• Digger the Australian war hero dog

    Digger receives the Blue Cross Award for bravery in WW1

    22nd August 2019


    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:00): Established in 1897, the Blue Cross Award is given to animals and people who have demonstrated bravery or heroism. Digger, the World War I dog, was awarded the Blue Cross Medal on 29 June 2019 in Australia. Digger is the first dog to be awarded the medal in Australia. He was the bravest dog in Australia. He was a boxer cross, and served 3½ years in one of the bloodiest World War I battles in Gallipoli and the Western Front. He was injured on the front because he went over the top—that is, up and out over the bunkers. The medical report stated that “he bears the marks of his wounds”: a hole in the lower jaw, three teeth gone, blind in the right eye, deaf in the left ear, he had to be put under chloroform to have the bullets extracted and he also suffered other permanent injuries from gassing—but he made it back to Australia. This is a poem by Dr Edmund Vance Cooke, who was in the First World War, calledRags:

    We called him Rags. He was just a cur,

    But twice, on the Western Line,

    That little old bunch of faithful fur

    Had offered his life for mine.

    And all that he got was bones and bread,

    Or the leavings of soldier grub,

    But he’d give his heart for a pat on the head,

    Or a friendly tickle and rub

    And Rags got home with the regiment,

    And then, in the breaking away—

    Well, whether they stole him, or whether he went,

    I am not prepared to say.

    But we mustered out, some to beer and gruel

    And some to sherry and shad,

    And I went back to the Sawbones School,

    Where I still was an undergrad.

    One day they took us budding MDs

    To one of those institutes

    Where they demonstrate every new disease

    By means of bisected brutes.

    They had one animal tacked and tied

    And slit like a full-dressed fish,

    With his vitals pumping away inside

    As pleasant as one might wish.

    I stopped to look like the rest, of course,

    And the beast’s eyes levelled mine;

    His short tail thumped with a feeble force,

    And he uttered a tender whine.

    It was Rags, yes, Rags! who was martyred there,

    Who was quartered and crucified,

    And he whined that whine which is doggish prayer

    And he licked my hand and died.

    And I was no better in part nor whole

    Than the gang I was found among,

    And his innocent blood was on the soul

    Which he blessed with his dying tongue.

    Well I’ve seen men go to courageous death

    In the air, on sea, on land!

    But only a dog would spend his breath

    In a kiss for his murderer’s hand.

  • Suffragette Movement

    Support for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

    21st August 2019

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:48): I speak in support of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 and commend my Animal Justice Party colleague, the Hon. Emma Hurst, for co-sponsoring this much‑needed bill. The Animal Justice Party stands for kindness, empathy, rationality and non-violence and I believe the bill delivers on all these values for the women of New South Wales and their treating doctors.

    It is just over two years ago since I stood here in this Chamber speaking in support of the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016. Since the failure of that bill to secure a majority vote New South Wales has become the only State in Australia where women and doctors can be jailed for terminating pregnancies. The only reason this has not caused public outrage is that the New South Wales public is generally unaware that abortion is a illegal. It is only by virtue of the 1971 landmark judgement inRegina v Ward that women who have undergone abortions and doctors who have performed them have not occupied all the jail cells available in New South Wales. The Levine ruling, named after the judge, defined an unlawful abortion as one where there was no “economic, social or medical ground or reason” upon which a doctor could have an honest and reasonable belief that an abortion was required to avoid a serious danger to the pregnant woman’s life or to her physical or mental health. That is a humane and rational defence for abortion whilst it remains a crime, but it is not the basis on which to operate a modern twenty-first century reproductive healthcare program.

    Many in this Chamber are undoubtedly keen to leave the law as it stands, believing that abortion should remain a punishable crime but they lack the courage of their convictions to say so. They know that any broadscale attempt to enforce these laws in 2019 would lead to a significant electoral backlash. With an Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated 20,000-plus abortions in New South Wales each year, it would also lead to our jails overflowing with women and fertility control clinics being emptied of medical staff. And so we muddle along with an unacceptable compromise of women and doctors arranging terminations in the twilight zone of legality.

    At this point I acknowledge the “#Arrest Us” campaign on Facebook and Twitter, started by Emily Mayo, where dozens of women have confessed to having committed the crime of abortion and are prepared to be arrested. To my knowledge no police officer is knocking down any door. That is not to say that there have notbeen prosecutions in the modern era. Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reveals that12 people have been prosecuted under the New South Wales Crimes Act for abortion offences in the past 25 years. A 2018 survey by researchers at the University of Sydney and James Cook University found that 76 per cent of respondents did not know that abortion was a criminal offence in New South Wales. Once this information was provided, 73 per cent of those who were surveyed thought abortion should be decriminalised and regulated as a healthcare service, which is exactly what this bill proposes. With three-quarters of the population saying abortion should not be a crime and should be dealt with by healthcare professionals, legislators should feel very confident in having the support of the vast majority of New South Wales residents when voting to pass this bill.

