• Naree Pon

    COMPANION ANIMALS DESERVE CONSIDERATION IN RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS

    RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT (REVIEW) BILL 2018

    Mark Pearson moved an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018. The amendment would ensure that companion animals would be given consideration in residential tenancies for renters.  The amendment was supported by the Greens but not by the Government or Opposition.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): There being no objection, the bill will be taken as a whole. I have three sets of amendments: the Animal Justice Party amendment on sheet C2018-119A, the Opposition set of amendments on sheet C2018-123 and The Greens amendments on sheet C2018-122.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:50): I move the Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet 2018-119A:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises. This amendment is a double negative and relates to companion animals:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises.

    The 2016 Census figures show that more than 30 per cent of households in Australia rely on rental accommodation for their housing needs. Combine that figure with the fact that 62 per cent of households have companion animals and we have a significant social problem with the lack of legal protections for tenants with companion animals. This problem is escalating as housing affordability causes many people to remain tenants, often for life. In Europe, where renting is the norm, there is legal recognition that tenants should not be unfairly restricted from experiences such as living with pets.

    A landlord may own a property to derive income and capital gains and it is obviously not unreasonable for them to want to protect that asset. As a society we recognise the benefit that private landlords bring to the housing sector for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes or who are not eligible for social housing. However, we must also acknowledge that the landlord’s asset is also the tenant’s home. I believe that it is entirely reasonable for tenants to be able to enjoy the same benefits of living with companion animals as do home owners. It also helps to address a terrible tragedy, that is, the increasing number of tenants who are forced to surrender their animals to pounds and shelters.

    RSPCA statistics show that 15 per cent of the dogs and cats that are surrendered are because people are moving house and cannot not find accommodation that allows companion animals. As a society we intervene in the operations of many commercial enterprises on the understanding that it is for the public good. We legislate to ensure that retailers must sell food that is not adulterated, that a motel owner cannot refuse to book a room for a gay couple, and that property developers must comply with building standards to ensure public safety. We do this because we believe that public health, welfare and fairness is important and that the “market” is unlikely to provide those protections if left to its own devices.

    Landlords are currently free to refuse tenants and the consequences are such that most landlords choose the easy option of not allowing any pets, without any consideration of the social, physical and psychological benefits that companion animals have in the lives of humans. We live in a society where single and older person households are on the rise. These two groups are at risk of social isolation. For older persons the isolation may be due to physical disabilities or illness. Both groups may struggle with the lack of social interaction leading to anxiety and depression. Psychiatrists at the University of Rochester Medical Center undertook research which found that those living with pets were 36 per cent less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. We know that human beings are social animals and that loneliness is a killer. Older adults who report feelings of loneliness are at an increased risk of many serious physical and mental health conditions, including death.

    There have been many research studies undertaken that show a raft of health benefits from living with companion animals. Human-animal relationship lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and people recovering from heart attacks recover more quickly and survive longer when there is a pet in the home. For people living alone, a companion animal may be the only affectionate touch they experience through their day. Petting an animal is known to release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress as well as boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which promote alertness and a sense of wellbeing. According to beyondblue, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and that in any one year approximately one million Australian adults will experience depression and more than two million will have anxiety.

    According to depression research, being responsible for the care of an animal promotes mental health. Self-esteem is improved when people realise they are capable of caring for another sentient being. For people debilitated by depression, living with a companion animal brings a structure to the day and may be the only reason that they are able to get out of bed. Feeding, caring and exercising a beloved animal provides positive feedback and helps with healing from depression. I note that the Victorian Government has recently amended its residential tenancy legislation to allow pets in rental accommodation and that the Queensland Government has a similar provision before its Parliament. If our sister States are able to recognise the case in favour of companion animals, then surely we can join them in that compassionate approach. Allowing tenants to have companion animals will not only significantly improve the wellbeing of people but also quite simply save lives, both human and animal. I commend the amendment.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK (11:56): The Animal Justice Party amendment is not supported by the Government. Companion animals are not defined under the Companion Animals Act 1998 as a dog or cat. Properties vary greatly and different types of pets may not be suitable for some properties. The landlord and tenant are best placed to negotiate on whether a particular pet would be appropriate for a property. The Residential Tenancies Act leaves the issue of whether a tenant can keep a pet—but not an assistance animal—to be negotiated between a landlord and tenant, and the Government considers that that is appropriate.

    Mr JUSTIN FIELD (11:57): The Greens support the amendment moved by the Hon. Mark Pearson on behalf of the Animal Justice Party. The Greens had a similar amendment to ensure that those living with companion animals are not unfairly impacted by these changes and that the Residential Tenancy Act supports them to continue to live with their pets. There are more people living in rental properties than ever before. Many of them have pets and these pets are an important part of their family. Certainly I have had that experience living in rental accommodation. I have been fortunate to find rental accommodation where it has been possible for my family to have our pets. I know how important our pets are to my young son. It is important that we keep families together, including the non-human parts of our families. The Greens support the amendments moved by the Animal Justice Party.

    The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE (11:58): The Opposition appreciates the intent of the amendment moved by the Animal Justice Party. We are concerned about the need to ensure that there are not unintended consequences. The best way of doing that is to have consulted fully with all stakeholders involved to ensure that the outcome is both fair and balanced and that there are no negative impacts that we are aware of. While we appreciate the intent, for the reasons I have outlined at this stage the Opposition does not support the amendment.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): The Hon. Mark Pearson has moved Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet C2018-119A. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

    Amendment negatived.

  • Vivisection

    RIGHT TO RELEASE BILL 2018. SECOND READING DEBATE.

    A small victory for the Animal Justice Party.  Although the NSW Government will not support the AJP’s Right to Release Bill, it will implement sections of it by way of regulation.

    The Hon. Niall Blair (Minister for Primary Industries NSW) second read speech to the Bill:

     

    The Hon. Mick Veitch (NSW Opposition) gives support for the Bill:

     

    ANIMAL RESEARCH AMENDMENT (REDUCTION IN DEATHS OF DOGS AND CATS USED FOR RESEARCH) BILL 2018

    Second Reading Debate

    Debate resumed from 21 June 2018.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (12:41): On behalf of the Government, I make a contribution to debate on the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018. I begin by noting the overview of the bill. The object of the bill is to amend the Animal Research Act 1985 to require a person, as a condition of the person’s accreditation as a research establishment or the person’s animal research authority, to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or a cat that is no longer required by the person for animal research purposes unless a vet has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. Such reasonable steps include socialising or training the dog or cat to ensure that the dog or cat is suitable for homing, causing the dog or cat to be given to a person or animal-homing organisation, or any other action taken in accordance with the code of practice under that Act.

