• Animal Justice Party Introduces Right to Release Bill to NSW Parliament

    On Thursday 21st June the NSW Upper House sat in silence with shock on their faces as Animal Justice Party MLC introduced our Right to Release Bill. The bill has been well received and we will continue to lobby for other parties and members to support the bill if it comes to vote later this year.

    SECOND READING SPEECH

    I am pleased to introduce the Animal Research Amendment (Reduction in Deaths of Dogs and Cats Used for Research) Bill 2018. This is a bill that requires little change to research practices, but it will mean everything to the approximately 1,000 dogs and cats that are routinely killed after being used in non-lethal research each year in New South Wales. Once these animals are no longer required for research purposes, they are killed with an intravenous barbiturate overdose. At times, the impact of the experimental protocol means that there is no alternative for these exploited animals but being put to death. However, if this is not the case, the Animal Justice Party believes these companion animals should be afforded the opportunity to be homed by animal rescue organisations.

    The bill essentially provides a second chance at life for cats and dogs held in research establishments. The Animal Research Act’s overarching principles in regard to the use of animals in research are those of replacement, reduction, and refinement—the three Rs—to cause the least amount of suffering to the least amount of animals. Renowned Indian animal activist Maneka Ghandi, a leading pioneer of animal welfare regulation in India, was successful in adding a fourth R to include “rehabilitation” of research animals. Ghandi’s reforms made it compulsory for research bodies to provide:

    … after-care rendered to animals that have been bred for the purpose of experimentation, subject to any form of experimentation and retained in laboratory animal houses or breeding houses for the purpose of experimentation with the sole purpose of alleviating any pain or suffering due to the physical, physiological, psychological trauma that the animals had been exposed to, and to prolong the life of the animals until the point of natural death.

    The Animal Justice Party’s bill is in line with reforms in other jurisdictions. In the United States, New York, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois passed legislation providing that animals used in research facilities must first offer dogs and cats to rescue centres before the option of killing can be considered. The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society and Helping You Help Animals are currently campaigning for the New Zealand Government to enact a mandatory retirement policy for animals used in research, testing, and teaching. Facilities using these animals would have attempted homing of ex-research animals with willing animal rescue organisations before lethal options are considered.

    The Animal Justice Party supports the transition to alternative methods of experimentation. However, the purpose of this bill is not to end animal research per se. The party asserts that experiments on animals are cruel, expensive and represent an outdated nineteenth-century approach to science and medicine. We would like to see investment in methods of studying diseases and testing products that replace animals entirely. There are now far more sophisticated predictors of human health outcomes. The alternatives include in-vitro tests using human cells and tissues, in-silico modeling using advanced computer-modeling techniques, and far more relevant studies with actual human volunteers. Tragically, penicillin was not used until a decade after its discovery because when tested on rabbits it was found to be ineffective. If tested today, it would not be recommended for human use because of its toxicity to guinea pigs.

    There are far more biological differences between and within animal species that can affect the results of any experiment, including variations based on different ages, sexes and developmental stages. There are numerous examples of drug testing on animals that inadvertently led to harmful drugs being approved for use on humans. Benoxaprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, was tested on rhesus monkey with no ill effects, but human patients suffered severe liver toxicity and phototoxicity; and Rezulin, which safely lowered the blood sugar in rats, caused 391 human deaths due to liver toxicity.

    Government statistics show that more than six million animals are used every year in Australia for medical research, experiments and surgical skills training, the majority of which are rats and mice. While the Animal Justice Party would like to see all these animals spared from invasive and cruel experimentation, I believe this bill is the beginning of a more enlightened approach to animal experimentation. It is a welfare-focused approach to those animals that have been domesticated for thousands of years to live with us and to trust us with their lives and wellbeing.

    The object of this bill is to amend the Animal Research Act 1985, requiring research establishments to take all reasonable steps to home a dog or a cat that is no longer required by accredited persons for animal research purposes unless a vet or authorised person has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. Such reasonable steps include: first, socialising or training the dog or cat to ensure that the dog or cat is suitable for homing; secondly, causing the dog or cat to be given to a person or animal homing organisation; or, thirdly, any other action taken in accordance with the code of practice under that Act. I use the word “homed” rather than”rehomed” because of the lives dogs and cats experience in these facilities, which cannot in any way be described as homes.

    The RSPCA states that Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with about 62 percent of Australian households living with companion animals. Of those households, 38 percent share their home with a dog and 29 percent with a cat. Looking around the Chamber, there will be many members like me who share their home with dogs and cats. The dogs and cats used in research are no different from our four-legged companions who curl up in our laps or accompany us on our walks. It takes little imagination to consider how our companions would react to months of confinement in a research facility, deprived of exercise and entertainment, a caring touch or a kind word. The sterile, barren and isolated housing and the frightening or painful procedures may be too much for some to bear, but this bill limits the length of confinement and mandates socialisation or training so that animals stand a chance of retaining the ability to live as domestic animals in a family environment.

