• pig awaiting slaughter

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

    18th June 2019

    FOOD ANIMAL WELFARE

    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

    KANGAROO GENOCIDE IN NSW

    ONGOING KANGAROO KILLING

    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.

  • SELECT COMMITTEE ON LANDOWNER PROTECTION FROM UNAUTHORISED FILMING OR SURVEILLANCE

    14th November 2018

    Adjournment Speech.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (00:20): As a member of the Legislative Council Select Committee on Landowner Protection from Unauthorised Filming or Surveillance, I thank the secretariat staff for their excellent work in identifying the pertinent evidence that assisted the committee to develop the recommendations set out its report. I also thank my colleagues on the committee for their open-minded approach to a very complex issue concerning the balancing of landholders’ rights and the public interest in preventing animal cruelty. When I was voted on to the committee The Greens were at pains to suggest that it was not in the best interests of animals for me to participate and that I would end up being a patsy for intensive farming industries intent on increasing penalties for animal activists engaged in covert surveillance. It was suggested that to participate would be to give legitimacy to the cruel but routine practices involved in intensive agriculture industries and at the same time risk demonising animal activists as domestic terrorists.

    The Greens said they would “cut me down”. That certainly did not happen. I was confident that the evidence would demonstrate that our existing animal welfare protections are so poorly enforced that animal activists feel compelled to break the law by trespassing and engaging in covert surveillance to expose cruel and illegal practices. I have been vindicated in my belief by the published recommendations of the report. The Greens criticism of my membership of the committee conveniently ignored the fact that the inquiry was going to proceed with or without input from the Animal Justice Party. I had the overwhelming support of members from the Government, Labor, the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to be appointed to the committee. The truth is that The Greens would have happily taken the opportunity to be on the committee but it did not have the support of the other parties to do so. To save face with its supporters, it became necessary to denigrate my participation on this committee.

    As the only member in the Chamber with more than 25 years experience in animal activism, it seems obvious to me and no doubt to those members who voted for me that I would have a unique and important insight into the terms of reference and, in particular, to the motivations of animal activists who seek to obtain covert evidence of animal cruelty. Indeed, my presence on the committee ensured that relevant animal activist representatives were called to give evidence. Further, my questions helped to draw out information that led to the committee’s first three recommendations, which, if adopted by the Government, will significantly improve animal welfare outcomes. In particular, recommendation one, which states:

    That the NSW Government review the resources and powers of the RSPCA in regard to the monitoring and enforcement of animal welfare measures, and consider means by which the RSPCA and the NSW Police can work together more effectively to protect animals from mistreatment.

    Animal activists and advocates have long identified the need to improve the way in which animal protection is monitored and, in particular, improving the resources available for investigative and enforcement agencies. I have spent the past four years detailing the ongoing and systemic failures of our animal protection systems.

    Recommendation 2, that the New South Wales Government encourage animal industries to be proactive in engaging with the community and collaborate with animal industries to investigate schemes to increase transparency about food production and animal husbandry practices. I referred to the previous speeches in Hansard where I questioned whether animal industries have a licence to operate at all. Greater transparency of their operations will certainly give the public the opportunity to decide whether the industry’s treatment of farmed animals is deserving of a social licence. But most importantly, recommendation 3, that the New South Wales Government review the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 to consider whether to insert a public interest exemption for unauthorised filming or surveillance. Finally, I thank members for voting me on to the committee and by doing so acknowledging the valuable input the Animal Justice Party would bring to this vexed and contentious area of public policy.

  • EXOTIC ANIMALS AND CIRCUSES

    25th October 2018

    Second read speech – Exhibited Animals Protection Amendment (Prohibitions On Exhibition) Bill 2018.

    The “Circus Bill” would ban the use of exotic animals in circuses and retire them to sanctuaries where they can live out their days in peace.  Mark Pearson’s speech references the appalling history of animals being used in circuses.  “Tradition” is no defence for continuing the practice of forcing animals to perform for human entertainment.

    EXHIBITED ANIMALS PROTECTION AMENDMENT (PROHIBITIONS ON EXHIBITION) BILL 2018

    First Reading

    Bill introduced, and read a first time and ordered to be printed on motion by the Hon. Mark Pearson.

    Second Reading Speech

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:04): I move:

    That this bill be now read a second time.

