• Adjournment speech on the brutality, cruelty of the kangaroo meat industry & the betrayal of our National symbol

    I draw to the attention of the House the betrayal of the national symbol of Australia—the internationally recognised totem for Australia, the kangaroo—here on the Coat of Arms in our House, the Legislative Council, the Coat of Arms in the other place, the Legislative Assembly, and on the Coat of Arms of the Federal Parliament. The ultimate betrayal of kangaroos is undertaken every night in Australia when a beautiful, soft, gentle and harmless herbivore is hunted down and slaughtered in their thousands. It is the largest routine slaughter of a land-dwelling wild animal on earth. And for what reason?

    In the main it is their perceived conflict with agribusiness. This has led to a dirty and ugly pet food industry; but, moreover, a filthy, out-of-control, misleading and deceptive human consumption industry, for both domestic and export consumption. It is the dirty and dark secret of the Great South Land that is second only in scale of abuse and brutality to the treatment of the First Peoples, the Indigenous people of Australia. Analyses of carcasses and the meat that is in supermarkets and retail outlets, and analyses by countries of import such as Russia, have led to their own findings that this is a dirty and filthy industry. Contaminants such as E. coli, salmonella, faeces, antibiotic spray and rotting meat caused Russia to implement a ban in 2008, through to 2009, and then finally crown it in 2012. China is refusing to accept kangaroo meat, despite numerous applications by governments to do so. Europe is commencing its own analysis of imports of kangaroo products. Holland has put forward a motion and is preparing a bill to be the first member country to implement a ban on kangaroo meat.

    I approached Minister Speakman to refer this industry, after 22 years of no overview or review, to the relevant committee, but he refused. I will obtain the agreement of three committee members to have the committee undertake an inquiry into the New South Wales kangaroo management program—not plan, but program. No rock will be left unturned. Not one slaughter operation, not one bludgeoned joey, not one retrieved decapitated head will be ignored in the inquiry’s penetrating and forensic analysis of what has been up until now an unaccountable but bloody disgusting industry. For the first time light will be shed on a critical and fundamental, but completely ignored, fact that has been dismissed with contempt and disrespect: The profound Indigenous connection with this animal, the malu, or kangaroo.

    If the next kangaroo management program is signed off next December or January by the State and Federal Ministers for the environment, it will be challenged by the Indigenous people in the Federal Court and no doubt will go all the way to the High Court. The mass slaughter of kangaroos, which is sanctioned by the second people of Australia, is the mass slaughter of an animal that is a totem to many Indigenous people, central to their spiritual relationship with land and water and, moreover, intricately interwoven into the complex laws and lores of the First Peoples. If industry and governments ignore the slaughter and significance of kangaroos, the Indigenous people will have no option—which was the case with Mabo—but to go to the judiciary and, inevitably, the highest court in the land to seek the help of the courts in protecting those misunderstood and abused animals.

    mark-pearson-kangaroo-report-at-home

  • Greyhound Prohibition Bill 2016 second reading debate speech

    The Animal Justice Party overwhelmingly supports the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Bill 2016. Last year I was asked to assist with developing a strategy after unfortunate evidence was gathered over several months in relation to live baiting. The training of greyhounds routinely involves a great deal of live baiting. Many trainers would arrive at a training track with various species—rabbits, possums, cats and piglets. One particular scene has haunted me ever since. It was not a one-off incident; it is systemic, it is part of the industry, it is the norm and it is integral to the industry. In broad daylight a possum, which is a nocturnal animal, was strapped to a lure. A cloth was placed over its shoulders and it was strapped down firmly by its lower legs. The only part of its body it could move was its tail. Owners paid $50 to train their dogs using that live bait.

    The lure was set off, with engines roaring, screaming and vibrating. This nocturnal animal was sped around the track. When it was stopped, the dogs were allowed to tear and rip at it. It then came back around to the start. The possum was kicked around and hit to see whether it was conscious. If it was still alive it was sent around again with other dogs. A possum that came back conscious would emit a very high-pitched squeal—as do kittens, piglets and rabbits, believe it or not, when suffering and in enormous distress. The possum to which I refer went around the track 23 times, and it was still conscious. If the owner of the dog was satisfied with the live baiting episode and the possum was still alive he could have his $50 refunded because the animal could be used for the next dog. The possum would be left there to die a long, lingering death—the police described it as torture.

