• Adjournment Speech on Rewilding our shared environment

    The Animal Justice Party supports the acquisition of land to protect, conserve and expand wilderness, including the rewilding of land once used for animal agriculture. Over the past 200 years we have lost 75 per cent of our rainforests, nearly 50 per cent of all forests and 99 per cent of south-eastern Australia’s temperate grasslands. The remaining ecosystems are under constant threat of clearing and in desperate need of protection. It is a national shame and a disgrace. We need to start looking at ways to bring back life into areas that have been stripped of biodiversity. In Australia ecologists focus on rehabilitating landscapes by killing animals that are deemed to threaten biodiversity. We have poisoned, shot and bludgeoned to death millions of foxes, rabbits, pigs, goats, cats, horses, camels, dingoes and kangaroos over the past hundred years, all in the name of conservation. Our landscapes continue to degrade, and it is clear that we must do things differently.

    In the United States and Europe the concept of rewilding with animals is seen as part of the solution. Rewilding is a critical step in restoring self-regulating ecosystems. Rewilding acknowledges that natural processes are complex and that the interplay between flora and fauna allows nature to evolve to take care of itself. Species are introduced or reintroduced based on the role they can play in an environment. After initial support, they are left to create the balance required. The reintroduction of apex predators such as wolves is one example of successful environmental repair. In Yellowstone National Park grey wolves had been hunted to extinction, and by the 1990s ecologists were concerned about the damage caused by large herds of elk. Once wolves were re‑established in the park, their predation on the elk reduced the damage caused to vegetation. The elk broke into smaller groups, foraged less and moved more frequently, allowing grasslands to recover. Scavenger species began to thrive again, with ravens, eagles, coyotes, lynx and bears feeding on wolf‑kill remains. Insects that fed off the rotting carcasses became the food of smaller birds and rodents.

    It is time to trial the benefits of rewilding in the Australian landscape. Just as in Yellowstone, we have taken our apex predators out of the ecosystem. The mass killing of dingoes changed the environment, and at the same time we introduced species such as foxes and cats. Smaller native predator species such as quolls and goannas struggled with habitat loss. Quolls once numbered in the hundreds of thousands and are now a threatened species. It was not until quoll numbers plummeted that rabbits were able to gain an ecological toehold. A recent trial reintroducing dingoes into Sturt National Park has shown early evidence that dingoes suppress cat and fox populations, with smaller mammals and marsupials surviving in increasing numbers.

    Returning apex predators to the environment is only one part of the equation. Their relationships within ecosystems are critical. Research and evidence-based trials must be undertaken, and we should be open‑minded about what constitutes an apex predator. We cannot go back in time. Foxes, dogs and cats are now native animals; they have been born here for many generations and now fill an ecological niche. Given the massive habitat loss and change in landscapes, we must accept that our ecosystems are evolving and adapting. Rewilding is about allowing evolution and adaptation to occur while reducing destructive human activities. One bulldozer in one day can take out an ecosystem that has evolved for millennia, yet we demonise the fox and the cat. Thousands of hectares of degraded sheep paddocks are more of a threat to biodiversity than a thousand dingoes or foxes. It is well past time to protect and expand our wilderness, for the sake of all the species that share this fragile, ancient land.

  • No place for celebrating animal cruelty in Mardi Gras

    As a young man still in his teens, I joined with friends from Newcastle and became one of the group of 78ers that participated in the first Mardi Gras. It was a distressing but also a celebratory experience. I remember 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 was lucky to escape a beating and my prediction about the police was quite prescient given the oppression gays and lesbians experienced from those in authority at that time. Now, of course, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when the police march at Mardi Gras. It is heartening to witness such positive changes over the decades.

    For me, Mardi Gras has always been a joyful celebration of queer sexuality as well as the life-affirming message that we live and love in equal dignity and worth to everyone else in the community.

    This year’s Mardi Gras theme of ‘equality’ makes sense to me. With equal marriage continuing to be a political football and the suicide rates for LGBTQI teenagers still too high, equality remains an elusive goal. While it is wonderful that a wide range of community, corporate and government agencies sponsor floats, we should be careful of the messages that are promoted using our hard-won credibility and acceptance.