    The bill provides that a dog or cat is to taken to be no longer required by a person for animal research purposes if the dog or cat has been kept by the person for more than six months. Failure to comply with the proposed requirement is grounds for a complaint under part 4 of the Animal Research Act 1985 and may result in the cancellation or suspension of the person’s accreditation or authority. At the outset, I indicate that the New South Wales Government is committed to improving animal welfare and supports in principle the concept that research facilities should attempt to rehome animals and, in the first instance, better report on animals used for research purposes.

    I have stood in this place many times and promoted the good work that our agencies and industries do to review, evaluate and improve animal welfare outcomes. I am equally happy to stand here and talk about the robust framework we have in place for animals, in particular dogs and cats, involved in research. Those in the House will also know that I am not afraid to review current legislation, to consider the views on all sides of Government and to take a deep dive into ensuring we have not left any aspects unturned. That is what I have done with this bill brought forward by the Hon. Mark Pearson. I acknowledge the work of the Hon. Mark Pearson and his team in this area. The Hon. Mark Pearson has identified a gap in our animal research reporting and I have taken on board what he and his team have suggested. I have listened to his arguments and today, while I cannot support the bill in its current form, I will be acting on some of the aspects within it—which I will talk to shortly.

    In New South Wales the use of animals for research is regulated by the Animal Research Act 1985, which sets out stringent requirements designed to protect the welfare of the animals used. All research institutions must also comply with the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes. Research institutions must be accredited under the Act and research must be carried out under the approval and monitoring of an establishment’s animal ethics committee. The required membership of the animal ethics committees is set out in the code and must include a veterinarian, a researcher, an animal welfare representative and an independent representative. Each application to the animal ethics committee must include detailed information, including the justification for the use of animals as well as the impacts of all parts of the research project on the animals and how those impacts will be minimised.

    The source of animals must also be assessed. Accredited research institutions under the Act are audited for compliance with the legislation by government veterinary inspectors from the NSW Department of Primary Industries and assessed by the Animal Research Review Panel [ARRP]. The panel is a 12-member, ministerially appointed body under the Act, and includes scientific and animal welfare representatives. Where institutions or individuals are found to be in contravention of these requirements, penalties of up to $17,600 and 12 months imprisonment can apply. Domestic dogs and cats are used in a wide range of research projects. In 2016, 1,230 cats and 4,275 dogs were used for research, and the vast majority of those projects involved only observations or minor interference.

    Many of these dogs and cats are not housed in laboratories but live at home with loving owners. Some examples of these research projects include palatability trials to assess dog and cat food; production of tick antiserum for the treatment of dogs and cats affected by tick intoxication; cats housed long term as blood donors; dogs and cats used in clinical trials to develop new treatments for dogs and cats; observational behavioural studies of privately owned dogs and cats; and educational use for teaching students how to care for and handle dogs and cats, often with privately owned dogs and cats. Again, it is important to note that the majority of animal research involving dogs and cats in New South Wales is for projects that focus on observations or for minor interference, with many of the animals living at home with loving owners.

    I will now turn to the details of the bill. The bill seeks to amend the Animal Research Act 1985 to require animal research institutions and individuals to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or a cat that is no longer needed for research purposes, unless a vet has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be rehomed. The bill further proposes that dogs and cats should be kept for research purposes for only six months or 12 months with the approval of the Animal Research Review Panel, and that the panel should be responsible for coordinating rehoming activities via a publicly accessible database. Finally, the bill proposes that a dog or a cat used for research purposes should not be euthanased without the approval of the responsible animal ethics committee.

    As I have alluded to previously, the Government supports the intent of the bill, which is to improve rehoming rates of domestic dogs and cats used for research. However, the bill contains provisions that are not clearly defined and would result in perverse outcomes; it shifts the compliance burden from industry to government; it is inconsistent with the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes; and it is not supported by the Animal Research Review Panel. The bill does not define “reasonable steps”, nor does it recognise that not all dogs and cats used for research will be suitable for rehoming or that rehoming is not always the best welfare outcome for an animal. The bill also does not recognise that not all vets will have the necessary expertise in animal behaviour to decide whether a dog or cat should be rehomed.

    Further, a limit on the time that cats and dogs can be used for research projects would lead to perverse outcomes because many more cats and dogs would need to be used. The bill suggests that cats and dogs should be kept for research purposes for only six months or 12 months with the ARRP’s approval. It must be noted that some research projects can continue for many years with little to no negative impact on the animal. In many cases, the animals remain in the home and may receive low-level treatments of new tick and flea products, for example. Limiting the time that an animal may be kept for research purposes would lead to many more dogs and cats being used in research trials.

    The bill proposes that the panel should coordinate rehoming activities. However, this would shift the compliance burden from industry to government. There is an existing requirement under the Australian code that the fate of animals used for research must be approved by the animal ethics committee as part of the research project approval. The bill proposes that a subcommittee could also perform this role. However, this is not permitted under the Australian code. Finally, the bill is not supported by the Animal Research Review Panel. For those reasons, the Government does not support the bill in its current form.

    The Government is dedicated to safeguarding animals used in research and acknowledges that there is a need for better information to guide research institutions and individuals and help them to understand what “all reasonable steps” are. Rehoming cats and dogs used for research is difficult, and unfortunately not all animals are able to be rehomed. The Animal Research Review Panel understands this issue well and has established a subcommittee to develop comprehensive guidelines for research institutions to help improve rehoming rates, because it is a complex area. These guidelines are expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2019.

    I make it known that if the New South Wales Liberals and The Nationals return to government after March next year and if I am the Minister responsible, it is my intention to review the guidelines very carefully and, in consultation with ARRP, research institutions, rehoming bodies and other key stakeholders, develop a mandatory code of practice by way of regulation change under the Animal Research Act 1985. I have been advised that we are unable to make a regulation change without an existing code of practice. As the industry experts, the ARRP will develop the guidelines in the first instance, which will then be used to develop a code of practice from that point forward.