    Undoubtedly some research is so invasive and so traumatic to both body and spirit that the dog or cat must be euthanised. Humane Research Australia has detailed experiments on greyhounds where researchers deliberately asphyxiated dogs for 30 minutes to cause the loss of function of the heart and lungs. The hearts were then surgically removed and preserved for four hours, after which period heart transplantation was performed and the dogs’ recovery was assessed. Those that recovered were then killed. Other greyhounds were subject to cosmetic dental experimentation which involved the removal of teeth, sections of jawbone and replaced with dental implants. The Greyhounds were then killed so that the researchers could remove the jaws for examination. This is despite there being little similarity between a dog and a human jaw.

    At Sydney University in 2011, 11 cats were subjected to vision research. A partial craniotomy and bilateral cervical sympathectomy, which cuts the nerve supply to parts of the head and eyes, was then performed. The cats’ heads were restrained in a stereotaxic device and a plastic cylinder was glued to the skull and a small opening was made in the brain matter where a microelectrode was placed and recorded neuron activity. Solutions were applied to the eyes to dilate the pupils and to retract the blinking membranes. The eyes were focused on a screen position using corrective lenses. At the end of the experiment, each cat was killed and the brain removed and studied.No outcomes have been identified.

    The Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching raised concerns about using 11 cats for what seemed like “clearly an example of basic research … without any particular application or use in view”. The Bionics Institute conducted experiments on day-old kittens that are artificially induced to become profoundly deaf. Cochlear implants are inserted while the kittens are anaesthetized and placed in a stereotaxic frame where the brain is exposed and stimulated by electrodes implanted into the brain. The kittens are then killed. Beagles are known for their placid natures and are often bred for sale to research facilities. They are used to test medical or pharmaceutical items, household products, cosmetics and for veterinary training. Not all beagles die as a result of the experiments conducted upon them, and they can languish for years in sterile cages, waiting for the next round of research to begin. Once their usefulness comes to an end they are killed.

    The Animal Research Act was passed more than 30 years ago in New South Wales and was in response to the first stirring of the animal rights movement in challenging the ethics of keeping and using animals for medical and scientific research. The Act was designed to assuage the concerns of the general public that a proper system of oversight was in place to ensure the humane treatment of animals used in research. The Animal Research Act provides for a licensing system for research establishments to keep animals for the purposes of conducting research. The Act also established an Animal Research Review Panel responsible for a number of areas including oversight of the supply of animals for use in connection with animal research. While neither the Animal Research Act nor the regulations address the issue of homing, the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes does consider the rehoming of animals. Clause 3.4.2 states:

    Opportunities to rehome animals should be considered wherever possible, especially when the impact of the project or activity on the wellbeing of the animal has been minimal and their physiological condition and behavioural attributes indicate that they can be introduced to a new environment with minimal, transient impact on their wellbeing.

    The Animal Research Review Panel and the Animal Welfare Branch of the Department of Primary Industries have developed policies and guidelines to assist researchers and teachers, members of animal ethics committees and the management of scientific institutions to understand and comply with the requirements of the Animal Research Act, the regulations and the code of practice. Within the “Guidelines for the Care and Housing of Dogs in Scientific Institutions”, the Animal Research Review Panel has recommended in clause 13.4 that euthanasia should only be considered if the impact of the experimental protocol prevents the animal being returned to a normal life, or if the dog cannot be satisfactorily socialised.

    My bill is intended to ensure that accredited research establishments, wherever possible, assist in the homing of cats and dogs after the non-lethal research ends and the animal is not required for research. My bill will insert a new section into the Animal Research Act, section 56B, which includes a requirement that the agency socialises or trains the dog or cat to ensure that they are suitable for homing. They must take reasonable steps to cause the dog or cat to be bought or adopted or given to an animal homing organisation by notifying the Animal Research Review Panel that the dog or cat is available to be homed. There are provisions to comply with the code of practice.

    The bill also provides that in order to ensure the best possible chance of successful rehabilitation into a domestic environment, cats and dogs cannot be kept by an authorised person for more than six months or, with the approval of the panel, 12 months. In consultations with animal behaviourists, the consensus was that anything longer than 12 months confinement is the outer limit for companion animals placed in such stressful and barren conditions. Whilst the specifics of each individual research project undertaken would have an impact on an animal’s capacity to be homed, 12 months would be more than enough time for an animal to develop negative associations with human interactions.

    The list of specific facilities that use cats and dogs in medical research is not publicly available. In lieu of being able to consult directly with these researchers and groups, consultations have taken place with Dr. Malcolm France, a chairperson to the University of Technology Sydney [UTS] Animal Care and Ethics Committee, and a New South Wales consultant in laboratory animal care and management. Dr. France liaises with many of these establishments. He has expressed support for the bill and considers that it will significantly improve welfare outcomes for dogs and cats capable of being homed.

