• 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.

  • Mark’s powerful speech in support of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018

    The Animal Justice Party expresses its overwhelming support for the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 and commends all of the work done by the Hon. Paul Green and everybody who has worked with him. The extraordinary thing about slavery is that it has been an insidious, ugly instrument in our societies for thousands of years. Unfortunately, people who travel the world to look at the tourist attractions are often enjoying the fruits of slavery. I am talking about buildings such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt and some of the most glorious buildings that have been commissioned by churches and governments across Europe. When we go to these countries and walk among the attractions we are filled with awe, but the one menacing, disturbing truth is that, in the main, they were created by slaves. Many of those slaves suffered long, lingering deaths; they were crushed by the work they did on the very beautiful buildings that we can admire today.

    But slavery affects our everyday lives in Australia. Most of the t-shirts that are worn during summer are produced as a result of acts of slavery in sweatshops. We are learning, more and more, that it is very difficult for companies to find sources of garments—even shoes—where slavery has not been involved in some part of the production. Some of us feel uncomfortable when we walk across the beautiful rugs we have procured over time and put on the floors of our houses, only to learn that it is quite possible that children who were chained to carpet‑making operations in India and Pakistan were forced to make those carpets. Children work long hours making carpets and, in some cases, are never allowed to leave the factory in which they work.

    In Australia, it has become apparent that slavery has been used in fruit-picking, in other agricultural industries, and in construction industries. There have been instances where people who have come to Australia on particular visas to do part-time work have found themselves enslaved. In the worst cases, people have been involved in the sexual exploitation of children; they pay a very small amount of money and cause a child or a person to be kidnapped, taken to a place, raped, tortured and, in some cases—for example, in the production of snuff movies—murdered. It was a big step forward when legislation was passed so that when Australians committed sexual offences against children in other countries they could be extradited back to Australia and, even better, face charges in Australia for that sexual abuse. These have been welcome advances in legislation.

    I have some concerns about the Modern Slavery Bill. It could have more teeth—more strength—and be more compelling. I think the commissioner should have far more powers. The commissioner should have the power to investigate and to compel the relevant authorities to investigate and issue warrants. The bill should have the strength and power to support the principle and spirit of the bill. I understand the Government will move amendments to the bill, but this is a bill which is about stopping slavery—about preventing harm of the vulnerable—and no amendment should detract from the spirit of the bill. Any amendment, from any member of any party, should go only to galvanizing the spirit of this bill, which is about protecting the most vulnerable—being a shield and a sword for them. The vulnerable include children and women. It has been said that domestic violence is a form of slavery. If people, including children, have to flee to refuges it means that they have been enslaved. We must be very aware that slavery manifests in very subtle, sinister ways. An act of slavery might be for only half a day, but it is still slavery.

    I implore the Government that any amendment—whether it is introduced here or in the other place—strengthens the bill. This bill should also cover all Government departments. There should be no exemptions—even for small businesses should not be exempt, in any way, from the requirements and the powers of this bill. I note the amendment to be moved by Mr. David Shoebridge, which would include tissue trafficking. We should be introducing amendments such as that, which will strengthen the provisions and provide more detail so that this bill captures all the exploiters and all of the evil actions that can cause such harm and such brutal exploitation of any living being in Australia or around the world. I commend the bill to the House.

  • Adjournment Speech – Veterinarians Mental Health

    A series of studies conducted in recent years have identified elevated rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among Australian veterinarians, with a suicide rate four times higher than the general population. These figures are consistent with studies conducted in Great Britain and America. There is clearly a common thread concerning the mental health challenges of the profession. Murdoch University is currently conducting research on the mental health of Australian veterinarians, which will hopefully assist the profession in improving the mental well-being of its members.

    Multiple studies cite risk factors such as long hours and highly stressful decision-making, the difficulty of recruiting locums to take much needed breaks, and in rural areas these difficulties are compounded by professional isolation. These are common stressors across many professions, but there are additional emotional stressors, such as the regular killing of animals, combined with easy access to lethal drugs, that are unique to the veterinary profession. The 2016 Australian National Coronial Information System report noted a history of self-poisoning suicides linked to drugs available in veterinary clinics.

    While there are no equivalent Australian figures, British studies showed that 81 per cent of veterinarians entered the profession due to their desire to work with the human-animal bond. Women veterinarians in particular were identified as having high levels of empathy towards animals. This empathy towards animals may, in a large part, be the cause of the mental distress experienced by veterinarians. Across a range of international studies, young and female veterinarians are at greatest risk of job dissatisfaction, leading to mental health difficulties and suicidal ideation. “Compassion fatigue” or “vicarious trauma” was identified as a risk factor leading to suicide.