    This area requires change and we need a mandatory code of practice in this space. I make that clear. If I am no longer the Minister after the March election when the deadline is up, I will chase up the issue with my ministerial colleague. I do not expect it to occur, but if I am sitting on the other side of the Chamber I will advocate from that position. This area requires change. The industry must develop the guidelines from which we draft the code of practice and then put in place regulations to ensure the code is mandatory. In the interim, we agree that better information and data need to be collected about what happens to cats and dogs used in research when a project is completed.

    I pay credit to the Hon. Mark Pearson. I listened to his second reading speech and his comments about the lack of data from the institutions around rehoming. I left the debate, went to my office and asked my agency to give me the numbers. But I could not get them. I am not saying that there is underperformance in this area; we simply do not know how many attempts have been made and, as Minister, that is not acceptable to me. I do not accept we do not gather that information or report on it. It is in the interests of the industry to report on the information and be able to say that it is making progress in this area. But at present there is an information gap.

    We will work with the Animal Research Review Panel to ensure that rehoming is adequately considered and reported by institutions that use domestic cats and dogs for research. I encourage those interested in this issue to visit the Animal Ethics InfoLink, which houses all the relevant information in this space. Included on the site is a list of reporting forms that research institutions must use. “Form L – Animal Use Statistics” will be updated this year to include the need for research institutions to report on what happens to dogs and cats after they have been used for research. Reporting cycles follow the calendar year, so this additional information will be collected as of January 2019. I could not find the information easily but that will change as a result of this bill. The information will be provided over the next reporting year, starting in January 2019. That is a good outcome. It does not require legislative change, but it should occur.

    This bill will not achieve its intended purpose of reducing the number of deaths of dogs and cats used in animal research, and the Government therefore opposes it. I raised with the member when we discussed the bill that its title—the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018—is misleading. It insinuates that a large number of animals are dying during research, and I do not think that was the member’s intention. The statistics report a figure for “death as an end point” for cats—which means the approval for an animal to die during testing. There has not been such an approval since 2010. From speaking to the Hon. Mark Pearson—I will not verbal him; he will have an opportunity to address this issue when he replies to the debate—I gather that the bill does not seek to address the fact that dogs and cats are dying during research. As I said, the vast majority of research is observation and involves minor interference. The issue is what happens to the animals when they are no longer used for research and testing. The member will have an opportunity to address that issue in reply. Perhaps the bill should have been titled “Animals Used for Research Rehoming Bill”. That is my observation in relation to that matter.

    I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for bringing this issue to our attention, and for helping to identify opportunities for the Government to further strengthen the existing regulatory framework for research animals. It is a noble attempt. I understand that drafting legislation can be challenging and there may be line-ball discussions with Parliamentary Counsel about the wording and including time lines. I think the provision about the length of time that animals may be used for research should probably have been worded better. However, the bill will result in better animal welfare outcomes. I am happy to have worked with the Hon. Mark Pearson on this issue, and I appreciate the time that he and his staff dedicated to sitting down and discussing the issues with us.

    I am proud that we can make the reporting changes immediately. I reiterate that I have put the industry on notice about the code of practice. We expect it to develop the guidelines quickly and then we will move to ensure that there is a code of practice in regulation going forward. I again congratulate the Hon. Mark Pearson on the principle of what he is attempting to do in this bill. However, the bill has some unintended consequences and we cannot support it in its current form. I hope that we have been able to go some way towards addressing the concerns that the member has identified. For the reasons I have outlined, the Government opposes the bill.

    The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Mr David Shoebridge): I shall now leave the chair. The House will resume at 2.30 p.m.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! According to sessional order, proceedings are now interrupted for questions.

     

    ANIMAL RESEARCH AMENDMENT (REDUCTION IN DEATHS OF DOGS AND CATS USED FOR RESEARCH) BILL 2018

    Second Reading Debate

    Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH (15:32): I lead for the Opposition in debate on the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018. The object of the bill states:

    … this Bill is to amend the Animal Research Act 1985 to require a person as a condition of the person’s accreditation as a research establishment or the person’s animal research authority, to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or cat that is no longer required by the person for animal research purposes unless a vet has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. Such reasonable steps include:

    (a)socialising or training the dog or cat to ensure that the dog or cat is suitable for homing, or

    (b)causing the dog or cat to be given to a person or an animal homing organisation, or

    (c)any other action taken in accordance with the Code of Practice under that Act.

    The bill provides that a dog or cat is taken to be no longer required by a person for animal research purposes if the dog or cat has been kept by the person for more than six months. Failure to comply with the proposed requirement is grounds for a complaint under part 4 of theAnimal Research Act 1985 and may result in the cancellation or suspension of the person’s accreditation or authority.

    I put on record my appreciation of the Hon. Mark Pearson and his office for providing me with a greater understanding of the bill. Once the Hon. Mark Pearson had made his second reading contribution, I made a request to meet with him. I met with the Hon. Mark Pearson and his staff on two occasions and was provided with a briefing note. Many people had not given consideration to the issues that were raised by the member. He has shone light on an area that for a long time had not been drawn to our attention, if at all. I concur with the comments Minister Blair made in his second reading contribution prior to the lunch break. He said that the Hon. Mark Pearson has tested not only the Minister’s departments but also all members in this House about what this legislation means. It is difficult for Opposition and crossbench members to get legislation passed in this Chamber. But the Minister said in his second reading contribution that, even though the Government will not support the legislation, there will be action. The Hon. Mark Pearson should take that as a victory.

    The Hon. Rick Colless: It’s a big achievement.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: I acknowledge the interjection from the Hon. Rick Colless. Not only did the Minister say that he had already put action in place, particularly concerning data, which was clearly lacking, but also he gave a commitment to seeing that the intent of the legislation—even though I suspect it will not be passed in the Chamber—will be carried through. The Hon. Mark Pearson should be heartened by the Minister’s comments. Even if he does not receive the Government’s vote, the Minister has taken note of the issues identified and is putting in place some measures to address them.

    A number of issues were raised with me when I started consulting with groups about the legislation. In my second meeting with the Hon. Mark Pearson I raised some of those concerns, and I hope that he will address them in his speech in reply. I concur with the Minister’s comments about the title of the bill. We do not always have a choice on these matters and Parliamentary Counsel will often dictate the short title of the bill. In this case the short title of the bill does not reflect what the Hon. Mark Pearson is trying to achieve. Currently the legislation covers dogs and cats and I wonder whether there are plans to expand it in the future. Dogs and cats are not the only animals used for animal research. I would like the Hon. Mark Pearson to clarify what his intentions are in the future. In my view, it may be that the bill inadvertently captures council-operated pounds. As such, a specific provision excluding pounds should be included in the bill. I would like the Hon. Mark Pearson to give his view on how the legislation applies to council pounds when he replies to the debate.