    As the sole representative of the Animal Justice Party in NSW Parliament, I am deeply concerned with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) being a sponsor of Mardi Gras, either of the parade, Fair Day or any other Mardi Gras event. MLA is the company behind the popular Australia Day lamb ads which aim to distract the public from thinking about the darker side of the trade. MLA is the representative body of Australia’s live export industry, arguably the cruellest animal exploitation industry permitted to exist today. Our call for equality should not be linked with the needless suffering of millions of animals. The vast majority of Australians would agree, with over 70% of Australians oppose to live export.

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    Before I was elected to NSW Parliament I spent many years at Animal Liberation NSW, running campaigns against live export. Every aspect of this industry shows a cruel disregard for animal well-being. Animals suffer long hours transported in trucks, without food or water, often in the searing heat. They are then jammed by the thousands into live export ships where animals stand in their own excrement, often for weeks on end. The air is foetid with ammonia fumes burning the eyes and the lungs. Not all animals survive the journey and sadly, they are the lucky ones. We have all seen the horror footage of sheep packed into the boots of cars, trussed up on the back of utes or penned in the blazing heat without food or water, waiting for the slaughterman’s knife.

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    LGBTQI equality should not be obtained through partnerships with organisations or industries that operate without a social licence. Horrific animal cruelty and abuse has been exposed in the Australian live export industry for decades, and yet the industry continues to operate with impunity and for the most part without reform. I do not want my beloved Mardi Gras to give credibility to a company that trades in animal cruelty. The MLA’s ‘lamb dance’ Mardi Gras entry makes a mockery of the suffering and death of millions of sheep on transport ships and in the bloody slaughterhouses.

    The MLA is cynically exploiting the feelgood vibe of Mardi Gras to gain community support by associating with the LGBTQI community’s brand. This will serve only to legitimise their cause and delegitimise our own. There should be no place for celebrating animal cruelty in Mardi Gras.

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  • Opinion: Who benefits from silencing animal activists?

    Recent media publications by The Land and The Guardian of meeting documents provides disturbing details of a forum held in August last year between agribusiness owners, NSW Farmers Federation, Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair along with Police and the RSPCA. They reveal the extent to which industry and government are working together to silence activists seeking to expose animal cruelty in farming.

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    Federal agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce

    The documents obtained under freedom of information laws confirm what many activists have argued for a long time; the interconnected links between animal agriculture, government and sadly, the RSPCA. The forum participants committed to an action plan to harmonise state laws regarding the supposed threat of “farm trespass” by animal activists. The plan reflects the fears of an industry that understands the implications of its routine practices being exposed to the public. Transparency and truth are to be avoided at all costs. We also see Federal and State governments intent on ensuring cruel practices remain hidden from view. Rather than listening to community concerns and accepting that animal welfare standards need to be radically reformed, government is determined to keep animal welfare legislation in the 1970s.

    One of the more alarming revelations is the active participation of the RSPCA in such discussions. The RSPCA’s willingness to side with industry and government is an affront to their charter, and would no doubt come as a surprise their many supporters. The fact that the RSPCA participated in such discussions which made no mention of enforcement or prosecution of animal cruelty laws is concerning. One is entitled to ask, what is the role of the RSPCA in farm trespass policy discussions? Why are they not holding industry to account for their cruel practices? As has been said many times; if we kept a dog in the same conditions that industry keeps pigs in intensive farms, animal cruelty charges would be laid.

    The document identified that;

    38 piggeries in the Young area of NSW, along with poultry farms in other states, were known to have been “invaded for the purpose of installing unauthorised surveillance devices, ostensibly to ‘reveal’ animal husbandry practice believed to be poor”.

    Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, this statement reflects the absolute lack of concern for animal well-being. The treatment of these animals is appalling, not poor. Animal cruelty is standard industry practice, not an aberration. Activists seek to bring transparency and truth to the public arena, enabling consumers to make balanced decisions about their purchases and food choices.