    Justice McHugh subpoenaed 10 trainers to give evidence to the inquiry. Nine of them said—they could have lied but they did not—that they used live baiting to various degrees, and one refused to answer the question but certainly did not deny it. Therein lies the savagery of the greyhound industry. It is not a minority of trainers; it is not a one-off incident. Nine out of 10 trainers admitted to live baiting and that means the industry cannot save itself from itself.

    No regulator can save it from itself. The Government has rightfully decided that no government can save the industry from itself. That is why the Animal Justice Party and I personally overwhelming support the Baird Government in taking this historic, principled and ethical decision.

    The greyhound industry has a long history both here and afar. It is a history built on animal cruelty that traces the “sport” from the traditions of the elite and royalty to the “battlers’ sport” that it is portrayed as today. Its long history is important as it coincides with the dynamic shift of social and community expectation regarding our relationships with animals. It is clear that the industry has formulated its own demise, no doubt carrying innocent casualties with it of both the human and non-human kind. The industry and its core participants have ignored society’s shift regarding animals and their treatment. The shift places high expectations of those seeking to profit from animals and transcends political persuasions and socio-economic backgrounds. To pigeonhole love for animals as elitist and snobbery is an insult to working class everyday people, many of whom will take in a rescued greyhound as owners seek to dispose of them in the coming months when they no longer bring in revenue.

    It has been a widely known secret that the greyhound industry has systemic animal welfare issues. It is critical to note that those issues are systemic, not rare or in the minority. Stories of live baiting, mass graves, greyhound muscle men and over breeding have been common for a very long time. There has been a great deal of evidence about greyhound muscle men, which I will explain. When a greyhound has an injury it is very rarely taken to a vet or has a vet called for it. Instead, a decision is made to immediately breach a section of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that says it is an offence to fail to provide veterinary treatment. A greyhound muscle man is called in. People who have been in the industry have given clear descriptions of what muscle men do. If a dog has gathered a serious injury while racing and cannot perform the muscle men will try various practices. One of them is to strap the front two legs of a dog to a high tree branch and then stretch the bottom two legs to try to rectify the injury. No analgesia or pain relief is given while the muscle men do the job. That practice is systemic in the industry.

    In my previous job I was privy to a large amount of evidence but not enough to bring about prosecutions at the level required. It was only in early 2015 that the evidence exposed in the Four Corners broadcast “Making A Killing” that I unfortunately witnessed as I assisted in obtaining that evidence for the program and the police. The exposé documented what has been spoken about a great deal today. The important thing is the program was the catalyst for the establishment of the commission of inquiry. It utilised covert video footage of the most appalling cruelty and suffering obtained by animal activists—those passionate everyday people exposing acts which the government, authorities and the industry could not or would not investigate and rectify. This is a testament to the everyday people who seek to right the wrongs of this world, which include those committed to voiceless animals beholden to our care that have suffered at the hands of callous people who knowingly committed illegal activity day in and day out.

    Thanks to the Government and the commission of inquiry led by Michael McHugh the public and the lawmakers of this State—and, indeed, across the globe—have had the truth revealed to them. I repeat that it is truth. The facts contained in the report by a conservative and esteemed former judge are not fictional or delusional. The bare facts as revealed by the McHugh report are that this industry has implicitly condoned as well as caused the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of healthy greyhounds, engaged in the barbaric practice of live baiting, and caused and will continue to cause injuries to greyhounds that range from minor to catastrophic. An enormous amount of catastrophic injuries will occur as a direct consequence of the genetic musculoskeletal structure of the animal as well as the race. Those things are fundamental to the industry and cannot be turned around. They are part of the industry and cannot be changed; however, they are unacceptable.

    The McHugh report also found that the industry has deceived the community concerning the extent of injuries and deaths caused during race meetings and it has failed to demonstrate that in the future it will be able to reduce the deaths of healthy greyhounds to levels the community could tolerate. I am sure many in the House will debate the finer points of the economics, jobs and the complexities that come with making such a tough but brave and just decision to shut down an industry. As a member of the Animal Justice Party I will discuss a few other aspects of this industry.