    Members may wonder what I mean by that. Concerns have been raised with me that dogs and cats used in research have been possibly rehomed in a facility that is not a suitable placement for them and, therefore, they finish up in the council pound. Those concerns need a response from the proponent of the bill. It has also been suggested to me that the word “suitable” should be inserted before the words “person or group”. The dogs or cats should be rehomed with a suitable individual. The RSPCA is of the view that the criteria for suitability could be regulated easily. For instance, permanent residency was suggested so that animals coming out of a research environment can enter stable homes. It also has the capacity to avoid overwhelmed caregivers or potential hoarders. We often know of individuals in regional communities, in particular, who have lots of cats or dogs at their residence. They are well-intentioned individuals who provide accommodation for lots of animals but one wonders whether they have the capacity to meet the animals’ needs.

    I do not know whether the legislation has the capacity to avoid overwhelmed caregivers from being overtaxed because additional ex-research companion animals may come into the rehoming network. In relation to identifying suitable homes for animals, rehoming is a specialised area—not everyone can rehome a dog or a cat. Not everyone has the physical dimensions that are required for rehoming. For example, a bull-mastiff or a Great Dane could not be accommodated in a 56-square-metre, single-bedroom unit in Sydney. Such rehoming would be inappropriate for those animals. Common sense needs to be applied to the capacity of individuals who want to be potential rehomers.

    The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: What about birds?

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: I should not respond to interjections but the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps has raised a very good point. In discussions about this legislation some groups mentioned mice. Mice and guinea pigs as well as birds are used in research. How are they being used, and to what extent? The Minister said that the datasets have failed. Following the Hon. Mark Pearson’s second reading speech, the Minister returned to his office and asked what sort of numbers we were talking about and the department could not tell him. We do not know how many animals are being used for research. So where do we go now? What is next? I will touch on other issues that have been raised with me. In answer to my request for input on this legislation, one respondent stated:

    I am concerned that the bill in its current form could have unintended consequences leading to adverse ethical or animal welfare outcomes.

    The respondent supported the intent of the legislation but is concerned about where it will take us into the future. We should all be mindful of unintended consequences when considering legislation. The respondent encouraged the concept of the rehoming of research animals being undertaken through an existing regulatory framework. That is what the Minister indicated in his contribution earlier today. The respondent continued:

    Of particular concern is the prescriptive time limit of 6 months (or 12 months with additional regulatory approval) after which animals must be rehomed (subsection3). The underlying rationale is that the conditions inside research facilities would make animals incapable of adapting to life in a private home if held longer than this sort of timeframe.

    No specific evidence was presented in the second reading speech, so I would like the bill’s proponent to address the views and concerns raised by this respondent. One organisation suggested that imposing arbitrary time limits may in fact increase the number of animals used in research as the turnover will be higher. That is one of the unintended consequences in this legislation. I ask the Hon. Mark Pearson to address that matter in his reply speech. Another respondent stated:

    Also of concern is the bill’s proposal in subsection 7 that determination of an animal’s suitability for rehoming must be made by someone “who is not associated with an authorised person or licensed animal supplier” … There is also nothing in the bill to stipulate that a veterinarian undertaking the determination should have relevant experience.

    Concern was expressed to me that not all veterinarians are conversant with the processes of the facility that is using animals for research. The wording in the bill needs to be strengthened to identify who is able to make that determination and what type of experience is required to do so. Another practical concern is the lack of provision for situations where an appropriate home cannot be found for animals that have been deemed suitable for rehoming. The concern is that there will be pressure to rehome an animal in an unsuitable place simply to meet the requirements of the legislation. That goes to the issue of arbitrary time limits. I ask the Hon. Mark Pearson to address that issue in reply. The concern is that meeting regulatory compliance quickly will put more pressure on facilities to rehome animals, and I do not think that is the intent of the bill.

    This bill is well intentioned, and the Hon. Mark Pearson should take great heart from the fact that the Government has already commenced action on some aspects of it and the Minister has taken issues on board and is taking other actions. As I said earlier, it is not often that Opposition members—it is even rarer for crossbench members—have legislation pass this Chamber so prompting the Government to act is a good result. I would like the Hon. Mark Pearson to address the Opposition’s concerns in his reply speech. The Opposition will support the legislation if it is put to a vote. But at this point in time I ask the member to clarify those important matters for people who are engaged in this debate. They need some answers. I reiterate that the Opposition will support the bill.

    Debate adjourned.

  • baby chicks

    CHILDREN AND THE NATURAL WORLD

    25th September 2018.  Mark Pearson’s speech on children and their natural empathy for animals.

    As adults we cannot fail to observe a child’s innocent delight in interactions with animals. On a more prosaic note, science tells us that a child’s amygdala, the most ancient part of the human brain, is hardwired to respond to other animals.  When measuring brain activity, scientists found that neurons in the amygdala became extremely active when the subject was shown pictures of animals. The right hemisphere of the amygdala is the storage space where young brains respond to emotional stimuli, creating categories of animals such as prey, play or predator.

    E.O. Wilson, a biologist, coined the term “biophilia” to describe the biologically determined affinity of humans with the natural world, including the inherent empathy humans have for other living beings. It explains the emotional desire to protect creatures that are small and vulnerable.

    Very young children are drawn to animals, especially baby animals. Babies are more likely to smile at, talk to and touch live animals rather than mechanical animal toys. Studies of the dreams of pre-school children reveal that as many as 90% of their dreams are about animals. There is also considerable evidence that children derive emotional sustenance from their companion animals, often talking to their pets when lonely, afraid or sad.

    Early childhood educators have recognised that children thrive when they spend time in natural settings that include opportunities for interactions with animals. .   Unlike adults who have been socialised into a transnational view of animals; what they can provide in the way of food, clothing or entertainment, children recognise the intrinsic value of animals; that simply because they are living creatures, they are important. Children innately understand that they are part of and not separate to, nature.

    As social media videos show, children have the openness and capacity to bond with any kind of animal. A chance encounter with an orphaned magpie can trigger a lifelong passion for native birds. When children are introduced to wild animals, a whole new world opens before them.  Even endemic wild creatures such as ducks, possums and lizards can absorb a child’s full attention

    The fictional wall that human society has built to delineate between human and animal is invisible to children. Children are curious to know about all the different ways of being an animal. As any story teller knows, a child is endlessly fascinated about animals live. They love to hear the sounds animal make, the homes they build, what and how they eat.  Children are amazed by the ability of animals to fly, swim through the water and climb high in the trees, or seem to disappear through camouflage.