    The Exhibited Animals Protection Amendment (Prohibitions on Exhibition) Bill 2018 prohibits circuses from exhibiting exotic animals. Exotic animals are defined as any animal other than a stock animal within the meaning of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, or a companion animal within the meaning of the Companion Animals Act”. This bill makes it an offence for a person to exhibit an exotic animal at a circus, and to breed, keep, train or transport an exotic animal for the purpose of exhibiting the animal at a circus, whether or not the circus is located in New South Wales. Exotic animals currently exhibited at circuses must be rehomed in an animal display establishment or wildlife sanctuary approved by the secretary within 12 months. If such a placement is not reasonably practicable, the owner must keep the exotic animal in accordance with standards currently prescribed under the principal Act.

    Established science tells us that the welfare and wellbeing of exotic animals is severely compromised by being held captive in travelling circuses. The circus business model is predicated on forcing animals to live in barren, cramped conditions, including stressful travel in trucks known as beast wagons for thousands of kilometres each year. The animals have little in the way of enrichment or stimulation while confined, nor can they engage in many of their natural behaviours. Animal Circuses have their origins in the Roman Empire. Their purpose was not just to entertain the masses but also to reinforce the myth of human superiority over mere beasts. Many thousands of exotic animals were tortured, butchered and killed during performances at the Colosseum in Rome.

    Australia’s first travelling animal circuses were established in the 1850s, but there is no fine tradition to celebrate. Caged lions and tigers, brutalised for the public’s amusement, were exhibited alongside freak shows with exhibits such as the bearded lady, conjoined twins, or the world’s smallest woman. Horrifyingly, a group of Aboriginal people from the Wulguru clan on Palm Island were taken abroad by Barnum and Bailey’s Circus to be displayed alongside other Indigenous people from around the globe. The Wulguru people were promoted as “Australian cannibals” and forced to dance, sing and throw boomerangs to the audience while performing alongside an elephant. Within a year many in the group had succumbed to illness and some died, with the body of an Aboriginal man called Tambo being embalmed and put on permanent display. His remains were finally returned to his country after many approaches by his people.

    There is not a shred of credibility to the often stated argument that circuses stimulate people’s interest in conserving exotic animals or respect foranimals’ capability and skill. How can watching a lion balance on a small table possibly have any relevance to understanding the place of the lion on the African savannah? In 2018 there are so many more authoritative ways that people can learn about animals. Animal circuses have never been about education as they now proclaim; rather, they are about human voyeurism, watching animals humiliated and degraded by the manner in which they are forced to perform and be displayed. They become parodies of themselves. Noone with a modicum of empathy could possibly enjoy watching a subjugated animal being forced to perform tricks against their own natural instincts.

    Circuses may have moved on from forcing lions and tigers to jump through burning hoops or—the ultimate in voyeurism—the staged death by electrocution of Topsy the elephant at a Coney Island amusement park in 1903, but the reality is still animal suffering and misery. As a society we have become more concerned about animal welfare. In recognition of this change, Australian circus culture underwent a revolution in the late 1970s with the emergence of animal-free alternatives such as Circus Oz, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus and the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. Fast‑forward to the twenty‑first century and in New South Wales only Lennon Bros Circus, Stardust Circus and Circus Royale continue to use exotic animals such as lions, monkeys and camels. They are left to tour on the fringes of the entertainment circuit and on the outskirts of country towns. Often they are met with animal rights protesters objecting to the circus’s presence in their town.

    Acknowledging the growing public disquiet, more than 40 councils in Australia banned exotic animal circuses from performing on council‑owned and controlled land. In New South Wales, such councils included Parramatta, Lismore, Wingecarribee, Newcastle, Blue Mountains, Warringah, Woollahra, Hornsby, Pittwater, Manly, Randwick, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Liverpool and Camden councils. A number of other New South Wales councils are currently being petitioned to ban animal circuses on council land. In 1992, the Australian Capital Territory Government passed legislation prohibiting bears, elephants, giraffes, primates or felines—other than domestic cats—from being exhibited in circuses.

    Animals have not been the only victims of circuses. Between 1863 and 2001, there were 131 incidents in Australia in which members of the public or circus workers were harmed. The individuals most likely to suffer injuries or death were animal handlers during performances and training and circus hands feeding animals or cleaning cages. Many of the accidents involving patrons happened because people stood too close to the cages in which animals were housed. Members of the public were mauled by lions, trampled by elephants and lacerated by monkeys. The animals most prone to instigating attacks were lions, followed by tigers and elephants. Elephants killed more often than any other circus animal.

    Some circuses were so notorious for the injuries caused that it became a matter of some concern to public safety, but it was not until 1943 that the New South Wales Government finally intervened by cancelling the licence of a particularly negligent circus. Injuries to the public and circus workers continued right up until circuses began closing down due to lack of financial viability. By the early 2000s, only Stardust, Ashton and Lennon Bros circuses exhibited dangerous exotic animals such as lions, tigers and elephants. In 2001 a lion tamer was attacked by three lions at a Lennon Bros Circus performance in Penrith. In 2004 a toddler at Ashton Circus tragically lost his arms after he stuck them through the bars of a cage containing two tigons.