    The greyhound racing industry likes to claim that greyhounds are an ancient breed of racing dog going back to biblical days, with thousands of year of adaptation. Modern genetic testing shows differently. In fact, greyhounds are descended from herding dogs such as the St Bernard and the wolfhound, hardly known for their light frames or speed. The selection process is relatively recent, being only a few hundred years old. Breeding selection intensified with the commercialisation of the industry, placing considerable pressures on the greyhound’s musculoskeletal structure. Modern greyhounds have been bred for larger muscle mass, lower body fat and a higher overall muscle-to-bone ratio than other canine breeds. This intensive breeding selection has resulted in significant animal welfare issues for a large numbers of animals.

    Greyhounds have been shown to suffer from osteochondrosis dissecans, a genetic predisposition causing growth plate fracture in young dogs and hock joint fractures in adult dogs. Hock joint fractures are extremely common injuries experienced during racing. Injuries to the carpal and tarsal joints are also common in racing greyhounds, resulting in an increased risk of osteoarthritis and potential long-term lameness. Risk factors cited are heredity, rapid growth, anatomic conformation, trauma and dietary imbalances. Of these, heredity and conformation have been scientifically supported.

    The fact is and always will be that in order for the industry to exist greyhounds must be bred in excess to replace the dogs existing and to maintain race participation numbers. Greyhounds that do not participate in the greyhound racing industry have a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years. For the industry’s greyhounds, the life expectancy is often far shorter. Many are put down before the age of 4½ years. That is another systemic blight on the industry. Over the past 12 years approximately 97,783 greyhounds were whelped in New South Wales. The McHugh report found, after taking into consideration a multitude of factors, that up to 68,000 of those dogs had been slaughtered simply because they were either too slow or could no longer pay their way.

    We cannot tolerate an industry that kills that many dogs because they do not make the grade. What was their fate? Appalling brutality and suffering. If they were lucky it was a bullet to the skull and a mass grave; the unlucky ones got baseball bats to the skulls and put into a crab trap and thrown into a river. In the 2014 committee inquiry into the industry evidence was also given that unwanted dogs were drowned, gassed and hung in New South Wales by Australian trainers and breeders.

    From the age of 12 months the training process commences with a “breaking-in” process—sometimes referred to as “education”. Breaking-in involves an intensive form of training during which the animal first learns to chase a lure. In many cases the lure used is a live animal termed “bait”. This widespread and rampant practice has been a criminal offence since 1979. The animal used for bait is often a terrified rabbit, possum, piglet or kitten. It also harms the welfare of those so deeply involved in an industry that has at its fundamental core systemic brutality and cruelty to animals.

    On the Four Corners program we saw—and I saw the complete video—children as young as 10 shown to be unwilling witnesses to this appalling treatment of animals. Members will recall a child being held by the hand and made stand in front of a possum upon which three greyhounds were set. The possum was torn to pieces. This is obviously common practice; how can it be welfare for those people? This bill is not only about the animal issue—dogs, possums, rabbits, piglets, cats, et cetera—but it is also about bringing people into a better way of compassionate living and children not being exposed to brutalities upon animals.

    Since 2007, despite the best efforts of volunteer-run greyhound rescue and rehoming groups across the State, Greyhound Racing NSW has only rehomed 593 greyhounds through its Greyhounds As Pets program, at a cost of $200,000 per year. That is unacceptable. Justice McHugh put it simply when he said:

    The greyhound is simply a gambling instrument, no different from a card in a poker game or a handle on a poker machine.

    This bill is a historic document and one that will end a cruel industry in an ordered manner which I support. I commend Mike Baird for his leadership in reviewing the report and evidence, and making the difficult yet right decision to introduce the bill. I strongly commend the bill to the House.