    Introducing children to the natural environment and wild animals can help children develop empathy for animals.  Research also reveals that when children are encouraged to care for companion animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well. A growing body of evidence shows that children who are supported in their care for animals tend to generalise that love to other living things.  Developing caring relationships with animal can lead to deeper feelings of empathy in young children, more positive peer relationships, and social-emotional development.

    As children have experiences with animals, they learn about differences and similarities, needs (such as for food, shelter, water and space), and compassion and empathy can grow and deepen.

    Conversely, if children are not exposed to the natural world in a positive way, their developing amygdala may only learn the fear response to animals and the natural world.  Their innate sense of connection to nature can be overridden by adult role modelling.  At worst, children may develop biophobia, an aversion to nature. Children may learn to become fearful of insects and animals not found in highly urbanised environments. These children are at risk of growing up to undervalue the environment and to have little regard for animals as sentient beings.

     

  • Animal Justice Party Introduces Right to Release Bill to NSW Parliament

    On Thursday 21st June the NSW Upper House sat in silence with shock on their faces as Animal Justice Party MLC introduced our Right to Release Bill. The bill has been well received and we will continue to lobby for other parties and members to support the bill if it comes to vote later this year.

    SECOND READING SPEECH

    I am pleased to introduce the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018. This is a bill that requires little change to research practices, but it will mean everything to the approximately 1,000 dogs and cats that are routinely killed after being used in non-lethal research each year in New South Wales. Once these animals are no longer required for research purposes, they are killed with an intravenous barbiturate overdose. At times, the impact of the experimental protocol means that there is no alternative for these exploited animals but being put to death. However, if this is not the case, the Animal Justice Party believes these companion animals should be afforded the opportunity to be homed by animal rescue organisations.

    The bill essentially provides a second chance at life for cats and dogs held in research establishments. The Animal Research Act’s overarching principles in regard to the use of animals in research are those of replacement, reduction, and refinement—the three Rs—to cause the least amount of suffering to the least amount of animals. Renowned Indian animal activist Maneka Ghandi, a leading pioneer of animal welfare regulation in India, was successful in adding a fourth R to include “rehabilitation” of research animals. Ghandi’s reforms made it compulsory for research bodies to provide:

    … after-care rendered to animals that have been bred for the purpose of experimentation, subject to any form of experimentation and retained in laboratory animal houses or breeding houses for the purpose of experimentation with the sole purpose of alleviating any pain or suffering due to the physical, physiological, psychological trauma that the animals had been exposed to, and to prolong the life of the animals until the point of natural death.

    The Animal Justice Party’s bill is in line with reforms in other jurisdictions. In the United States, New York, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois passed legislation providing that animals used in research facilities must first offer dogs and cats to rescue centres before the option of killing can be considered. The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society and Helping You Help Animals are currently campaigning for the New Zealand Government to enact a mandatory retirement policy for animals used in research, testing, and teaching. Facilities using these animals would have attempted homing of ex-research animals with willing animal rescue organisations before lethal options are considered.

    The Animal Justice Party supports the transition to alternative methods of experimentation. However, the purpose of this bill is not to end animal research per se. The party asserts that experiments on animals are cruel, expensive and represent an outdated nineteenth-century approach to science and medicine. We would like to see investment in methods of studying diseases and testing products that replace animals entirely. There are now far more sophisticated predictors of human health outcomes. The alternatives include in-vitro tests using human cells and tissues, in-silico modeling using advanced computer-modeling techniques, and far more relevant studies with actual human volunteers. Tragically, penicillin was not used until a decade after its discovery because when tested on rabbits it was found to be ineffective. If tested today, it would not be recommended for human use because of its toxicity to guinea pigs.

    There are far more biological differences between and within animal species that can affect the results of any experiment, including variations based on different ages, sexes and developmental stages. There are numerous examples of drug testing on animals that inadvertently led to harmful drugs being approved for use on humans. Benoxaprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, was tested on rhesus monkey with no ill effects, but human patients suffered severe liver toxicity and phototoxicity; and Rezulin, which safely lowered the blood sugar in rats, caused 391 human deaths due to liver toxicity.

    Government statistics show that more than six million animals are used every year in Australia for medical research, experiments and surgical skills training, the majority of which are rats and mice. While the Animal Justice Party would like to see all these animals spared from invasive and cruel experimentation, I believe this bill is the beginning of a more enlightened approach to animal experimentation. It is a welfare-focused approach to those animals that have been domesticated for thousands of years to live with us and to trust us with their lives and wellbeing.

    The object of this bill is to amend the Animal Research Act 1985, requiring research establishments to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or a cat that is no longer required by accredited persons for animal research purposes unless a vet or authorised person has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. Such reasonable steps include: first, socialising or training the dog or cat to ensure that the dog or cat is suitable for homing; secondly, causing the dog or cat to be given to a person or animal homing organisation; or, thirdly, any other action taken in accordance with the code of practice under that Act. I use the word “homed” rather than”rehomed” because of the lives dogs and cats experience in these facilities, which cannot in any way be described as homes.

    The RSPCA states that Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with about 62 percent of Australian households living with companion animals. Of those households, 38 percent share their home with a dog and 29 percent with a cat. Looking around the Chamber, there will be many members like me who share their home with dogs and cats. The dogs and cats used in research are no different from our four-legged companions who curl up in our laps or accompany us on our walks. It takes little imagination to consider how our companions would react to months of confinement in a research facility, deprived of exercise and entertainment, a caring touch or a kind word. The sterile, barren and isolated housing and the frightening or painful procedures may be too much for some to bear, but this bill limits the length of confinement and mandates socialisation or training so that animals stand a chance of retaining the ability to live as domestic animals in a family environment.

    Undoubtedly some research is so invasive and so traumatic to both body and spirit that the dog or cat must be euthanised. Humane Research Australia has detailed experiments on greyhounds where researchers deliberately asphyxiated dogs for 30 minutes to cause the loss of function of the heart and lungs. The hearts were then surgically removed and preserved for four hours, after which period heart transplantation was performed and the dogs’ recovery was assessed. Those that recovered were then killed. Other greyhounds were subject to cosmetic dental experimentation which involved the removal of teeth, sections of jawbone and replaced with dental implants. The Greyhounds were then killed so that the researchers could remove the jaws for examination. This is despite there being little similarity between a dog and a human jaw.