    So how did New South Wales women come to be so ill-served by their elected representatives that they could be imprisoned for exercising agency over their own bodies? The Crimes Act containing the abortion provisions was proclaimed nearly 120 years ago, at a time when women, and in particular married women, were not afforded the same rights and privileges as men. I know it will upset the Hon. Mark Latham but I should clarify that statement as “white, heterosexual men” because Indigenous people, non-white migrants and gay men were not afforded the same range of rights and privileges as the straight man. In 1900 women’s lives were controlled by their guardians, either young women by their parents or older women by their husbands, and indeed even seen as being in service to the State to ensure the production of the next generation of citizens. Politicians such as Billy Hughes demanded that Australians “populate or perish” and by that he meant white Australians.

    The shameful White Australia Policy, which restricted the immigration of non-Europeans, put pressure on white Australian women to populate the country with large families. Contraception was neither reliable nor easily available. Girls were married off in their teens and wives could not refuse to have sex with their husbands. The idea of women having control over their fertility was seen as an existential threat to the British Empire and Australia’s place within it. The bodily autonomy of individual women was not a consideration. In the early 1900s, the New South Wales Government established the Royal Commission on the Decline of the Birth-Rate and on the Mortality of Infants in New South Wales. It was the first inquiry of its kind in the world. The findings linked the use of contraception and abortion to the deterioration of the nation.

    In particular, the all-male commissioners condemned women as selfish in attempting to reduce the number of pregnancies that they would have to endure—a remarkable statement given that this was at a time when infant and maternal mortality rates during birth were still common. To understand the misogyny of the times,one cannot go past the quote from the then President of the Victorian Branch of the British Medical Association,Dr Michael O’Sullivan. He believed that the main cause of ill health amongst Australian women was:

    … because, living in luxurious indolence, they cannot allow the duties of maternity to disturb their social pleasures; or perhaps, weighed down by shiftless poverty, they dread the devastating crowd of unwanted children.

    It was from these racist and sexist beginnings that we inherited the restrictive abortion laws that are still with us today, at least in New South Wales anyhow. As I have acknowledged previously in this House, as a gay man I may not have directly experienced the risks and challenges of unplanned pregnancies, but I do know what it is like for the State to have an unwarranted intrusion into my private life. Feminism has long stated that the personal is political. There is nothing more deeply personal and political than the State legislating what you can and can’t do with your own body. Humans are sexual beings. We crave intimacy and the expression of our sexuality has profoundly informed our music, painting, dance, literature, and indeed our entire culture. It is the puritans and the inquisitors, those obsessed with the control of sex, sexuality and gender, who will fight hardest against women gaining control over their own bodies and what they do with them.

    The criminalisation of abortion is about ultimately punishing women for exercising the expression of their sexuality and their agency; that women should not be allowed to “‘get away with sex without consequences”. We know that no contraception is 100 per cent effective. The World Health Organization estimates that if contraception were used perfectly in every instance, there would still be six million unplanned pregnancies each year worldwide. So realistically, a woman who is heterosexually active over the decades of her fertile years will always have a small risk of pregnancy, even when contraception is used. I cannot comprehend how anyone can seriously consider that it is ethical or humane to force a woman to continue with an unwanted pregnancy. I absolutely understand those who, for religious, cultural or personal reasons, decide to continue with a pregnancy even when there may be something to fear or it be inconvenient, life-threatening or terminal for either the mother or child. Unlike some so-called “right to lifers”, my support does not end at the birth of the child. I support alsogovernment assistance for infant, post-natal care, income support for carers of children, affordable housing for families, family-friendly employment laws, subsidised health care and free universal education. To me that is a humane society that cares for its most vulnerable members. To those who ask, “What about the humane treatment of fetuses?”, I state that a fetus cannot take precedence over a person who is already born and fully realised as a human being. A fetus is incapable of an independent existence outside of the woman’s uterus and no woman should be treated as an incubator, gestating against her will.

    I repeat my comments from 2017. As a representative of the Animal Justice Party I am most definitely concerned about the potential for sentience and therefore the risk of conscious suffering of the fetus. But, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 94.6 per cent of abortions occur under 13 weeks and only 0.7 per cent of abortions occur at more than 20 weeks. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that a fetus has sentience before 20 weeks gestation, which is actually five months and equal to 22 weeks. Of those 0.7 per cent of abortions performed after 20 weeks, the vast majority were as a result of severe fetal abnormality or continuation of a pregnancy that would cause serious life-threatening consequences for the mother, according to figures from a Women’s Health Victoria report in 2007.

