• broiler shed

    Animal agriculture reaching crisis point

    8th August 2019

    ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (22:31): Animal agriculture is reaching a crisis point in Australia. There are multiple challenges ahead for Australia’s farmers from the impacts of the climate emergency, overexploitation of land and water and how farmed, wild and introduced animals are treated. Farmers cannot continue to do what they have always done because it no longer works; in fact, it never did. The environment and animals have always suffered as a consequence of farming. The consequences of that harm are now unavoidable. The leaked report on land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] makes it clear that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land. The IPCC proposes a major shift to plant-based diets in order to reduce agricultural land use, freeing land to be returned to habitat and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Government needs to speak honestly with our farmers and help them with funding to adjust to a new world, including changes in social attitudes about who and how we farm. I say “who” we farm because animal activists are making it clear that the recognition of individual animal sentience demands change. The very raison d’être of farming animals for food is in question. These concerns can no longer be brushed aside as the rantings of a few individuals given that two million Australians are now following a predominately plant-based diet. Barely a week goes by without yet another expose of animal cruelty. Last fortnight has seen reports of eye gouging and breaking the tales of cows at a large Tasmanian dairy, cruelty charges finally laid against Emanuel Exports for its horrific treatment of sheep frying to death on the Awassi Express, and the illegal Victorian abattoir where sheep suffered agonising and prolonged deaths. The findings of a report commissioned by the Federal Government entitledAustralia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare should be a wake-up call to all animal farmers. Some 95 per cent of people want to see improvements in animal welfare. The report states:

    … the major driver of this shift is an increased focus on animals’ level of sentience and related capabilities …

    This report indicates:

    … a fundamental community belief that animals are entitled to the protection of relevant rights and freedoms, closely aligning with activist sentiment.

    These beliefs are spread across States and Territories and between capital cities, regional towns and rural areas. You would expect that New South Wales industry leaders and the Berejiklian Government would be chastened by these existential threats to animal agriculture. Sadly, they have only paid attention to the spin doctors and pandered to the fearmongers. As one example of spin without substance, the NSW Farmers delegates at its annual conference last week passed a motion that animal industries use the term “processing” in lieu of, and to the complete exclusion of, the term “slaughter”. Do they think that the public will not notice that animals are still transported to slaughter?

    We have seen the Berejiklian Government’s response to animal activism and community concerns about farmed animal cruelty. Instead of overhauling the investigation and enforcement of animal welfare laws or funding research into the emerging industries of alternative proteins, we have the “right to farm” dogma and the draconian penalties for farm trespass under the fig leaf of biosecurity. We need to re-imagine the Australian landscape with farms that grow plant proteins, integrate into the environment and take less water from our rivers—where our wild animals are once again able to share in our boundless landscape.

  • pig awaiting slaughter

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

    18th June 2019

    FOOD ANIMAL WELFARE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (18:40):I congratulate Ms Cate Faehrmann on her notice of motion last month acknowledging No Meat May, the campaign founded in 2013 to encourage people to avoid meat for a month. The motion rightly discussed the serious environmental impacts of global meat consumption and how reducing our consumption of meat is the biggest way to reduce our carbon footprint.But why stop at the consumption of meat when there is so much more we can do? Humans are the only species that continues to breastfeed into adulthood by consuming the milk of another species, so what about our consumption of dairy milk? The impact of the dairy industry on the environment is astounding. For instance, it takes approximately 4,000 glasses of water to create one glass of milk. What about the animals? The Australian dairy herd consists of approximately 1.5 million cows. Just one of those cows produces around 57 litres of manure a day—that is 20 tonnes of manure per cow, per year. Where once cows grazed in paddocks all day, Australian dairies are becoming more intensified. This means storing all that manure in large methane-emitting lagoons and having to truck in manufactured feed exacerbates the environmental impact of the industry.

    Research shows that, without meat and dairy consumption, the global use of land for agricultural purposes could be reduced by 75 per cent. We could feed the world with plant-based protein and at the same time give land back to our struggling and fast-disappearing wildlife. But along with the environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industries is another issue that we as a society should consider; an issue that for a long time now has been a stain on our collective soul. That is how we treat the many other species with whom we share this planet—and, specifically, the many species whom we have declared to be nothing more than “food” animals. The scope and scale of the misery we inflict on these sentient creatures is impossible to fathom.

    For instance, in Australia alone each year we breed, confine and slaughter over five million pigs, five million turkeys and 650 million chickens—all for no reason other than we like the taste of their flesh. Along with the seven million cattle we slaughter for food each year, 750,000 young male calves are classified as “waste” products of the dairy industry and are also sent to slaughter. Nine million hens are imprisoned in cages for their short, unnatural lives to produce eggs. Another seven million hens are in barn and free-range systems and meet the same grizzly end as battery hens once they are no longer considered profitable. For every hen born into the egg industry, a male day-old chick will be put through an industrial shredder whilst still fully conscious or piled into bins and gassed to death—once again, simply because it is “waste”.