    At Sydney University in 2011, 11 cats were subjected to vision research. A partial craniotomy and bilateral cervical sympathectomy, which cuts the nerve supply to parts of the head and eyes, was then performed. The cats’ heads were restrained in a stereotaxic device and a plastic cylinder was glued to the skull and a small opening was made in the brain matter where a microelectrode was placed and recorded neuron activity. Solutions were applied to the eyes to dilate the pupils and to retract the blinking membranes. The eyes were focused on a screen position using corrective lenses. At the end of the experiment, each cat was killed and the brain removed and studied.No outcomes have been identified.

    The Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching raised concerns about using 11 cats for what seemed like “clearly an example of basic research … without any particular application or use in view”. The Bionics Institute conducted experiments on day-old kittens that are artificially induced to become profoundly deaf. Cochlear implants are inserted while the kittens are anaesthetized and placed in a stereotaxic frame where the brain is exposed and stimulated by electrodes implanted into the brain. The kittens are then killed. Beagles are known for their placid natures and are often bred for sale to research facilities. They are used to test medical or pharmaceutical items, household products, cosmetics and for veterinary training. Not all beagles die as a result of the experiments conducted upon them, and they can languish for years in sterile cages, waiting for the next round of research to begin. Once their usefulness comes to an end they are killed.

    The Animal Research Act was passed more than 30 years ago in New South Wales and was in response to the first stirring of the animal rights movement in challenging the ethics of keeping and using animals for medical and scientific research. The Act was designed to assuage the concerns of the general public that a proper system of oversight was in place to ensure the humane treatment of animals used in research. The Animal Research Act provides for a licensing system for research establishments to keep animals for the purposes of conducting research. The Act also established an Animal Research Review Panel responsible for a number of areas including oversight of the supply of animals for use in connection with animal research. While neither the Animal Research Act nor the regulations address the issue of homing, the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes does consider the rehoming of animals. Clause 3.4.2 states:

    Opportunities to rehome animals should be considered wherever possible, especially when the impact of the project or activity on the wellbeing of the animal has been minimal and their physiological condition and behavioural attributes indicate that they can be introduced to a new environment with minimal, transient impact on their wellbeing.

    The Animal Research Review Panel and the Animal Welfare Branch of the Department of Primary Industries have developed policies and guidelines to assist researchers and teachers, members of animal ethics committees and the management of scientific institutions to understand and comply with the requirements of the Animal Research Act, the regulations and the code of practice. Within the “Guidelines for the Care and Housing of Dogs in Scientific Institutions”, the Animal Research Review Panel has recommended in clause 13.4 that euthanasia should only be considered if the impact of the experimental protocol prevents the animal being returned to a normal life, or if the dog cannot be satisfactorily socialised.

    My bill is intended to ensure that accredited research establishments, wherever possible, assist in the homing of cats and dogs after the non-lethal research ends and the animal is not required for research. My bill will insert a new section into the Animal Research Act, section 56B, which includes a requirement that the agency socialises or trains the dog or cat to ensure that they are suitable for homing. They must take reasonable steps to cause the dog or cat to be bought or adopted or given to an animal homing organisation by notifying the Animal Research Review Panel that the dog or cat is available to be homed. There are provisions to comply with the code of practice.

    The bill also provides that in order to ensure the best possible chance of successful rehabilitation into a domestic environment, cats and dogs cannot be kept by an authorised person for more than six months or, with the approval of the panel, 12 months. In consultations with animal behaviourists, the consensus was that anything longer than 12 months confinement is the outer limit for companion animals placed in such stressful and barren conditions. Whilst the specifics of each individual research project undertaken would have an impact on an animal’s capacity to be homed, 12 months would be more than enough time for an animal to develop negative associations with human interactions.

    The list of specific facilities that use cats and dogs in medical research is not publicly available. In lieu of being able to consult directly with these researchers and groups, consultations have taken place with Dr. Malcolm France, a chairperson to the University of Technology Sydney [UTS] Animal Care and Ethics Committee, and a New South Wales consultant in laboratory animal care and management. Dr. France liaises with many of these establishments. He has expressed support for the bill and considers that it will significantly improve welfare outcomes for dogs and cats capable of being homed.

    Dr. France’s feedback has helped shape this bill and has also provided guidance regarding the development of a confidentiality protocol between rescue groups and institutions to ensure that researchers and their staff feel protected and confident in the process. I have also consulted with a previous Animal Research Review Panel member, Ms. Emma Hurst, and current panel member Paula Wallace in regards to the practicalities of the bill. Both have expressed the belief that homing is not an onerous addition to the panel’s responsibilities and that the panel is also examining ways to encourage more homing practices with all animal species used in research.

    This bill has its genesis in a trial homing program that was instituted in 2014. The Research Animal Rehoming Service, run by a panel member of the Animal Research Review Panel, was created to assist with the rehoming of retired research animals. The service was promoted at its inception in an e-newsletter sent from the Department of Primary Industries to research facilities and animal ethics committees in New South Wales. While smaller animals have been rehomed, no cats or dogs have been offered up for homing. While research staff may occasionally adopt a dog or cat with whom they have developed a bond, the vast majority of healthy animals are still killed without any attempts made for rehabilitation or homing.

    Despite the provisions of the code of practice and the policy and guidelines which support homing, such practices remain rare, especially for dogs and cats in research institutions. Accordingly, I consider that homing must be expressly directed in the legislation to ensure greater take-up by research institutions. The current voluntary practice is failing to provide re-homing opportunities for dogs and cats. The bill provides a clear process for research facilities to understand their responsibilities and for rescue and rehoming organisations to give cats and dogs used in research the opportunity to be rehomed. If surrender cannot be arranged with any rescue organisations due to space or other concerns, the research facility can choose to rehome privately. Only when these options are exhausted should euthanasia be considered.

    The bill charges the Animal Research Review Panel with the responsibility of establishing a database of animal rescue and rehoming organisations including the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League, the Cat Protection Society and rescue agencies registered under the Companion Animals Act and alerting those that have indicated a potential interest when animals are available for homing. This need not be more than an email alert and would not be resource intensive for the panel. The Animal Care and Ethics Committee also has a duty to monitor the appropriateness of euthanasia for cats and dogs that are deemed unsuitable for homing.