    The realities of veterinary practice can be emotionally gruelling. Many vets speak of the distress of being responsible for ending animals’ lives, either directly in the case of euthanising sick or injured animals, or worse, being required to kill perfectly healthy unwanted animals, or indirectly in the case of the slaughter of farmed animals. Vets also found themselves in professionally challenging situations where they encountered animal abuse and neglect. Some studies have questioned whether the routine euthanising or killing of animals impacted on attitudes towards death more generally.

    In surveys, vets showed higher support for human voluntary euthanasia than the general population. This attitude to death may even facilitate self-justification and lower their inhibitions towards suicide as a rational solution to their personal problems.

    As a society we could do a much better job of providing funding and resources to ensure that no vet is required to kill perfectly healthy animals that have been abandoned or surrendered to council pounds or RSPCA shelters. The growth of no-kill shelters not only is a more humane approach to companion animals but also removes the risk of psychological harm to vets who are forced to administer the “green dream” to healthy animals. Even the upside of being a veterinarian—having clients with strong emotional ties to their companion animals—could create distress. The emotional intensity of that bond adds stress when the time arrives for euthanising sick or aged animals that are considered part of the family.

    I commend the work of our veterinarians in alleviating animal suffering. My personal heroes are those vets who find the time to work pro bono or provide discounted fees to companion animal rescue groups, wildlife carers and farmed animal sanctuaries. Perhaps the Australian Veterinary Association may consider supporting veterinarians as they deliver these services as a way of providing a channel for their compassion and empathy towards animals.

  • No moral justification for the continued existence of Zoos

    It was not that long ago that we exhibited deformed, mentally ill and indigenous people in exhibitions such as circuses and zoos.

    There is no moral justification for the continued existence of zoos; they are just tourist attractions.

    The recent controversy over Taronga Zoo’s proposal to build a multiple-storey “eco resort” on its exclusive harbour-side grounds is clear evidence of tourism first, animals last. As noted by Mosman Council in its objection to the development application:

    The planned $45 million resort appears incompatible with the primary aims of the zoo, which are animal display, research, breeding and raising public awareness of species conservation.

    Any feeble claim that zoos are “educational” assumes that the numerous award-winning nature documentaries depicting animals in their natural habitat expressing their normal behaviours are inferior to watching captive animals engage in stress-relieving behaviour in a cramped, alien environment. It has been well documented that wild animals cannot, and do not, have the capacity to express their natural behaviours in unnatural circumstances. Many zoo-confined animals exhibit stereotypical behaviours, known as “zoonosis”. Examples of this include compulsive pacing, over-grooming and obsessive head nodding and weaving, often seen in the elephants and giraffes currently at Taronga Zoo. What about the educational benefits for children? It is said that seeing animals in the flesh is the only way to stimulate their interest. Given the number of seven-year-old children obsessing about long-extinct dinosaurs or preschoolers watching endless loops of Peppa Pig videos, I doubt that argument can be sustained.

    The trite observation that twenty-first century zoos have transitioned into conservation zones must be contested. While the larger zoos such as the Taronga Western Plains Zoo can reasonably accommodate specialised conservation programs, it is hardly the case with metropolitan zoos. The dirty secret of zoo breeding programs is that zoos regularly kill surplus animals or, at best, break up kinship groups in order to export family members to other zoos around the world. The proposed new Sydney Zoo to be constructed in Western Sydney Parklands is a classic example of a zoo that is designed primarily as a simple exhibition for tourists, not for animal welfare or conservation. The promotional materials give the game away—spruiking the zoo’s proximity to other tourist attractions such as Wet’n’Wild Sydney, Sydney Motorsport Park and the Sydney International Equestrian Centre. Up to one-third of the space in the tiny 16 hectares will be devoted to car parks and visitors’ entrance—no doubt well stocked with eye-catching merchandise and an inviting cafeteria.

    The zoo is planning on exhibiting up to 500 animals, including all the glamorous and exotic attractions such as rhinos, lions, tigers, cheetahs, gorillas, giraffes and monkeys. The zoo’s promotional video shows that predator and prey animals are confined in small enclosures that are so closely located they will be able to see, smell and hear each other. Judging from the information that has been released, there is not a shred of evidence that there will be any conservation programs for these confined exotic animals imprisoned in the suburbs of Western Sydney. In another promotional video, the former environment Minister is shown speaking enthusiastically about the zoo’s plans to establish a breeding program for native animals that have become threatened species in the wild. Given the ridiculously small area available for the native animal enclosure, I am at a loss as to how that can be achieved. At the very least, we should prohibit the construction of new zoos, close metropolitan zoos and move any damaged animals into conservation programs on rural animal sanctuaries that can best mimic their natural environment.