    The various levels of government and industry representatives continually tell the unsuspecting consumer that “Australia has the best animal welfare standards in the world”. But the reality is far from this. Food animals are routinely exempted from protections in animal welfare legislation, such as the requirement for exercise, and are instead covered by codes of practice or standards and guidelines—otherwise known as codes of cruelty. This means the bar is set so low that it is near impossible for users to fail to meet the so-called “standards”. That is why industries get away with performing painful operations such as castration, teeth clipping, de-horning and tail docking, all without any pain relief. So, yes, by all means let us encourage people to join in on initiatives such as No Meat May, but there is so much more we can do. As Pam Ahern from Edgar’s Mission, a farmed animal sanctuary, says, “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?” I would add: Why wouldn’t we for 12 months of the year, not just one?

  • AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL WELFARE DISASTER AT MENINDEE LAKES

    16th January 2019

    Mismanagement of Minindee Lakes has caused an environmental and animal welfare disaster.  The continual draining of the lakes system has caused immeasurable suffering and damage.  The reason given for draining the lakes is that “the lakes evaporate naturally, so why not just take the water and push it down stream”.  The problem with this scenario is that the environment around the lakes rely on the evaporation to sustain the flora and fauna.  Mark witnessed this first hand in November last (2018), when he travelled to the area to see for himself the hundreds of dead emus around the edge of Cawndilla Lake.  As there was still water in the lake but the emus  had no body weight, it would appear the emus died of starvation.  The lakes also provide sanctuary and safety from the drought for the large fish populations.  If we don’t fix this, large areas around the lakes will become a dust bowl.  If this was to happen, dust storms over the East coast of Australia could become the norm.

    Mark Pearson was recently interviewed on radio station 2GB.

     

  • INQUIRY INTO SUSTAINABILITY OF THE DAIRY INDUSTRY IN NSW

    16th November 2018

    One of Mark Pearson’s responsibilities (and a privilege) is to sit on the Legislative Council’s “Industry and Transport” Committee.  Recently the Committee conducted an inquiry into the sustainability of  dairy in NSW.  This gave Mark the opportunity to ask questions regarding intensive dairies, bobby calves and whether the dairy industry has considered transitioning to plant based milks.

    INQUIRY INTO SUSTAINABILITY OF THE DAIRY INDUSTRY IN NSW

    16 November 2018

     

    Mr Greg McNamara – Acting CEO and Chairman, Norco Cooperative

     

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: If you were to step back and view the dairy industry objectively, its viability and, as you said, the current lack of good leadership, and also climate change and Australia’s environment, has Norco or the dairy industry ever considered moving away from animal-based milk towards plant-based milk using the same properties that are thriving, or not thriving in this case? Have you considered that it might be wise to move towards a plant-based milk industry—although I do not think we can use that term legally? The plant-based market is flourishing.

    Mr McNAMARA: We sell plant-based milks. If a customer wants a plant-based product, we can provide it. We are not opposed to plant-based products, but the definitive answer is that we have not encouraged farmers to plant pecan or almond trees to offer those products.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: We are hearing that the dairy industry is in crisis. Would that be wise advice? Obviously Norco has not turned its mind to that.

    Mr McNAMARA: It is about a diversity of income streams that allows farmers to spot. The reality is that Norco would not survive under that model because not enough consumers have moved down that path. There is an increasing number of people who would prefer to drink a plant-based product, and that is fine. But it is not a big enough industry to support 200 farmers at this time. That evolutionary process may take 10 years to 15 years. Planting trees and harvesting the plant-based material may take a significant amount of time.

     

    Mr Colin Thompson – Vice Dairy Chair, NSW Farmers

     

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Mr Thompson, you were talking about what you did personally, but I think it might be a good example. You packed up from the coast and moved to Cowra and invested in a dairy there, at a time when the dairy industry’s future was in question as being a viable economy for anybody who was investing. Is that a risk that other dairy farmers are taking? How did you assess that risk?

    Mr THOMPSON: Everyone saw deregulation in a different way. I saw it as an opportunity. Under regulation we had a quota system but those quota systems tied up a lot of capital on dairy farms. Under deregulation we had our compensation package. Some farmers chose to take that compensation and exit the industry with dignity. I still saw potential in the dairy industry, and particularly inland New South Wales. And so I chose to relocate to Cowra in the central west and start a new facility, start a completely different style of dairy farming to the traditional pasture-based farming, a free stall dairy.

    Since that time, probably during that time, some of the issues that I came up against were, it took seven years to get approval. There were three court cases in the Land and Environment Court. It really highlighted the lack of planning in New South Wales for dairy farms inland. Since that time, we have developed a completely new system. We regularly have other farmers visiting our system. I had to go offshore. I had to go to the United States to get expertise to learn how to develop this new system. It is a system that has great potential to grow and make our New South Wales industry more sustainable.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Is it an intensive system?

    Mr THOMPSON: It is an intensive system, absolutely. Yes, there was a risk. I do remember going to four banks to get finance. Three of them said no, and one said, “Yes, I will give it a go.” So I went. Still there.