  • Adjournment speech-marriage equality

    I speak tonight in support of marriage equality. Yesterday Senator Penny Wong delivered the Lionel Murphy Memorial Lecture in Canberra. During her speech, Senator Wong spoke about the abuse she receives as a gay woman and her fear of more abuse if the Federal Government’s planned plebiscite on same sex marriage goes ahead. Earlier today I and my Animal Justice Party colleagues went on the public record in support of marriage equality. This position is completely in line with the Animal Justice Party’s ethos of compassion, inclusiveness and a better life for all.
    As an openly gay parliamentarian, I am all too well aware of the pain and suffering experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people that Senator Wong spoke about so eloquently yesterday. I came out in a Catholic high school over 40 years ago. I have always had the support of my family. My father said, “You do what you want in your life, Son; as long as you do not cause harm to anyone.” And that instilled a confidence in me.
    Just as same sex marriage is unlawful now; so was same sex or homosexual intimacy and relationships four decades ago. In 1978 I joined friends from Newcastle and was one of the 78ers participating in the first Mardi Gras in Australia, which was a distressing but also celebratory experience. I was obviously quite young at 17. I was looking at the police as they were arresting people and putting them into paddy wagons. To one officer I said, “I think one day the police will actually march with us in this parade.” He said, “You might be bloody right, son, but you better get out of here or you will end up in that paddy wagon.” I departed and was free. Five years later, unfortunately two of my friends died from AIDS. Personally I am not that interested in the institution of marriage, but I believe that everyone should have the right to enjoy the institution if they so wish. If any two people seek to be married under any creed or institution, then that right must never be denied by any civilised society. This inclusive and respectful position would surely be natural to any compassionate and wise member of Parliament.

  • Mark defends the Brumby in heartfelt Adjournment speech

    The Brumby holds a special place in the Australian psyche, personifying the Australian courage and spirit of freedom. Yet, today, just like the kangaroo, they face an uncertain future, considered by some, including this government to be feral pests. They find themselves becoming increasingly marginalised in lands that have been their home for over a century. A home thrust upon them when early European settlers found little need for them with the onset of farm machinery and released them into the wild, left to survive. It is this survival that spawned a time when only the toughest survived, natural selection saw the evolution of wild horses with the traits required to thrive in the environment in which they found themselves.

    The Brumby has gallantly served human, toiling on farms as stock animals, building the roads and railways we relied upon, even serving as police horses enforcing the law of the bush. They accompanied men to war, with over 70,000 horses losing their lives in World War I alone.

    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 of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in their role in the mass slaughter.

    Yet it seems we have not learnt from our past mistakes, killing is NOT the answer. All of the so-called “feral” animals were brought to Australia by human beings. We brought the horse here not out of love but out of the notion that they would provide us with something useful. We exploited them and then when they weren’t needed we disposed of them like mere objects and sent them on their way into the wild bush, Wanted Yesterday, Unwanted Today. They survived and adapted like any other being on this planet and yet some continue to persecute them and if this government gets its way decimate their existence to such a degree that their heritage and bloodlines will be threatened.

    I acknowledge that humane management is not a quick fix one size fits all solution. However it is our duty to ensure that we invest and utilise best practice and sound methods of estimating and reporting the true population numbers. Where required, fertility control is to be used and in parallel we must invest in fertility control via research and development. This is a very successful method used for the wild horses of the Canadian Rockies and the elephants in Africa. The use of fertility control would also mean that fewer Brumbies would be born each year and result in a proper and sustainable management plan. Mass slaughter does not equal management and until governments realise this it is likely that the continuous cycle of killing and responsive population growth will continue.

    Passive trapping and rehoming programs aim to capture horses with minimal interference from humans and released to suitable rehoming groups. Whilst strict adherence to best practice and horsemanship is critical to the success of such programs, this is another non-lethal strategy that both reduce numbers in the wild whilst maintaining the cultural heritage and significance of the brumby. The Hunter Valley Brumby Association is one such group which to date has taken on over 50 brumbies to their sanctuary, 30 of these have come from the Kozciuszko National Park.

    In closing, I challenge the persistent notion and labelling of “feral” animals. These animals are not feral; rather, they are wild, untamed survivors of humans’ past failings. I once asked an Indigenous elder, “So what do you think makes an animal a native Australian?” He replied, “When it is born here.”

  • 10/03/2016: Wool industry debate

    Motion by the Hon. MARK PEARSON agreed to:

    (1) That this House commends the 80 per cent of Australian wool growers who are:

    (a) breeding sheep to be resistant to flystrike by breeding out skin wrinkles; or

    (b) using pain relief when mulesing sheep.

    (2) That this House calls on the remaining 20 per cent of wool growers to begin breeding sheep to be resistant to fly-strike, and in the interim, providing pain relief to sheep when mulesing.

    (3) That this House congratulates Dr Meredith Schiel and the Australian Wool Growers Association for developing and promoting Tri-Solfen, an economical local anaesthetic and antiseptic gel spray for use on lambs to provide pain relief following mulesing, which also reduces blood loss and infection to improve wound healing.

