, or indeed government be satisfied if a child services charity were tasked with the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against children? Would it be acceptable for the NSW Police to be actively pursuing whistle-blowers filming or recording child abuse despite the physical smacking of children being lawful?

    NSW Police also told the forum that;

    “the ideology of farm trespass by animal activists was “complex” and not based on improving animal welfare practices.”

    This is correct, it is not the job of animal activist to improve animal welfare. This is the job of every stakeholder that attended this forum and their decisions should be based on truth, transparency, and the wider public’s expectations of what is acceptable welfare practices. Indeed, the activists are doing the job that all these stakeholders are failing to do themselves, that is to publish the truth to the public and allowing the public to decide what they expect. Instead, animal welfare is seen as an unnecessary cost to already profitable business models that seek to sanitise and disconnect the public from what really goes on behind the factory farm shed door.

    The documents go on to suggest;

    “Introduction of other measures to improve evidence collection, for example, security cameras may also be considered.”

    How can someone, on one hand, justify installing elaborate security recording networks to deter activists YET dismiss sensible reforms such as mandatory CCTV of inside the shed or inside the slaughterhouse? Does one not stop and think that maybe, if farmers installed cameras facing in the shed, on the animals, then there will be no need for cameras facing outside the shed to deter activists?

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    Indeed, for me it has become personal. Twelve months ago I attempted to visit Rivalea pig slaughterhouse to discuss the cruel method by which pigs are subjected to gassing prior to slaughter. I was refused entry at the front gate and never left public space and yet I am currently the subject of a police investigation as a result of that visit. Again, this is a sign of cover up and intimidation, rather than let an elected MP formally tour the facility and witness the slaughtering method, I was denied access. Rivalea engaged their industry heavyweight, Australian Pork Ltd, and now almost 12 months to the day I am contacted by the NSW Police and informed that I am under investigation. It is true that, due to all the industry efforts to hide and cover up standard practices that they are ironically so proud of, they have in fact made the public more suspicious.

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  • MEDIA RELEASE-Animal Justice Party MP questions Katrina Hodgkinson’s priorities concerning Blantyre Farm’s DA

    MEDIA RELEASE

    Mark Pearson, Animal Justice Party MP, has questioned why Member for Cootamundra, Katrina Hodgkinson, is advocating priority for the interests of intensive pig farmers Blantyre Farms, over the interests of her own electorate. Intensive pig farmers, Edwina & Michael Beveridge of Blantyre Farms lodged a development application in December 2015 to duplicate their Young shire, Golden Grove and Dead Horse Gully piggeries in the neighbouring Hilltops council region. Blantyre Farms have continued to attract wide spread criticism since the public exposure of their Young piggery practices and operations through the Aussiefarms campaign in 2013.

    The Blantyre Farms Development Application has generated significant community and public interest with thousands of objectors raising valid and legitimate concerns and issues, which have been echoed by council and state government agencies.”
    There is mandated planning process at both state government and local council level, and Ms Hodgkinson should just allow that process to take place in the interest of a thorough examination of the merits of the application.

    Mr Pearson confirmed issues raised by thousands of objectors includes the welfare of animals, the environment and a broad range of concerns about the impact on the community, immediate neighbours, workers and consumers, public health, biosecurity and biodiversity.

    From my understanding, it has not been a case where Hilltops council have ‘sat’ on this DA or that the ‘approval process had been lagging’, as has been suggested by Ms Hodgkinson.

    The assessment period has been exacerbated by information from Blantyre Farms themselves, which has repeatedly been found ‘wanting’ with questionable, missing, ambiguous, and non-evidenced information.

    Most recently Blantyre Farms have been required to revise information they have previously submitted to council. This includes pig mortality numbers now estimated to be approximately 8,600 per year. These are the piglets and pigs which die or are killed in the Blantyre Farms intensive sheds.

    A critical factor environmentally, is how the massive volume of Blantyre Farms generated waste would be managed. In their previous information, Blantyre Farms stated they would be able to disperse all the effluent and dead composted pigs on their property. Blantyre Farms have now stated they will still have an excess surplus of approximately two hundred & fifty tons of manure per year. This surplus waste will now need to be disposed of elsewhere. Mr Pearson is also concerned that Ms Hodgkinson does not appear to acknowledge the voice of the local community, her own electorate and the public and has not acknowledged the critical inclusion of submissions and council’s obligations to adhere to the planning process.

    Ms Hodgkinson was dumped by her own party from any ministerial responsibility. Her sole responsibility now is to represent all members of her own electorate in a fair, balanced and non-biased manner. Based on concerns I have had raised with my office, this does not appear to be happening.

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    Mr Pearson has continued to strongly oppose intensive piggeries and was one of the original activists involved with the exposure of a Parkville based piggery in which former prime minister, Paul Keating had a commercial interest.

  • Mark Pearson calls out cruelty and criminality in Greyhound industry

    On the last day of parliament for 2016 Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party delivered an adjournment speech befitting of the greyhound industry. Widespread animal cruelty, substance abuse and misuse, money laundering, race fixing, corruption and cover ups. Below is a extract from my speech, to listen to the whole speech please watch the video above.

    I take this opportunity to inform the House that 23 different drugs that have been banned at the Olympic Games are being force fed to New South Wales greyhounds. This information is in the boxes of documents that have been provided by Greyhound Racing NSW. Greyhounds are being given cocaine, ice and amphetamines to improve their performance.