    If industry is confident that their practices are acceptable then there should be no issue with footage showing industry practice. If the government is confident that their animal welfare laws are so robust, then let’s show those lawful practices to the public. Tail docking, castration, eye teeth clipping, debeaking, removal of skin (mulesing), battery cages, farrowing crates, faeces laden broiler sheds- let’s shine the camera light onto the everyday cruelties that these animals suffer.

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    NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie is documented as stating that;

    “These incursions fall into the ‘trespass with intent’ category, NSW Police have been investigating these incidents actively, but evidence gathering around such incidents presents significant challenges”.

    No comment on the crimes exposed by activists?

    Many may not be aware, but the NSW Police are also an enforcement agency under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is not just the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League that has powers to enforce and prosecute animal cruelty crimes, yet the attitude of government and the NSW Police is to leave enforcement to a poorly resourced charitable organisation that is almost completely unaccountable to government. Yet significant police resources are being used to investigate and pursue animal activists.

    Statistics show that cruelty committed against animals often leads to crimes committed against people, yet, as can be seen from this attitude of the NSW Police, significant police resources are being used to investigate and pursue animal activists filming intensive farms. This shows a narrow-minded approach to tackling crime and future protection of the community. Would the community, or indeed government be satisfied if a child services charity were tasked with the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against children? Would it be acceptable for the NSW Police to be actively pursuing whistle-blowers filming or recording child abuse despite the physical smacking of children being lawful?

    NSW Police also told the forum that;

    “the ideology of farm trespass by animal activists was “complex” and not based on improving animal welfare practices.”

    This is correct, it is not the job of animal activist to improve animal welfare. This is the job of every stakeholder that attended this forum and their decisions should be based on truth, transparency, and the wider public’s expectations of what is acceptable welfare practices. Indeed, the activists are doing the job that all these stakeholders are failing to do themselves, that is to publish the truth to the public and allowing the public to decide what they expect. Instead, animal welfare is seen as an unnecessary cost to already profitable business models that seek to sanitise and disconnect the public from what really goes on behind the factory farm shed door.

    The documents go on to suggest;

    “Introduction of other measures to improve evidence collection, for example, security cameras may also be considered.”

    How can someone, on one hand, justify installing elaborate security recording networks to deter activists YET dismiss sensible reforms such as mandatory CCTV of inside the shed or inside the slaughterhouse? Does one not stop and think that maybe, if farmers installed cameras facing in the shed, on the animals, then there will be no need for cameras facing outside the shed to deter activists?

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    Indeed, for me it has become personal. Twelve months ago I attempted to visit Rivalea pig slaughterhouse to discuss the cruel method by which pigs are subjected to gassing prior to slaughter. I was refused entry at the front gate and never left public space and yet I am currently the subject of a police investigation as a result of that visit. Again, this is a sign of cover up and intimidation, rather than let an elected MP formally tour the facility and witness the slaughtering method, I was denied access. Rivalea engaged their industry heavyweight, Australian Pork Ltd, and now almost 12 months to the day I am contacted by the NSW Police and informed that I am under investigation. It is true that, due to all the industry efforts to hide and cover up standard practices that they are ironically so proud of, they have in fact made the public more suspicious.

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  • MEDIA RELEASE-Animal Justice Party MP questions Katrina Hodgkinson’s priorities concerning Blantyre Farm’s DA

    MEDIA RELEASE

    Mark Pearson, Animal Justice Party MP, has questioned why Member for Cootamundra, Katrina Hodgkinson, is advocating priority for the interests of intensive pig farmers Blantyre Farms, over the interests of her own electorate. Intensive pig farmers, Edwina & Michael Beveridge of Blantyre Farms lodged a development application in December 2015 to duplicate their Young shire, Golden Grove and Dead Horse Gully piggeries in the neighbouring Hilltops council region. Blantyre Farms have continued to attract wide spread criticism since the public exposure of their Young piggery practices and operations through the Aussiefarms campaign in 2013.

    The Blantyre Farms Development Application has generated significant community and public interest with thousands of objectors raising valid and legitimate concerns and issues, which have been echoed by council and state government agencies.”
    There is mandated planning process at both state government and local council level, and Ms Hodgkinson should just allow that process to take place in the interest of a thorough examination of the merits of the application.