    In consultation with rescue and rehoming groups, there is general support for the establishment of a homing database. The RSPCA recognises the benefits of suitable research animals to be offered for homing. I will be consulting with the National Health and Medical Research Council and animal ethics committees across New South Wales in the coming two months before the bill comes back before the House for consideration. In regards to the socialisation and training requirements of the bill, if objections are raised about the practicalities of these requirements then questions must be asked about the current living arrangements for companion animals in these facilities and compliance with the Animal Research Review Panel guideline No. 14 published in 1999, “Guidelines for the Care and Housing of Dogs in Scientific Institutions”, which details aspects of dog behaviour relevant to housing and husbandry.

    Clause 3.1 clearly states that dogs are social animals and are better housed in groups than individually and that social isolation can be a severe stressor for dogs. If dogs are to be individually housed for a project, the animals should be given extra human interaction, care, attention and play activities apart from normal husbandry procedures. Group interaction for individually housed dogs should occur whenever possible, by pairing dogs during play times or during lead walks. Under 3.1.3, staff need to be experienced in animal behaviour and need to be able to understand and monitor the dogs based on group interactions dependent upon age, sex, breed, reproductive status, prior socialisation, sibling relationships, facilities and capability of staff to manage the group.

    Clause 3.1.4 emphasises how human socialising is extremely important for most dogs and essential in accustoming them to human handling procedures in experimental studies, with dogs that actively avoid or reject human socialisation being unsuitable for research. Clause 3.2 details the design and construction of housing to avoid triggering aggressive behaviour. If the dog experiences difficulties in coping with the kennelling condition, strategies must be used to avoid behavioural problems and the facilities must provide the dogs with opportunities for behavioural choice. Given the improvements in understanding the behavioural needs of companion animals since the Animal Research Act was introduced, upgrades may be needed regardless of this proposed bill. All cats and dogs should receive regular socialisation, time with other animals, and positive experiences with their human guardians as a basic requirement for their physical and psychological wellbeing.

    For those members who may be concerned about the suitability of animals placed on the database, nothing within the bill would put families or rescue agencies at risk. A dog or cat is not required to be homed under section 56B subsection (2) where a veterinary practitioner or a person with such relevant qualifications has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. However, there are checks in place to ensure that vets do not simply rubber-stamp animals as unsuitable. Under subsection (8) if a dog or cat is determined to be unsuitable for homing by a veterinary practitioner or other person under subsection (7), the authorised person is not to cause the cat or dog to be killed without the approval of the Animal Care and Ethics Committee. This is a modest, uncontroversial reform with a simple mechanism that has the potential to save the lives of thousands of otherwise healthy companion animals. I am confident that the millions of companion animal loving residents of New South Wales would overwhelmingly support this bill and I commend it to the House.

  • Animal Justice Party defend wild horses whilst Greens advocate for mass slaughter by helicopter

    In, at times, a heated debate, Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party delivered a powerful and thought provoking speech that clearly differentiates the AJP from the Greens when it comes to animals, ALL animals.

    Greens animal welfare spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi opposed AJP amendments that would have meant Brumbies would be protected from lethal control methods and instead utilise fertility control as the primary method of management.

    Meanwhile Greens MP’s Justin Field and Jeremey Buckingham supported a mass slaughter and in Jeremy’s case even advocating for the aerial culling of brumbies, an idea not even supported by the Shooter’s, Fishers and Farmers Party!

    Unfortunately, this is now the attitude of the Greens, the party that defends itself as caring for animals. Make no mistake advocating for the mass slaughter of thousands of individual sentient beings from a moving helicopter is NOT caring for animals.

    The Animal Justice Party is the ONLY political party speaking up for ALL animals and proposing sensible solutions.

    Read the FULL DEBATE where NSW Greens MP’s advocate for aerial killing and lethal control

     

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON:

    I speak for the Animal Justice Party in debate on the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Bill 2018. Although the Animal Justice Party supports the spirit of this bill and commends the Government for taking action to seek to protect the wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park, I have some very serious concerns about what the bill fails to address and about the necessary reassurances for animal wellbeing that must be secured in the bill. To that point, the Animal Justice Party proposes two amendments, but if those amendments are not agreed to we will certainly not support the treatment of the horses in luring, capturing, trapping and transporting them to so-called riding schools and abattoirs.

    In history, the brumby holds a special place in the Australian psyche, personifying the Australian courage and spirit of freedom. They hold a special and unique place in our history and have been immortalised in literature, film and songs. Today, just like many other introduced animals, and even our native kangaroo, they are considered by some to be feral pests—a deliberately loaded term that denotes these animals are below others and therefore can be treated in often cruel and inhumane ways.

    The brumby has gallantly served humans, toiling on farms as stock animals, building the roads and railways we relied upon, even serving as police horses for officers enforcing the law in the bush. They accompanied men to war, with over 70,000 horses losing their lives in World War I alone, and none returned. We brought the horse here not out of love but out of the notion that they would be useful to us. We exploited them and when not needed we disposed of them and sent them on their way into the bush: wanted yesterday, unwanted today. They survived and adapted like any other being on this planet and yet some continue to persecute them and advocate for the destruction of their existence.

    An often overlooked part of Australian history is the bond forged between the local Indigenous people and brumbies. It has been stated that the Ngarigo and the Djiringanj peoples developed such an affinity with the animals they became known as “horse whisperers”. Ngarigo Elder Ellen Mundy recently stated, “Even though horses were an introduced species we still learnt how to communicate with them”. The bill will, in effect, reset the whole approach to wild horse management. Some say this is unnecessary and detrimental to the ongoing preservation of Kosciusko National Park. I am not of that belief. If they had taken the time to analyse the previous draft plan and associated reports, they would see that animal welfare was nothing more than a feel‑good term utilised to endorse a mass slaughter of thousands of individual beings.

    On further analysis, one can see the real dangers that were presented in that previous draft plan. The Animal Justice Party is of the opinion that the science and methodology behind that plan was either inadequate or overestimated. However, one thing is certain, that plan would undoubtedly have caused great suffering to animals. The previous plan proposed a mass reduction by way of slaughter of an estimated population of 6,000 horses down to 600 within 20 years. Irrespective of any proposed humaneness one must ask, would the wider community accept the needless killing of up to 6,000 healthy wild horses? In general terms, the process of killing any animal, in this case wild animals, without any justifiable reasoning, such as to euthanise a sick or injured dying animal, is not humane. In the view of the Animal Justice Party, killing healthy sentient beings, even if it can be done without wounding, terror or distress, is inherently ethically and morally wrong.