    The most recent case stems from a time when I was with Animal Liberation NSW. Until 1996, Stardust Circus had two performing elephants called Arna and Bambi. They had spent their entire lives in captivity, much of it together. Arna witnessed Bambi’s death from anaesthesia complications after treatment for an injured foot. Bambi fell and suffocated to death as a consequence of the treating veterinarian and staff failing to place her in a supportive sling for the surgery.

    Elephants are highly social animals and in recognition of that, the circus animal welfare standards require that elephants should not be solitary unless there are compelling reasons. In 2000 Animal Liberation NSW campaigned to have Arna transferred to the Western Plains Zoo given that she had been a solitary elephant for six years and this was causing her significant distress. Imagine a life alone and bound by foot shackles except when performing. Animal Liberation wrote to the then Director General of the Department of Agriculture, stating that if the annual permit was to be issued for Stardust Circus to keep Arna—therefore meaning she would be kept as a solitary elephant—then it would challenge that decision in the New South Wales Supreme Court. This was confirmed and Animal Liberation took Stardust Circus to the Supreme Court, arguing that Arna suffered psychologically as a consequence of her imposed solitude. I sought to have Arna—then in her mid-40s—paired with Gigi, a retired elephant from Ashton Circus. Animal Liberation lost the case but in 2001 Stardust Circus arranged for Gigi to join it.

    But the psychological damage had been done. In 2008, for reasons apparently unknown, Arna struck out against her handler. His injuries included a broken back and a ruptured aorta and were found to be the result of a “severe blunt trauma”, with the cause of death being a direct result of Arna crushing his upper back with her foot as he lay on the ground. However, I was informed by a trapeze artist at the circus that Arna’s and Gigi’s handler had beaten Gigi with a piece of 4 by 2 timber before approaching Arna.

    As I stated at the time, it has been proven that elephants who kill once will frequently kill again. Ashton Circus elephant Abu killed three workers: in 1974, 1983 and again in 1987. His partner at the time had been Gigi, who was later bought by Stardust Circus as the new companion for Arna. In response to public concern and a directive from the Department of Primary Industries, Stardust retired 53‑year‑old Arna and her companion elephant Gigi, 50, to the Western Plains Zoo, where they lived out their years free of shackles, long hours in the back of beast wagons, and the glare and noise of the circus ring. This tragic episode ended the sorry history of performing elephants in circuses.

    This brings me to the ongoing suffering of the remaining exotic animals in travelling circuses in New South Wales. Lions, camels and rhesus macaque monkeys are still exhibited and forced to perform for human entertainment. Animal circus owners tell us that because their lions have been bred for multiple generations in captivity and their macaques have been bred or sourced from zoos, and because the animals are shown affection as if they were companion animals and are extensively trained, they do not suffer from stress or boredom.

    In 2009, a University of Bristol study found that circus animals spend most of their days confined, with between 1 per cent and 9 per cent of each day taken up with performing or training and the remaining time spent in so‑called exercise pens. In other words, for at least 90 per cent of each day, the animals are in small, barren, temporary pens that are set up on the featureless, dusty or muddy back paddocks of New South Wales. Monkeys fare even worse, stuck in sterile cages that would be an animal welfare scandal if used in zoos.

    Exercise pens are significantly smaller than minimum zoo requirements for outdoor enclosures. Given that there is no difference between the needs of a lion in a zoo and the needs of a circus lion, what is the explanation or justification for that? The reality is that a profitable travelling circus could not have pens the size of zoo enclosures. The circus animal standards therefore allow for this anomaly based on a commercial imperative. The science, however, is very clear that wild animals such as lions cannot flourish in domesticated settings regardless of how long they have been bred in captivity. According to Price in 1999, the conditions of captivity:

    … constrain an animal’s behaviours and restricts appropriate, or allows inappropriate, social interactions, both intra- and inter‑specifically …

    According to Mason et al in 2001:

    Wild animals that have been bred for tens of generations in captivity still show extremely high motivation to perform certain activities seen in their wild counterparts … Be under no illusion that exotic circus animals are anything other than wild animals forced to adapt to and submit themselves to humans. They may have been hand reared, which makes them less fearful towards humans, and they may be described by their handlers as “tamed”, but they can never be considered domesticated. Indeed, in order to tame them, infant animals in circuses are regularly separated from their mother and hand reared. Studies by Dettling in 2002, McEwen in 2007 and Reimers et al in 2007 have shown that this increases stress‑related behaviour and can cause an elevated and prolonged stress response. These increased stress sensitivity effects can last into adulthood.