    (4) That this House commends Laurence Modiano, a leading European wool-buyer and distributor for facilitating the uptake in the textile industry’s demand for non-mulesed wool and for encouraging the Australian wool industry to move towards pain relief.

    (5) That this House congratulates world renown fashion designer Count Zegna for, in the past two years, awarding his prestigious Wool Trophy for the best superfine Merino fleece to wool growers who have bred out the wrinkles in their sheep and adopted other management practices and therefore ceased mulesing their sheep.


     

    Many years ago the economy of Australia was built on the back of the merino sheep through the development of the wool industry. It grew and became the fundamental platform of the first major economy for Australia. The industry, which has an important and interesting history, is now alive and robust but it also has the attention of the world. This motion calls upon the House to commend various activities conducted by people in the wool industry and various growers. The motion is about a win-win-win situation. The view of the Animal Justice Party is that it is a win for the almost 23 million lambs that are born every year in Australia. Many of the lambs undergo a surgical procedure called mulesing, which is the removal of skin and subcutaneous tissue around the vulva, tail and breech area of the animal.

    Twelve years ago I filmed this procedure and I sent the footage to organisations around the world so that the true story behind the production of wool in Australia could be observed. It was not exaggerated or highlighted. The document showed a procedure that is common in Australia. Over the past 25 years the Federal Government has appointed standing committees on animal welfare which have reviewed this procedure. Those reviews have resulted in the industry, through the research of the Australian Wool Innovation, addressing the mutilating procedure that is performed on animals without any analgesia or pain relief. As a result, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in Australia was required to include a provision to exempt sheep and lambs from this particular procedure where a prosecution would otherwise have been brought for unnecessary, unjustifiable and unreasonable cruelty to an animal. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.

    The second win would come from this House commending the work of proactive and progressive growers, people in the industry and retailers who want to introduce a change in the industry. The world is now looking at what we do in our backyard. Buyers such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Zegna, Armani and Hugo Boss are looking at what we are doing with our animals when producing various products such as wool. There was an international crisis when consumers and retailers of Australian wool became alarmed and concerned about what they saw. I will give an example. I was in London attending a meeting between the Australian Wool Growers Association and a senior executive of Armani. The conversation was critical. The Australian Wool Growers Association representatives were trying to convince a senior executive of Armani—a major importer of Australian wool—that mulesing is necessary for the wellbeing and welfare of the animal. That is the complexity of this issue.

    It is not like the argument about battery cages for hens where the cage is an instrument of cruelty. The procedure of mulesing is about preventing flystrike, which results in the lingering and painful death of an animal. However, the procedure is invasive and it is a mutilation. Veterinarians and wool buyers are highly critical of the procedure when it is performed without pain relief. The Australian Wool Growers Association representatives were trying to explain this point to a senior executive of Armani when he said, “Stop. I am a wool buyer. I have customers. Beautiful soft merino wool for my beautiful suits—bleeding horrible wound. Stop it. Fix it or I go to Spain or South America.”

    The message was clear. Our problem is flystrike. Armani’s customers do not want blood on the Armani label. The argument has moved to a new chapter. We have to fix the problems associated with the necessity for mulesing. It will continue to occur, but if changes are made by growers to breed out wrinkles so that after 18 months or two years the animals no longer require mulesing to avoid flystrike, then that will be more acceptable to buyers around the world. The motion calls on this House to commend the work that will result in a win-win-win situation: a win for the animals; a win for the wool growers who are progressive and visionary and, therefore, taking the industry forward in the world; and a win for Australia’s economy and world image. We will not be condemned or attract criticism that creates a crisis for the industry because we have not caught up with world’s best practice and acknowledged that animals must be protected.

    This motion is not about condemning the industry; it is about moving the industry forward. A recent petition signed by 38 wool buyers from around the world—from China, Europe and America—showed that wool buyers fear that wool from lambs that have been mulesed without pain relief will be mixed with wool from lambs that have been mulesed with pain relief when it is being washed, spun or knitted in China or other countries. This will cause serious blight and risk and liability to the wool industry in Australia if we do not give an absolute guarantee to wool buyers that we will make pain relief mandatory. That guarantee is important to wool buyers, particularly Count Zegna, whose company is at the upper aspect of the wool-buying industry. When Count Zegna was in Australia a couple of years ago he said that a trophy would be given to a wool grower not only on the quality of their wool but also on the basis that the wool grower was using pain relief or had stopped mulesing.

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