    I strongly consider that this bill strikes the right balance by removing abortion from the Crimes Act and placing it into health care legislation. I trust women to know what is best for themselves and for doctors to properly assess the circumstances under which they would give approval for abortions over 22 weeks—a discussion that the woman and her doctor have together and they decide together. No-one is suggesting that abortions over 20 weeks are not fraught with ethical dilemmas as fetuses get closer to term, but I have seen no evidence that any woman aborts at such a late stage in pregnancy without there being compelling reasons for such a termination. Any suggestion that women capriciously change their minds about their impending motherhood is both offensive to women in general and is without a shred of evidence. I am sure that other matters such as sex selection, informed consent and disability discrimination may be raised in amendments to this bill, which I will address if and when they are debated.

    I apologise to the women of New South Wales for 119 years of state control over their right to choose whether to continue their pregnancies and to all the doctors and medical staff that have provided abortion health care services in a legally ambiguous environment whereby they could be imprisoned or lose their right to practise their profession. I commend this bill to the House.

  • broiler shed

    Animal agriculture reaching crisis point

    8th August 2019


    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (22:31): Animal agriculture is reaching a crisis point in Australia. There are multiple challenges ahead for Australia’s farmers from the impacts of the climate emergency, overexploitation of land and water and how farmed, wild and introduced animals are treated. Farmers cannot continue to do what they have always done because it no longer works; in fact, it never did. The environment and animals have always suffered as a consequence of farming. The consequences of that harm are now unavoidable. The leaked report on land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] makes it clear that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land. The IPCC proposes a major shift to plant-based diets in order to reduce agricultural land use, freeing land to be returned to habitat and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Government needs to speak honestly with our farmers and help them with funding to adjust to a new world, including changes in social attitudes about who and how we farm. I say “who” we farm because animal activists are making it clear that the recognition of individual animal sentience demands change. The very raison d’être of farming animals for food is in question. These concerns can no longer be brushed aside as the rantings of a few individuals given that two million Australians are now following a predominately plant-based diet. Barely a week goes by without yet another expose of animal cruelty. Last fortnight has seen reports of eye gouging and breaking the tales of cows at a large Tasmanian dairy, cruelty charges finally laid against Emanuel Exports for its horrific treatment of sheep frying to death on the Awassi Express, and the illegal Victorian abattoir where sheep suffered agonising and prolonged deaths. The findings of a report commissioned by the Federal Government entitledAustralia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare should be a wake-up call to all animal farmers. Some 95 per cent of people want to see improvements in animal welfare. The report states:

    … the major driver of this shift is an increased focus on animals’ level of sentience and related capabilities …

    This report indicates:

    … a fundamental community belief that animals are entitled to the protection of relevant rights and freedoms, closely aligning with activist sentiment.

    These beliefs are spread across States and Territories and between capital cities, regional towns and rural areas. You would expect that New South Wales industry leaders and the Berejiklian Government would be chastened by these existential threats to animal agriculture. Sadly, they have only paid attention to the spin doctors and pandered to the fearmongers. As one example of spin without substance, the NSW Farmers delegates at its annual conference last week passed a motion that animal industries use the term “processing” in lieu of, and to the complete exclusion of, the term “slaughter”. Do they think that the public will not notice that animals are still transported to slaughter?

    We have seen the Berejiklian Government’s response to animal activism and community concerns about farmed animal cruelty. Instead of overhauling the investigation and enforcement of animal welfare laws or funding research into the emerging industries of alternative proteins, we have the “right to farm” dogma and the draconian penalties for farm trespass under the fig leaf of biosecurity. We need to re-imagine the Australian landscape with farms that grow plant proteins, integrate into the environment and take less water from our rivers—where our wild animals are once again able to share in our boundless landscape.

  • pig awaiting slaughter

    How we treat the many other species with whom we share this planet

    18th June 2019


    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (18:40):I congratulate Ms Cate Faehrmann on her notice of motion last month acknowledging No Meat May, the campaign founded in 2013 to encourage people to avoid meat for a month. The motion rightly discussed the serious environmental impacts of global meat consumption and how reducing our consumption of meat is the biggest way to reduce our carbon footprint.But why stop at the consumption of meat when there is so much more we can do? Humans are the only species that continues to breastfeed into adulthood by consuming the milk of another species, so what about our consumption of dairy milk? The impact of the dairy industry on the environment is astounding. For instance, it takes approximately 4,000 glasses of water to create one glass of milk. What about the animals? The Australian dairy herd consists of approximately 1.5 million cows. Just one of those cows produces around 57 litres of manure a day—that is 20 tonnes of manure per cow, per year. Where once cows grazed in paddocks all day, Australian dairies are becoming more intensified. This means storing all that manure in large methane-emitting lagoons and having to truck in manufactured feed exacerbates the environmental impact of the industry.