  • Defending introduced animals against state funded suffering

    Last week the NSW government passed a bill, that, on first glance looked innocent enough.

    However, when we dug a bit deeper, the bill enables the Minister to spend nearly $3 million dollars a year on providing farmers with 1080 baits and other cruel so called ‘control’ methods for killing animals deemed pests. Among these introduced animals deemed pests by livestock graziers and the like are foxes, pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, deer, and even our native Dingo. How did we as a society get to the point where we treat innocent animals with such disdain, such venom? That, in order to ‘ farm’ animals for slaughter and ruin the environment we then give money to promote suffering to introduced animals trying to survive in an ever decreasing natural habitat, is a massive contradiction.

    Mark ensured these animals had their say and urged the government to support a proposed AJP amendment that would see 25% of these funds to fund research and development for non-lethal methods of management.

    Watch or read the full speech below.

    I speak to the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2017. First, while the Animal Justice Party does not support the bill, I note that we oppose only one key section. That is the increased funding for killing so-called “pest species”. We had hoped to propose some sensible and proactive amendments but, as this is a money bill, that can only be done in the other place. I will touch on those amendments a little later. In relation to the Animal Justice Party’s concerns, my understanding is that the bill seeks to join general pest animal management funding with the existing locust fund, which generates its income from a levy placed on the landholders. While funding for locust control remains the main priority, residual funds will be used to target those species that are deemed to be pests with the cheapest, yet cruellest, forms of killing control—a control method that has been proven time and time again not to work in the end. In fact, it has the opposite effect in that mass slaughter provides only a quick, forced population control result.

    Professor Tony English of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine stated that, despite 200 years of shooting, poisoning and trapping, feral animal numbers continue to rise. Feral animal populations have thrived not due to the setting aside of national parks, but due to the massive degradation and devegetation of the landscape that has compromised natural ecosystems and their native specie, thus creating a niche for feral animals. Much research has been published about the crude killing methods of control. It reveals that removing an introduced species from an ecosystem that has adapted to its existence, to a point, has a negative ripple effect for other animals. A basic example is the wiping out of rabbits in certain areas. While farmers rejoiced, it caused a dramatic decrease in quoll numbers because our native raptors, rather than preying on defenceless, prolific rabbits, turned to preying on quolls. Quoll numbers decreased, raptors struggled for food, and more and more consequential changes occurred down the food chain.

    We cannot go back to 1769 in relation to introduced species. Foxes, wild dogs, wild pigs, rabbits, cats, mice and rats have been born here for many generations and now fill an ecological niche. Given the massive habitat loss and changes in landscape, mostly due to agribusiness and the forestry industry, we must accept that our ecosystems are evolving and adapting. Rather than, as this bill appears to propose, providing a new avenue of funding for 1080 poisoning programs, mass slaughters, cruel hunting techniques and lethal viruses that cause long, lingering deaths, we should be investing in the research and development of more humane and non-lethal, but effective, control methods. While I note that there is a research and development area within the Department of Primary Industries, it is limited by general funding that is provided to the entire department. There is no designated fund to evolve the area past being more than a mechanism to support more profitable animal farming. Sadly, in regard to animal welfare it is merely a token gesture.

    Our amendment idea is simple and, since I cannot move the amendment in Committee, I urge the Minister and the Government to think seriously about its intentions and desired outcomes. Simply put, we call for a proportion of the residual funds—that is, what is left once the allocation for locust control has been made—to go to funding specific research and development of more humane and non-lethal methods of introduced animal control. We propose that no less than 25 per cent of the residual funds be provided and utilised only for introduced animal control research and development, and for such programs that are shown to be effective in other parts of the world, such as immunosterility contraceptive methods. These methods are being used with wild horses in Canada and with elephants in Africa, and are being trialled with some success with possums in New Zealand.

    But to ensure transparency and an accurate cost-benefit measurement, we also suggest that an annual report be provided outlining where the funds were spent and the outcomes and trials conducted as part of the specific introduced animal management plan. This report should also show the percentage of funding allocated in excess of the minimum of 25 per cent. Overall, our aim with this proposal is to ensure that introduced animal management provided by government tackles the long-term strategic view of genuine population control through humane and effective, non-lethal means. If funds are to be used to kill animals in the most barbaric and cruel ways, based purely on cost, it is only reasonable that a portion of those funds go into research and development of, not just more humane methods, but better long-term outcomes in reducing innocent introduced animal populations.

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