    I have read several descriptions of greyhounds running in a race, gaining a place and then collapsing, thrashing about, having fits and dying. In recent years the greyhound industry has faced numerous challenges to its tenuous grasp on any social licence it may have or its right to exist in a civil and progressive society. Some of the challenges include links to money laundering, animal cruelty, the annual slaughter of thousands of healthy dogs, the practice of live baiting, genetic loading of the greyhounds in an attempt to make them run faster and faster, which results in them having muscular skeletal problems that are bred into every greyhound in the industry. Frankensteins of greyhounds are being created like broiler meat chickens.

    Animal doping and widespread abuse of prohibited substances can now be added to the list. Since 2010, 321 investigations of misconduct by registered trainers and owners in the greyhound industry have commenced. Almost 70 per cent of those investigations relate to the use of drugs and other prohibited substances in the greyhound racing industry. In some of the cases where criminal guilt has been established, the substances used on greyhounds are illicit drugs of addiction that cause problems in families in Australia, including cocaine, morphine, crystal meth, or ice, and amphetamines and speed. Throughout the investigations 203 people have been found guilty of drug abuse and using prohibited substances in the New South Wales greyhound racing industry alone. Greyhound Racing NSW currently has 43 open inquiries and investigations where laboratories have evidence of prohibited substances being used. Cumulatively, 20 per cent of those admissions of guilt and the independent evidence of prohibited substance abuse have occurred in the New South Wales greyhound racing industry. This has become apparent after looking only at 27 per cent of the material that has become available for public scrutiny.

     

  • Mark Pearson makes formal complaint to the NSW Police regarding criminal activities in the Greyhound industry

    After a number of weeks of reading the Greyhound Racing NSW documents that were delivered to NSW Parliament under a Legislative Council Order for Papers, today I gave notice of a motion advising that I have sent a written complaint to the NSW Police about evidence of animal cruelty, illegal drug possession and administration to animals, race-fixing and money laundering. This is about more than “just a few bad apples’, this is about a systemic problem with criminality occurring throughout the whole of NSW wherever greyhound racing is taking place. l will be speaking more about this in my adjournment speech in parliament this afternoon.

    What is truly shocking is that the Labor Party, Nationals, Liberals, Christian Democrats and Shooters, Fishers & Farmers are wilfully ignoring the ugly truth of this vile industry- that the dogs are harmed, exploited and discarded with no thought about their welfare. But when the layer of animal cruelty is peeled away, we find criminal networks, substance abuse, race fixing and illegal gambling.

    It is undoubtedly clear that the animals are just like chips in a poker game, no more no less. They are a means to an end. But we will not stop in our fight for animals and in doing so we are exposing criminal underbellies that no civilised society should accept.

    NOTICE OF MOTION

    1. That this House notes that on 16 November 2016, The Hon Mark Pearson sent a letter to the NSW Police Force lodging a complaint about suspected serious criminal activities, including cruelty to animals, possession and administration of illegal substances including drugging greyhounds as well as the broader abuse of drugs within the greyhound racing industry, race-fixing and money-laundering in the greyhound racing industry.
    2. That this House notes that the complaint relates to information obtained from examination of non-privileged documents delivered to the Legislative Council on 12 October 2016 in response to the Order for Papers-Greyhound Welfare and Further Order as well as independent research resulting from reading those materials, which amongst other matters, discloses multiple instances of allegations of wrongdoing recorded and investigated Greyhound Racing NSW Inspectors.
    3. That the House encourages all members of parliament to view the privileged documents and the general public to view the non-privileged documents delivered to the Legislative Council in response to the Order for Papers-Greyhound Welfare and Further Order to see for themselves that the greyhound racing industry is riddled with criminality and animal cruelty and is beyond reform or redemption.
    4. That the House entreats the government to refrain from introducing a Bill to repeal the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Act 2016 pending the outcome of a police investigation into The Hon Mark Pearson’s complaint.

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  • A victory for greyhounds!

    Its is final, the Greyhound Prohibition Bill 2016 presented by the Mike Baird government passed in the Legislative Assembly at 3:45 AM Wednesday 24th of August 2016. Since the announcement by Mike Baird and Troy Grant that the government would shut down the greyhound industry in response to the finding of the Commission of Inquiry Report, the industry ramped up their defence propaganda in an effort to spook the government into back down. To their credit the government did not back down, it in fact presented a measured and solid bill to Parliament for the orderly closure of the industry. Whilst their is some minor concerns, the message had to be sent-we support this governments brave, but right decision.  The future suffering of unborn greyhounds has been prevented and as we celebrate the end of this vile industry, no doubt all of us are thinking about those animals that were needlessly and brutally killed. For all those greyhounds, possums, piglets, kittens and chickens, we are sorry that you could not be saved. May we remain vigilant and committed to ending animal suffering when ever and where ever it occurs. Our immediate task now is to ensure that promises are kept and the orderly process of re-homing begins. Thank you to everyone who made this victory possible.

    The NSW Labor party, under the leadership of a seemingly cold Luke Foley on the other hand decided to make this decision their defining moment. Luke Foley and NSW Labor’s opposition to the ban is very disappointing, more so, that they have pledged to overturn the ban if elected in 2019. It seems any real interest that Labor indicated they had in animal wellbeing comes a long second in a chance to score political points. This was evident in the tactics Labor employed in both houses during the debate. In the Legislative Council, members constantly objecting and causing a division and vote at every step. In the Legislative Assembly, Labor leader Luke Foley’s marathon 3 hour speech in reply causing the final vote occurring at 3.45 in the morning.

    My second reading debate speech to the bill can be found HERE

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