• LOSS OF GREEN SPACE FOR ANIMALS

    MEDIA RELEASE

    I congratulate the Total Environment Centre for undertaking their year-long project “SOS Green Spaces” which maps threatened spaces in 70 locations across Sydney with detailed information about local trees, native species, and resident action groups.

    The Baird and now Berejiklian Government is presiding over urban development on steroids.  It will cause the destruction of vital areas of remnant habitat for rare and endangered animals and plants.

    It seems obvious to point out that vegetation clearing in these areas would leads directly to animal deaths through habitat loss and consequent starvation and exposure to predation.  Clearing for development is the single most important factor in the decline of wildlife in the Sydney region.

    stuttering-frog-australia

    We are talking about a bio-region that contains endangered and vulnerable frog species, 54 vulnerable and 14 endangered bird species, 25 vulnerable and 3 endangered mammal species and 11 vulnerable and 2 endangered reptile species.  In the forests of the sandstone plateau at least seven threatened ecological communities, 32 threatened resident animals and 100 threatened plant species are at risk of obliteration through development.

    Unchecked development along coastal green spaces also endangers 15 threatened aquatic animals and 27 threatened seabirds.

    leatherback-turtle

    We must also remember the importance of providing resting, feeding and nesting places for migratory birds that are struggling to survive the loss of habitat as they undertake their journeys around the world.

    Once a green space is gone, it’s gone forever and animals will disappear. It is a shocking legacy for our generation to bequeath to future generations who will rightly condemn our greed and shortsightedness.

    beach-stone-curlew-australia

  • REWILDING OUR SHARED ENVIRONMENT

    8th March 2017

    Adjournment speech.

    Rewilding.

    LAND REWILDING

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (18:33): The Animal Justice Party supports the acquisition of land to protect, conserve and expand wilderness, including the rewilding of land once used for animal agriculture. Over the past 200 years we have lost 75 per cent of our rainforests, nearly 50 per cent of all forests and 99 per cent of south-eastern Australia’s temperate grasslands. The remaining ecosystems are under constant threat of clearing and in desperate need of protection. It is a national shame and a disgrace. We need to start looking at ways to bring back life into areas that have been stripped of biodiversity. In Australia ecologists focus on rehabilitating landscapes by killing animals that are deemed to threaten biodiversity. We have poisoned, shot and bludgeoned to death millions of foxes, rabbits, pigs, goats, cats, horses, camels, dingoes and kangaroos over the past hundred years, all in the name of conservation. Our landscapes continue to degrade, and it is clear that we must do things differently.

    In the United States and Europe the concept of rewilding with animals is seen as part of the solution. Rewilding is a critical step in restoring self-regulating ecosystems. Rewilding acknowledges that natural processes are complex and that the interplay between flora and fauna allows nature to evolve to take care of itself. Species are introduced or reintroduced based on the role they can play in an environment. After initial support, they are left to create the balance required. The reintroduction of apex predators such as wolves is one example of successful environmental repair. In Yellowstone National Park grey wolves had been hunted to extinction, and by the 1990s ecologists were concerned about the damage caused by large herds of elk. Once wolves were re‑established in the park, their predation on the elk reduced the damage caused to vegetation. The elk broke into smaller groups, foraged less and moved more frequently, allowing grasslands to recover. Scavenger species began to thrive again, with ravens, eagles, coyotes, lynx and bears feeding on wolf‑kill remains. Insects that fed off the rotting carcasses became the food of smaller birds and rodents.

    It is time to trial the benefits of rewilding in the Australian landscape. Just as in Yellowstone, we have taken our apex predators out of the ecosystem. The mass killing of dingoes changed the environment, and at the same time we introduced species such as foxes and cats. Smaller native predator species such as quolls and goannas struggled with habitat loss. Quolls once numbered in the hundreds of thousands and are now a threatened species. It was not until quoll numbers plummeted that rabbits were able to gain an ecological toehold. A recent trial reintroducing dingoes into Sturt National Park has shown early evidence that dingoes suppress cat and fox populations, with smaller mammals and marsupials surviving in increasing numbers.