    In October 2000, the slaughter of over 600 brumbies in the Guy Fawkes River National Park sparked widespread public outcry and national media attention. In response to this atrocity an inquiry was conducted which revealed numerous failings by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in its role in the mass slaughter. Let us look at population estimates. In line with what the Hon. Mick Veitch has said, there has been much debate about the actual numbers of brumbies in the park. The estimate of 6,000 is generally supported. However, given the significance of the population estimate as one of the justifiable reasons for the slaughter, it seems that the National Parks and Wildlife Service should be able to demonstrate confidence in these numbers, and yet it cannot.

    The very first key finding of the Independent Technical Reference Group [ITRG] report was that they, “had not been able to reach a conclusion on trends over time in horse numbers or densities in Kosciusko National Park because of problems of comparability between successive horse surveys”. Most concerning is the final resolution from the report regarding the question of whether horse numbers are on the increase. Section 2.2 of the report states, “In general, while there are indications from the various sources that populations are increasing, the ITRG cannot at this stage draw rigorous scientific conclusions about how densities and rates of change vary across the park”.

    These statements within the ITRG report reveal serious flaws and a lack of confidence in both population numbers and population increases year on year. How the Government can confidently release a draft plan that has as its main objective to reduce wild horse numbers from 6,000 to 600 within 20 years without drawing rigorous scientific conclusions is startling. This shows serious failings of research, analysis and any proper review. It implies a predetermined motivation of mass slaughter regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof, and the objectives of that plan are unjustifiable and unnecessary.

    Let us look at environmental impacts. Conventional conservation thinking is largely centred on invasive biology and threats to native species. This paradigm of thinking is changing around the world. Current invasive species biology disregards any benefits that introduced species bring to the environment. The research is more often than not designed to reach negative conclusions regarding introduced species and preserve native fauna at all costs. In so doing, inhumane consequences often result as well as a failure to understand and recognise the positive effects that introduced species have on global biodiversity.

    Amongst the research threads in compassionate conservation is growing evidence that in fact much native flora and fauna does adapt to the introduction of other species and in some instances helps other species survive. This happens across the spectrum of flora and fauna. Horses have been present in the mountains for over 200 years. Over this time the horse has adapted to the mountain environment and the environment has adapted to the horse. This process is known as ecological succession, which is the gradual process by which ecosystems change and develop over time. As tough and uncomfortable as the current state of play is, we need to now grapple with the notion that some species are declining because they are simply not adaptive to change. Yet we punish successful species, inhumanely shoot horses and kill our top predators, disrupting social networks and thwarting natural population controls.

    What have we achieved thus far? Where has all the bloodshed got us? We have been trapping, shooting and capturing and where has it got us? We have the same problem, if not worse—if it is a problem—that we had 100 years ago. The answer is that this approach has got us nowhere. We will be in the same, if not a worse situation if we continue to turn to killing as the answer. When animals are introduced into a new ecosystem one of two things occur: they die without issue or they breed and become naturalised. As soon as an ecosystem begins to support an introduced animal the ecosystem also starts utilising the changes brought about by that animal.

    Nature is not set in stone and is not meant to remain as it was in 1769. With the introduction of the horses other species begin to find niches in the disturbed soil and collapsed stream beds created by heavy exotic herbivores. Plants begin utilising the nutrients in the large piles of manure. Plants and insects use the big bodies of horses for transportation to new niches around the landscape, maximising opportunities for the survival of their own species. There is a new biodiversity. Therefore, once a species is naturalised, once a species has found a niche in an ecosystem, it becomes impossible to remove them in large numbers without actually doing harm to that ecosystem—sometimes more harm than good. In a rapidly changing environment, as Australia has been for the last 200 years, the harm of removing a naturalised species is very likely to exceed any good.

    Now I come to fertility control as a solution. Fertility control has been successfully applied to wild horses, deer and zoo populations for more than two decades. It began in 1996 with the application to elephants in Kruger National Park and it is considered to be a more humane and often more effective form of wild animal management compared to lethal methods. Despite a wealth of authoritative evidence on the efficacy of such methods, I am still concerned that Government members in debating this bill have not committed or are not committing to a well‑funded program of immuno-sterility and completely ruling out lethal control. Unlike killing, which provides niches for younger more fertile animals to fill, fertility control buys time. Older infertile animals continue to hold their territory while every other animal in the population can be rendered infertile.

    Unlike killing, fertility control—as long as it is carried out using gentle and humane techniques—will involve no cruelty. It works. It reduces the population over time and it is controlled so that other animals will not move into the same area. A number of prerequisites must apply for a sterilisation method to be considered suitable. Most notably, the vaccine must have an efficacy rate of 80 per cent to 90 per cent. It must require no surgical invasion, have minimal impact on animal behaviour, and must be remotely applicable and not require direct handling of the targeted animal. The porcine zona pellucida vaccine has been used effectively on horses and deer as well as elephants in Africa.

    Fertility control is the long-term humane solution. It is the solution to this problem that we have been facing for 250 years. It is for this reason that I will move amendments to the bill that require any future draft plan to explicitly utilise fertility control to manage wild horse numbers. This is a sensible balance. The Animal Justice Party believes in the principle of least harm. In the best way possible, we grapple with all the complexities and external factors of an issue and determine what will cause the least harm to animals, whether introduced or native. When I have asked Indigenous people the question, “When do you believe an animal is native?” an answer from an elder was, “When it is born here. Isn’t that what the word means? Nate, birth.” Unfortunately, there will always be some harm no matter what we do, but we can only try to do our best. The Animal Justice Party does not and will not support any method of lethal control. From an animal welfare standpoint, we do not support practices such as roping, chasing or brumby-running in any way, shape or form. With modern day solutions and a sensible approach, there should be no killing of a healthy brumby, nor should any brumby under any circumstances be transported to any slaughterhouse.

    I express my sincere gratitude to the numerous brumby advocacy groups that, like many animal advocacy groups, work tirelessly to protect, defend and rescue individual brumbies. The bill could be a step forward in bringing the issues of animal wellbeing and introduced animal management to a more sensible space for measured and fact-based debate. However, that step will only be supported by the Animal Justice Party if the amendments to strengthen the spirit of the bill are passed.

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