    Circus owners may speak of generationally breeding lions into docility but no studies have been undertaken to establish that selective reproduction has taken place. Genetically speaking, exotic animals in circuses are identical to their wild counterparts. They express similarly high motivation to perform their species‑specific behaviours and their instincts are unaffected. As a result, allegedly tamed exotic animals in captivity are often unpredictable and under stressful circumstances are likely to become aggressive. The University of Bristol study that I referenced earlier examined behaviour, health, living and travelling conditions and compared the conditions of non-domesticated animals in circuses with their counterparts kept in zoos. The study found:

    Circus animals spent a great amount of time performing stereotypies, such as head-waving, pacing and repetitive abnormal behaviours, especially when shackled or confined in beast wagons.

    Stereotypies are caused by a captive animal’s repeated attempts to adapt to its environment or by a dysfunction of the central nervous system. Locomotory stereotypies include pacing and similar behaviours. Oral stereotypies include repetitive movements with the tongue or repeatedly biting an object. An animal may also perform repetitive movements of the whole body without moving from one place to another, such as swaying. The category would include, for example, a stereotypy sometimes shown by primates that consists of the animal moving its body backwards and forwards while seated. Other stereotypies include excessive grooming, leading sometimes to hair loss and dermatitis.

    The motivation for locomotory stereotypies of carnivores is not known with certainty and is likely to result from the combination of several factors. Some studies suggest that lack of space is important, while others point to the inability to perform the normal behaviour of the species as the main cause. In carnivores, pacing is more common in those species that usually travel long distances in the wild. Regardless of how many generations have been born into captivity, all confined exotic animals are at risk of developing stereotypies due to confinement, boredom and the stress caused by the inability to perform normal behaviours. Stereotypic behaviour is particularly associated with performances in circus elephants and, in short, they are driven mad.

    The presence of stereotypies is indicative of poor welfare in circus animals. Inadequate diet and housing conditions, and the effects of repeated performances, can also lead to significant health problems. Circus animals travel frequently and the associated forced movement, human handling, noise, wagon movement and confinement are important stressors. Available evidence suggests that performing near spectators may cause severe stress to wild animals. This can be exacerbated by restricted movement options, harsh lighting, exposure to loud or aversive sounds, strange odours and extreme temperatures. For example, stereotypies increase when the music starts just before a performance. I have witnessed that myself.

    The type of training that is used affects the welfare of the animals. While we cannot be sure about the exact nature of training methods, any training procedures that include physical punishment will be stressful for and impose fear on the animals undergoing them. In the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, has previously exposed the use of bullhooks on elephants in order to obtain their compliance. Although there is no conclusive evidence as to whether animals habituate to travel, confinement in beast wagons for long periods is a definite welfare concern.

    Circuses have a limited ability to make improvements such as providing increased space, environmental enrichment and appropriate social housing that zoos may be able to provide. Given the financial and physical limitations of circuses, social animals are often housed singly, or in groups smaller than the average in the wild, or in unnatural groupings. That prevents establishment of normal social dynamics and has significant consequences for behaviour and welfare. Consequently, the University of Bristol study found that the only non‑domesticated animals suitable for circus life would have low space requirements, simple social structures, low cognitive function, non-specialist ecological requirements and an ability to be transported without adverse welfare effects. None of the commonest species exhibited by circuses, such as elephants and large felids, meet those criteria. They concluded that the species of non-domesticated animals commonly kept in circuses appear the least suited to a circus life.

    Animal circuses are closing all around the world. The most famous in the United States, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, made the decision to close earlier this year after almost 150  years in the business. They attributed the closure to changing community tastes in entertainment, and the community’s growing concerns regarding animal welfare. Forty-five countries have already banned or are transitioning to ban animal circuses, citing animal welfare concerns as the main reason. May New South Wales join Sweden, Costa Rica, India, Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Belgium and other countries in moving to ban animals in circuses.

    The time is up for exotic animal circuses in this State. The circus families themselves know that they are the last generation to crack the whip against the majestic lion and the magnificent tiger. The shackles of countless generations of tortured elephants will never again be used to subjugate these magnificent gentle and intelligent giants. I respectively ask my fellow members to support this bill and give these animals the compassionate response they deserve. May their final years be spent in a sanctuary rather than in the confines of a beast wagon. I commend the bill to the House.

    Debate adjourned.

  • Naree Pon

    COMPANION ANIMALS DESERVE CONSIDERATION IN RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS

    17th October 2018

    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.

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