• 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.

  • 23/03/2016: Debate speech to Greens Climate Change Bill

    In the ensuing debate around climate change, emissions and human impacts that took part in reference to the Greens Climate Change Bill, all ignored the cow in the room, that is animal agriculture. Whilst I and the Animal Justice Party acknowledge the devastating impacts as a result of fossil fuels, we think it is somewhat convenient that animal agriculture is omitted from the debate. Is it easier to force government and industry to change than to change our own habits? In my speech I didn’t feel the need to address the common enemies but to challenge those that believe in climate change to acknowledge the impact of animal agriculture and hopefully change their lifestyle to suit.

    Google ‘meat and climate change’ or ‘diet and climate change’ and countless articles supporting this pop up, the UN acknowledges it and here in Australia it is the hot topic. When we have 29 million cattle, 72 million sheep and just 23 million people, our accumulated climate impact is right up there with France, with its 66 million people. It’s not always the human population that determines a country’s environmental impact.

    Read my speech below and for the full debate go HERE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: The Animal Justice Party supports the Climate Change Bill 2015. I congratulate Ms Jan Barham and her staff on all the work that has gone into this bill. The Animal Justice Party will support the Opposition’s amendment to refer this bill to the relevant committee. In December 2015 the landmark climate conference in Paris found that animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than the transport system around the world, so it is important to take this issue on board. Thirty-eight years ago Russian scientist Vladimir Nesterenko publicly stated that the death of frogs in the Himalayan mountains was a measure of climate and atmosphere crisis. Frogs have a membrane that measures in the most sensitive way any changes to the environment. Vladimir Nesterenko was a visionary scientist.

    We are now seeing the consequences of his prediction. It is important to look at the chain of events that led to animal agriculture. We clear old growth forest to grow grain with a lot of water, the grain is then harvested and transported long distances creating further emissions, it is stored in silos and from those silos transported to feedlots that practise intensive farming such as cattle, piggeries, battery hen facilities and other livestock. That then creates massive effluent pools. It is clear that the movement towards animal agriculture on such a major scale around the world is, as the Paris conference finding states, contributing more to global warming than the transport system around the world, which is quite a statement. It is irrelevant whether climate change is due to a natural change in the universe caused by the movement of the sun and earth or is directly related to human kind’s activities or a combination of the two—which the Animal Justice Party says is the case.

    What is relevant is that the human species is capable of bringing change, grappling with problems and crises and can contribute to reducing global warming. What is clear is that we have to support a move towards a plant-based diet. While we push animal agriculture into China and other Asian countries we are striking at and feeding the fundamental problems contributing to global warming. The Animal Justice Party supports this bill but will also support the Opposition’s amendment to send the bill to the relevant committee. The Animal Justice Party will push for terms of reference to include an analysis of the animal agriculture industry and its contribution to global warming. I commend the bill to the House. I commend the Opposition’s amendment to refer the bill to the relevant committee.

  • 23/03/2016: Adjournment speech ‘See No Evil-Treatment of Animals’

    SEE NO EVIL-TREATMENT OF ANIMALS

    My adjournment speech is based on the writings of Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan in regards to the equitable treatment of animals in governance and policy. Since the time of the Industrial Revolution animals have been slowly excluded from the lives of most humans. Until relatively recently both rural and city dwellers had direct experience of the economic exploitation of animals, from horses used for transport and in agriculture, cattle and sheep driven to be slaughtered at open markets, to eggs collected from backyard chicken coops.

    Increased urbanisation and agricultural industrialisation ended the eye witness observation of the lives and deaths of animals used by humans. This dislocation has resulted in the invisibility of the lived experiences of farmed animals and those animals used in medical research. Slaughterhouses with all their blood, gore and stench have been exiled from our cities. Intensively farmed pigs and chickens spend their few miserable weeks of life contained in massive, windowless sheds far from the casual observation of passers-by. While farmed animals may live their lives almost entirely unseen that does not mean that they are not subject to the law.

    We have animal welfare legislation such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and a multitude of codes of practice, standards and guidelines which detail the ways in which animals may be lawfully treated by industry. A thin veneer of animal welfare sits alongside a prohibition upon unnecessary suffering. However, if the average citizen could see the suffering caused by lawful practices such as mulesing, castration, de-horning, tail-docking and eye teeth removal—all without pain relief in the main—I am sure that they would demand higher levels of standards of care. Our citizens rely upon their members of Parliament and regulatory bodies to safeguard that what happens in these hidden places meets community standards concerning animal wellbeing. Time and again it has been shown that the public’s expectations are not being met.

    Exposes by animal rights and welfare groups have shown cruel treatment of pigs, ducks, turkeys and chickens, to name a few instances where animal activists have recorded images that horrify the nation. Community outrage occurs each and every time these images of suffering are broadcast and it clearly shows that the public does care about the lives of animals. It is disturbing, however, that the Government and industry response is not to improve animal wellbeing standards and better resource enforcement agencies, but rather in the main to attack and criminalise the messenger.

    This lack of transparency disenfranchises citizens and helps generate inconsistencies in animal welfare laws. It undermines the role of citizens as policy participants and forces animal activists to engage in illegal behaviour in an attempt to put animal welfare on the political agenda. The introduction of ag-gag laws via the Biosecurity Act and the Inclosed Lands Amendment (Interference) Bill increase penalties for animal activists who in the public interest capture footage of animal suffering on private lands. Ministers talk of activists as vigilantes and terrorists but our regulatory system makes independent oversight of intensive farming facilities virtually impossible.

    Dr O’Sullivan stated:
    The only people who see agricultural animals are those who financially benefit from bringing them into the world, and then killing them. Such people are not reliable witnesses. They cannot be trusted as the only source, or even the primary source, of information about whether an animal’s life is good or not.
    How can we ensure that the laws regulating the lives of animals reflect community values, when the community has little to no capacity to see or engage with animals? How can the community inform animal welfare laws, when we know very few animals? If the community is unable to drawn its own conclusions about the suitability of animal protection laws made in its name, what type of challenge does this pose to liberal democratic values?

    Watch the video of the speech below.

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