    Research shows that, without meat and dairy consumption, the global use of land for agricultural purposes could be reduced by 75 per cent. We could feed the world with plant-based protein and at the same time give land back to our struggling and fast-disappearing wildlife. But along with the environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industries is another issue that we as a society should consider; an issue that for a long time now has been a stain on our collective soul. That is how we treat the many other species with whom we share this planet—and, specifically, the many species whom we have declared to be nothing more than “food” animals. The scope and scale of the misery we inflict on these sentient creatures is impossible to fathom.

    For instance, in Australia alone each year we breed, confine and slaughter over five million pigs, five million turkeys and 650 million chickens—all for no reason other than we like the taste of their flesh. Along with the seven million cattle we slaughter for food each year, 750,000 young male calves are classified as “waste” products of the dairy industry and are also sent to slaughter. Nine million hens are imprisoned in cages for their short, unnatural lives to produce eggs. Another seven million hens are in barn and free-range systems and meet the same grizzly end as battery hens once they are no longer considered profitable. For every hen born into the egg industry, a male day-old chick will be put through an industrial shredder whilst still fully conscious or piled into bins and gassed to death—once again, simply because it is “waste”.

    The various levels of government and industry representatives continually tell the unsuspecting consumer that “Australia has the best animal welfare standards in the world”. But the reality is far from this. Food animals are routinely exempted from protections in animal welfare legislation, such as the requirement for exercise, and are instead covered by codes of practice or standards and guidelines—otherwise known as codes of cruelty. This means the bar is set so low that it is near impossible for users to fail to meet the so-called “standards”. That is why industries get away with performing painful operations such as castration, teeth clipping, de-horning and tail docking, all without any pain relief. So, yes, by all means let us encourage people to join in on initiatives such as No Meat May, but there is so much more we can do. As Pam Ahern from Edgar’s Mission, a farmed animal sanctuary, says, “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?” I would add: Why wouldn’t we for 12 months of the year, not just one?

  • Injured kangaroo



    6th June 2019

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:18):In August last year the New South Wales Government changed the rules to make it easier to shoot kangaroos for non-commercial purposes. As a result of the changes, those carrying out the shooting no longer need a licence to kill. The few checks and balances that were in place to ensure a minimum level of accountability by shooters and the welfare of the animals have now gone. The changes brought in by the Government have created a culture of anything goes when it comes to killing these gentle, native wild animals. My office has been inundated with accounts from distraught members of the public who have witnessed the horrific treatment of these animals and their young since the changes came into effect. We have heard how killing sprees happen everywhere and all the time. The latest report came in this week. A New South Wales citizen told of the people living opposite who are:

    … intent on wiping out every kangaroo on the place. Shooting almost every night … Yesterday I witnessed them run down a kangaroo with their tractor, pin the animal against the fence and kill the animal before picking up the carcass in the front bucket of the tractor and dumping it in a ditch. It’s tragic—there was a lovely big mob of kangaroos down there. I have been onto the police and basically received a “Oh, well, it’s his property and he can kill kangaroos if he likes”‘ response.

    Another report told of a kangaroo found with:

    … multiple festering and stinking injuries resembling gunshot wounds to both shoulders, left bicep and forearm, left side ribs, chest and left rump. Wounds were maggoty; he was also being eaten alive by European wasps (on the wounds). Prognosis by the vet—”poor”.

    We have received gruesome images also from wildlife carers who are called out to rescue injured young joeys with bullet entry points in the neck and chest or in the abdomen via thighs; kangaroos shot in the base of the tail and then run over; kangaroos with jaws shot out; kangaroos shot with arrows; and joeys left to die in the pouch of their shot mother. These are the images we can find words to describe. Other scenes are so horrific they are beyond description, except to say that they would have caused immense suffering from slow and painful deaths. It is difficult to avoid the view that the Government’s changes to the rules for the non-commercial killing of kangaroos have encouraged a complete disregard for the welfare of one of our most cherished native animals and is vindicating what is becoming a virtual genocide of this species. I call upon the Government to review the current administrative regime allowing the indiscriminate wounding and killing of kangaroos on private property. The suffering caused to individual animals is unacceptable.

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