    Mr Pearson confirmed issues raised by thousands of objectors includes the welfare of animals, the environment and a broad range of concerns about the impact on the community, immediate neighbours, workers and consumers, public health, biosecurity and biodiversity.

    From my understanding, it has not been a case where Hilltops council have ‘sat’ on this DA or that the ‘approval process had been lagging’, as has been suggested by Ms Hodgkinson.

    The assessment period has been exacerbated by information from Blantyre Farms themselves, which has repeatedly been found ‘wanting’ with questionable, missing, ambiguous, and non-evidenced information.

    Most recently Blantyre Farms have been required to revise information they have previously submitted to council. This includes pig mortality numbers now estimated to be approximately 8,600 per year. These are the piglets and pigs which die or are killed in the Blantyre Farms intensive sheds.

    A critical factor environmentally, is how the massive volume of Blantyre Farms generated waste would be managed. In their previous information, Blantyre Farms stated they would be able to disperse all the effluent and dead composted pigs on their property. Blantyre Farms have now stated they will still have an excess surplus of approximately two hundred & fifty tons of manure per year. This surplus waste will now need to be disposed of elsewhere. Mr Pearson is also concerned that Ms Hodgkinson does not appear to acknowledge the voice of the local community, her own electorate and the public and has not acknowledged the critical inclusion of submissions and council’s obligations to adhere to the planning process.

    Ms Hodgkinson was dumped by her own party from any ministerial responsibility. Her sole responsibility now is to represent all members of her own electorate in a fair, balanced and non-biased manner. Based on concerns I have had raised with my office, this does not appear to be happening.

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    Mr Pearson has continued to strongly oppose intensive piggeries and was one of the original activists involved with the exposure of a Parkville based piggery in which former prime minister, Paul Keating had a commercial interest.

  • Mark Pearson calls out cruelty and criminality in Greyhound industry

    On the last day of parliament for 2016 Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party delivered an adjournment speech befitting of the greyhound industry. Widespread animal cruelty, substance abuse and misuse, money laundering, race fixing, corruption and cover ups. Below is a extract from my speech, to listen to the whole speech please watch the video above.

    I take this opportunity to inform the House that 23 different drugs that have been banned at the Olympic Games are being force fed to New South Wales greyhounds. This information is in the boxes of documents that have been provided by Greyhound Racing NSW. Greyhounds are being given cocaine, ice and amphetamines to improve their performance.

    I have read several descriptions of greyhounds running in a race, gaining a place and then collapsing, thrashing about, having fits and dying. In recent years the greyhound industry has faced numerous challenges to its tenuous grasp on any social licence it may have or its right to exist in a civil and progressive society. Some of the challenges include links to money laundering, animal cruelty, the annual slaughter of thousands of healthy dogs, the practice of live baiting, genetic loading of the greyhounds in an attempt to make them run faster and faster, which results in them having muscular skeletal problems that are bred into every greyhound in the industry. Frankensteins of greyhounds are being created like broiler meat chickens.

    Animal doping and widespread abuse of prohibited substances can now be added to the list. Since 2010, 321 investigations of misconduct by registered trainers and owners in the greyhound industry have commenced. Almost 70 per cent of those investigations relate to the use of drugs and other prohibited substances in the greyhound racing industry. In some of the cases where criminal guilt has been established, the substances used on greyhounds are illicit drugs of addiction that cause problems in families in Australia, including cocaine, morphine, crystal meth, or ice, and amphetamines and speed. Throughout the investigations 203 people have been found guilty of drug abuse and using prohibited substances in the New South Wales greyhound racing industry alone. Greyhound Racing NSW currently has 43 open inquiries and investigations where laboratories have evidence of prohibited substances being used. Cumulatively, 20 per cent of those admissions of guilt and the independent evidence of prohibited substance abuse have occurred in the New South Wales greyhound racing industry. This has become apparent after looking only at 27 per cent of the material that has become available for public scrutiny.

     

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