    Returning apex predators to the environment is only one part of the equation. Their relationships within ecosystems are critical. Research and evidence-based trials must be undertaken, and we should be open‑minded about what constitutes an apex predator. We cannot go back in time. Foxes, dogs and cats are now native animals; they have been born here for many generations and now fill an ecological niche. Given the massive habitat loss and change in landscapes, we must accept that our ecosystems are evolving and adapting. Rewilding is about allowing evolution and adaptation to occur while reducing destructive human activities. One bulldozer in one day can take out an ecosystem that has evolved for millennia, yet we demonise the fox and the cat. Thousands of hectares of degraded sheep paddocks are more of a threat to biodiversity than a thousand dingoes or foxes. It is well past time to protect and expand our wilderness, for the sake of all the species that share this fragile, ancient land.

  • NO PLACE FOR CELEBRATING ANIMAL CRUELTY IN MARDI GRAS

    2nd March 2017

    As a young man still in his teens, I joined with friends from Newcastle and became one of the group of 78ers that participated in the first Mardi Gras. It was a distressing but also a celebratory experience.  I remember looking at the police as they were arresting people and putting them into paddy wagons.  To one officer I said, “I think one day the police will actually march with us in this parade.”  He said, “You might be bloody right, son, but you better get out of here or you will end up in that paddy wagon.”  I was lucky to escape a beating and my prediction about the police was quite prescient given the oppression gays and lesbians experienced from those in authority at that time.  Now, of course, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when the police march at Mardi Gras. It is heartening to witness such positive changes over the decades.

    For me, Mardi Gras has always been a joyful celebration of queer sexuality as well as the life-affirming message that we live and love in equal dignity and worth to everyone else in the community.

    This year’s Mardi Gras theme of ‘equality’ makes sense to me.  With equal marriage continuing to be a political football and the suicide rates for LGBTQI teenagers still too high, equality remains an elusive goal.  While it is wonderful that a wide range of community, corporate and government agencies sponsor floats, we should be careful of the messages that are promoted using our hard-won credibility and acceptance.

    As the sole representative of the Animal Justice Party in NSW Parliament, I am deeply concerned with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) being a sponsor of Mardi Gras, either of the parade, Fair Day or any other Mardi Gras event.  MLA is the company behind the popular Australia Day lamb ads which aim to distract the public from thinking about the darker side of the trade.  MLA is the representative body of Australia’s live export industry, arguably the cruellest animal exploitation industry permitted to exist today.  Our call for equality should not be linked with the needless suffering of millions of animals.  The vast majority of Australians would agree, with over 70% of Australians oppose to live export.

    live-export-cattle-australia-1

    Before I was elected to NSW Parliament I spent many years at Animal Liberation NSW, running campaigns against live export. Every aspect of this industry shows a cruel disregard for animal well-being. Animals suffer long hours transported in trucks, without food or water, often in the searing heat.  They are then jammed by the thousands into live export ships where animals stand in their own excrement, often for weeks on end.  The air is fetid with ammonia fumes burning the eyes and the lungs.  Not all animals survive the journey and sadly, they are the lucky ones.  We have all seen the horror footage of sheep packed into the boots of cars, trussed up on the back of utes or penned in the blazing heat without food or water, waiting for the slaughterman’s knife.

    live-export-sheep-australia-1

    LGBTQI equality should not be obtained through partnerships with organisations or industries that operate without a social licence.  Horrific animal cruelty and abuse has been exposed in the Australian live export industry for decades, and yet the industry continues to operate with impunity and for the most part without reform.  I do not want my beloved Mardi Gras to give credibility to a company that trades in animal cruelty.  The MLA’s ‘lamb dance’ Mardi Gras entry makes a mockery of the suffering and death of millions of sheep on transport ships and in the bloody slaughterhouses.