     

    Mr Scott Hansen – Director General, NSW Dept of Primary Industies

    Mr Alex Russell – Manager Intensive Livestock, NSW Dept of Primary Industries

     

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Mr Hansen, you said that when there have been situations in areas where there has been an oversupply of milk it has had a critical effect on the pricing. But then you said that because of integration it has taken the valve off that particular problem in that area where there is an oversupply. Can you explain how that has happened?

    Mr HANSEN: I guess that that is just a reflection of the fact that, with our hygiene standards, our food transport standards, and the logistics changes that are now in place fresh milk is not as geographically isolated as it once was. It is hence able to be transported to fill holes in other markets if their supply is in some—

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Right. That has clarified it. Mr Russell, at what point does a typical dairy become an intensive dairy, and what factors are brought to bear on a dairy to move in that direction?

    Mr RUSSELL: Thank you for the question. I think it is quite difficult to define a particular dairy as being intensive or otherwise. I guess the thing about dairying is that it requires a really high level of management input. For me that is what defines it as an intensive production system—the fact that it requires that high level of management input. There are different production systems in Australia. Some of those involve what we call a partial mixed ration production system or a total mixed ration production system. That reflects how much time the animals spend on pasture compared to being fed from a trough, say. But, really, I see it as an intensive industry because of that high level of management input that makes it quite challenging.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: It is not because of the amount of space—the stocking density—it is more a matter of the intensity of the work by people. That is how—

    Mr RUSSELL: That is my view. And the inputs that are provided. So the less time the animals spend on pasture the more there is a requirement to cut and conserve forage and bring that to the cattle or to spend money on buying inputs—grain and fodder.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I think there was a period of time—I do not know whether we are still doing it as much—where we were exporting dairy cattle as breeding stock, mainly to Asia and I think perhaps to the Middle East. Is that continuing. If it is, is it having an impact on the economics of the dairy industry in Australia, in terms of our exports of dairy?

    Mr HANSEN: Not at the same rates as in previous years but there continues to be a high-end value dairy heifer air shipment into Asian markets that are looking to grow their own genetics and their own herds. Some of the speakers after us might be better placed to talk on that front. What we are seeing, though, is a significant increase in the integration between dairy operations and the meat operations in terms of the opportunity to supply calves into beef production systems. That is largely because we have seen, exacerbated by the last 12 months, a significant reduction in the national herd whilst there is incredible demand for meat globally, continuing to grow.

    Dairy farmers, while focusing on the purpose of producing milk, obviously have opportunities with the animals they are producing in terms of the meat industry as well as the fodder they are producing in terms of that fodder being a potential source of income if they are able to produce surplus to requirements. In the last 12 months that has not been the case. Dairy farmers are very good at looking at that business integration and looking how they maximise the resources they have available to them to make their businesses as sustainable as possible.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: So, the export of dairy breeding stock is not having a serious impact on the economics of the dairy industry nationally, as opposed to—

    Mr HANSEN: The alternative sources of income into our farm monitor project figures suggest that it is not a significant driver in terms of the profitability. However, that fails to take into account that for certain businesses at certain times that could well have been a defining moment, or an opportunity that has enabled them to earn income that otherwise they would not have been able to. So for individual businesses you can only assume that there are some that are very thankful and have been reliant upon that additional income source, but when you look at it collectively it is a small proportion in terms of farm-gate income.


    The final report can be read here:

    https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2514/Report%20No%2051%20-%20Sustainability%20of%20the%20dairy%20industry%20in%20NSW.pdf

     

  • Greyhound

    REQUEST FOR GREYHOUND RACING INDUSTRY STATISTICS ON REHOMED NUMBERS

    24th October 2018

    Questions without notice.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:12): My question is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, representing the Hon. Paul Toole, Minister for Racing. The New South Wales Government subsidises the greyhound racing industry to the tune of millions of dollars per year and the industry makes all sorts of promises to improve greyhound welfare. Despite this, I have been unable to locate any statistics that provide figures on the numbers of retired greyhounds re-homed in the previous 12 months or ascertain what plans the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission has to improve the number of greyhound adoptions going forward. With the Minister provide this information?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (15:13): I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for the question he has asked of me representing the Minister for Racing, the Hon. Paul Toole. It is an important question, particularly when we talk about the rehoming of greyhounds. I have certainly seen plenty of anecdotal evidence on that and I know many people who have rehomed greyhounds as pets. I believe that even some family members of the Acting President, the Hon. Trevor Khan, may have rehomed greyhounds as pets. I know that anyone who has taken in as a pet a greyhound that has been rehomed after finishing its life in the racing industry has been happy with the decision. They are placid dogs that fit easily into many homes. We want to see more and more of that.

    As Minister for Primary Industries and the Minister responsible for the prevention of cruelty to animals legislation in this State, I want to make sure that we have as many greyhounds as possible enjoying a life of comfort and love in people’s homes. Their welfare is something that we are definitely concerned about and I believe it was adequately addressed in the Government’s response to the issues highlighted when the greyhound issue surfaced. The member has asked for data. Obviously I do not have that information here today but I am happy to take the question on notice, refer it to the Minister and come back to the member with a detailed answer in due course.

     

    To date we have received no reply from the Minister’s Department.

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