    The MLA is cynically exploiting the feelgood vibe of Mardi Gras to gain community support by associating with the LGBTQI community’s brand.  This will serve only to legitimise their cause and delegitimise our own.  There should be no place for celebrating animal cruelty in Mardi Gras.

    mark-digital-signature-1

  • RSPCA STAFFING LEVELS OVER HOLIDAY PERIODS

    23rd February 2017

    Questions without notice.

    RSPCA Staffing levels.

    RSPCA STAFFING LEVELS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (14:49): My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. Over the summer period there was animal suffering and deaths caused by heat stress, dehydration and starvation in council pounds and boarding kennels. Unlike the NSW Police, which rostered on additional officers during this busy holiday time, the RSPCA reduced the number of inspectors on duty, resulting in delays and animals being left at risk of harm during this critical time. Given that the statutory obligation to investigate and enforce our animal welfare laws is a year-round responsibility and overseen by the Minister, what steps does the Minister’s department take to monitor the availability of RSPCA inspectors to discharge their duties under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (14:50): I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. Obviously, as we have heard many times in this House, the member has a particular interest in the RSPCA and its actions—or, in his view, its lack of action at times. I know he has a particular history with the RSPCA. Nonetheless, the member has asked an important question. It is obviously very much an operational matter as to how the RSPCA schedules the number of officers on duty and when it does that.

    The Hon. Mark Pearson also referred to the role that my agency plays in relation to liaising with the RSPCA, in particular for the parts of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that it is responsible for. In the light of the level of operational detail that the member has asked for in his question, I will refer the question back to my department and I will take it on notice. I will seek an answer, and I may need to liaise with the RSPCA as part of that answer, and come back to the member with a detailed response.

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

    30th March 2017

    RSPCA STAFFING LEVELS

    In reply tothe Hon. MARK PEARSON (23 February 2017).

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry)—The Minister provided the following response:

    RSPCA NSW is an independent charitable organisation operating its own constitution and governance structure and is independent of government.

    POCTA is enforced not just by RSPCA NSW, but also by Animal Welfare League NSW and NSW Police.

    I am advised that RSPCA NSW responds to cruelty complaints 365 days a year and receives about 15,000 complaints a year. It prioritises complaint investigation and ensures a timely response to urgent complaints. It does this either by dealing with the complaint directly or referring it to one of the other POCTA enforcement agencies, including the NSW Police Force if required.

  • CLIMATE CHANGE INCREASING HEAT STRESS IN CATTLE

    21st February 2017

    Questions without notice.

    Heat stress in cattle.

    ANIMAL WELFARE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:31): My question is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. Given that the New South Wales Government recognises that climate change means that farmers will need to adjust to prolonged periods of high temperatures during the summer months, what steps is the Minister’s department taking to ensure that the recent prolonged suffering and death from heat stress of 40 dairy cattle at Shoalhaven does not become a regular occurrence in our paddocks and cattle and sheep feedlots, in particular where this occurred due to the failure to provide adequate shelter?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:32): I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I am sure that he had a good holiday, like the rest of us. He had plenty of time to fly his drone, no doubt. I hope he is well rested. I hear that he has not yet finished. I thank him for his question. I know that issues in relation to how stock handle extremes of temperature, including heat stress, is something that is managed by a lot of private businesses in our primary industries. In relation to the dairy that the Hon. Mark Pearson spoke about, I will take the question on notice and come back to him with a detailed answer. Given the nature of the question and given the timelines he spoke about, I am sure that there will be ongoing investigation. It would not be helpful for me to make comments while an investigation is being undertaken so I will take the question on notice and come back to him.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Point of order: The question from the Hon. Mark Pearson clearly mentioned climate change, which is a very serious issue and an issue of interest to people across New South Wales as well as honourable members. So far the Minister has not mentioned climate change in his answer. It is pertinent. It is central to this issue, and I would ask that the President direct the Minister to be relevant to the question that was asked.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! Mr Jeremy Buckingham will resume his seat. That is not a point of order by any stretch of the imagination. Mr Jeremy Buckingham should not use points of order as an opportunity to make debating points. The Minister was being generally relevant, and he will be heard in silence.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Before I take this question on notice and come back to the Hon. Mark Pearson I just make the observation that any person who would use the death of stock like this as some sort of political stunt in this Chamber, as Mr Jeremy Buckingham has just done, is an absolute disgrace. The Hon. Mark Pearson asked about—

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: You’re a disgrace, mate. People are going to the wall and you won’t even say the words “climate change”. You’re a fool.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind Mr Jeremy Buckingham that it was not my intention to call honourable members to order in this first question time. I ask that Mr Jeremy Buckingham allow the Minister to finish his answer in silence. The Minister has the call.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: We all know that the Hon. Mark Pearson is passionate when it comes to animal welfare. He has asked a genuine question. I was showing the member’s question the respect that it deserved, and I was going through it and answering the substantive part of the question. The stunt that Mr Buckingham has just pulled is something that every member of this House should stand up and condemn him for.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: You pulled the stunt, mate.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: To use the death of stock and the loss of livelihood of a primary producer for a political stunt on climate change is nothing but a disgrace. If the rest of his colleagues had the respect to come to question time and to actually sit through this then I am sure they would be absolutely disgusted as well. He is a disgrace—using an unrelated topic to make a point like this.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: They are disgusted by you, mate. Thousands of farmers are going to the wall. The Minister is an absolute dinosaur and a fool.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I will not tolerate Government Ministers, Government members, Opposition members or crossbench members yelling at each other across the table. It is clearly disorderly. It is not something that I will accept. I ask that the Minister direct his answer through the Chair. Does the Minister have anything further to add?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Getting back to the substantive part of the question, I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I will take it on notice and come back to him with as much information as possible in due course.


    28th March 2017

    ANIMAL WELFARE

    In reply tothe Hon. MARK PEARSON (21 February 2017).

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry)—The Minister provided the following response:

    The Department of Primary Industries recognises that climate change has the potential to impact on farming and livestock in particular. Advisory material has been prepared by the department and by industry groups and circulated to farmers on the best ways to avoid this situation.

    The department’s Climate Unit currently produces the NSW Seasonal Conditions Report on a monthly basis which is available publicly through the DPI website or via email subscription.

    The report includes information on rainfall, water storages, crops, livestock and other issues. It can help farmers make informed decisions on how they manage operations and prepare for seasonal conditions including heatwaves.

    The department has a representative on the Feedlot Industry Accreditation Committee—the group which oversees and administers the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme [NFAS], the quality assurance program for the cattle feedlot sector.

    The committee has agreed to a number of requirements for feedlots with respect to heat stress management including the need to:

    •have a Heat Load Action Plan;

    •undertake a specific animal welfare audit every six months (in addition to the annual independent audits of feedlots);

    •undertake regular monitoring of cattle during the summer period; and

    •conduct risk assessments, and to calculate heat stress and accumulated heat load in their cattle for their specific site.

    The committee regularly reviews NFAS, recommends areas for further research and development [R&D] as well as providing advice surrounding the need for industry training and development.

    To this end, the industry has undertaken R&D into the impacts of climate change on the sector and how the industry needs to adapt into the future. Industry has also developed animal welfare specific training and other materials for extension purposes.

    Additionally, the feedlot sector has developed the Katestone forecasting service which enables lot feeders to calculate the heat load risk in their cattle and the accumulated heat load for cattle and the climate specific to their site, several days in advance.

    Katestone enables proactive mitigating measures to be undertaken such as the inclusion of additional water troughs in pens, transferring more heat susceptible cattle to shaded areas and/or changing the ration to reduce metabolic heat generation.

    The dairy industry has also developed a Forecast Service to help dairy operators proactively manage summer heat in their herds. Farmers can register with the Dairy Forecast Service through Dairy Australia, which provides information including temperature, atypical conditions and extended periods of heat load weather.

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