    Dr. France’s feedback has helped shape this bill and has also provided guidance regarding the development of a confidentiality protocol between rescue groups and institutions to ensure that researchers and their staff feel protected and confident in the process. I have also consulted with a previous Animal Research Review Panel member, Ms. Emma Hurst, and current panel member Paula Wallace in regards to the practicalities of the bill. Both have expressed the belief that homing is not an onerous addition to the panel’s responsibilities and that the panel is also examining ways to encourage more homing practices with all animal species used in research.

    This bill has its genesis in a trial homing program that was instituted in 2014. The Research Animal Rehoming Service, run by a panel member of the Animal Research Review Panel, was created to assist with the rehoming of retired research animals. The service was promoted at its inception in an e-newsletter sent from the Department of Primary Industries to research facilities and animal ethics committees in New South Wales. While smaller animals have been rehomed, no cats or dogs have been offered up for homing. While research staff may occasionally adopt a dog or cat with whom they have developed a bond, the vast majority of healthy animals are still killed without any attempts made for rehabilitation or homing.

    Despite the provisions of the code of practice and the policy and guidelines which support homing, such practices remain rare, especially for dogs and cats in research institutions. Accordingly, I consider that homing must be expressly directed in the legislation to ensure greater take-up by research institutions. The current voluntary practice is failing to provide re-homing opportunities for dogs and cats. The bill provides a clear process for research facilities to understand their responsibilities and for rescue and rehoming organisations to give cats and dogs used in research the opportunity to be rehomed. If surrender cannot be arranged with any rescue organisations due to space or other concerns, the research facility can choose to rehome privately. Only when these options are exhausted should euthanasia be considered.

    The bill charges the Animal Research Review Panel with the responsibility of establishing a database of animal rescue and rehoming organisations including the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League, the Cat Protection Society and rescue agencies registered under the Companion Animals Act and alerting those that have indicated a potential interest when animals are available for homing. This need not be more than an email alert and would not be resource intensive for the panel. The Animal Care and Ethics Committee also has a duty to monitor the appropriateness of euthanasia for cats and dogs that are deemed unsuitable for homing.

    In consultation with rescue and rehoming groups, there is general support for the establishment of a homing database. The RSPCA recognises the benefits of suitable research animals to be offered for homing. I will be consulting with the National Health and Medical Research Council and animal ethics committees across New South Wales in the coming two months before the bill comes back before the House for consideration. In regards to the socialisation and training requirements of the bill, if objections are raised about the practicalities of these requirements then questions must be asked about the current living arrangements for companion animals in these facilities and compliance with the Animal Research Review Panel guideline No. 14 published in 1999, “Guidelines for the Care and Housing of Dogs in Scientific Institutions”, which details aspects of dog behaviour relevant to housing and husbandry.

    Clause 3.1 clearly states that dogs are social animals and are better housed in groups than individually and that social isolation can be a severe stressor for dogs. If dogs are to be individually housed for a project, the animals should be given extra human interaction, care, attention and play activities apart from normal husbandry procedures. Group interaction for individually housed dogs should occur whenever possible, by pairing dogs during play times or during lead walks. Under 3.1.3, staff need to be experienced in animal behaviour and need to be able to understand and monitor the dogs based on group interactions dependent upon age, sex, breed, reproductive status, prior socialisation, sibling relationships, facilities and capability of staff to manage the group.

    Clause 3.1.4 emphasises how human socialising is extremely important for most dogs and essential in accustoming them to human handling procedures in experimental studies, with dogs that actively avoid or reject human socialisation being unsuitable for research. Clause 3.2 details the design and construction of housing to avoid triggering aggressive behaviour. If the dog experiences difficulties in coping with the kennelling condition, strategies must be used to avoid behavioural problems and the facilities must provide the dogs with opportunities for behavioural choice. Given the improvements in understanding the behavioural needs of companion animals since the Animal Research Act was introduced, upgrades may be needed regardless of this proposed bill. All cats and dogs should receive regular socialisation, time with other animals, and positive experiences with their human guardians as a basic requirement for their physical and psychological wellbeing.

    For those members who may be concerned about the suitability of animals placed on the database, nothing within the bill would put families or rescue agencies at risk. A dog or cat is not required to be homed under section 56B subsection (2) where a veterinary practitioner or a person with such relevant qualifications has determined that the dog or cat is not suitable to be homed. However, there are checks in place to ensure that vets do not simply rubber-stamp animals as unsuitable. Under subsection (8) if a dog or cat is determined to be unsuitable for homing by a veterinary practitioner or other person under subsection (7), the authorised person is not to cause the cat or dog to be killed without the approval of the Animal Care and Ethics Committee. This is a modest, uncontroversial reform with a simple mechanism that has the potential to save the lives of thousands of otherwise healthy companion animals. I am confident that the millions of companion animal loving residents of New South Wales would overwhelmingly support this bill and I commend it to the House.

  • 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.

  • Notice of Motion-Live Export Industry

    LIVE ANIMAL EXPORT INDUSTRY

    This Motion was OBJECTED to and debated by the Government. Read the full debate.

    (1) That this House condemns the live animal export industry, which has a 40-year history of systemic animal cruelty causing suffering and death.

    (2) That this House notes that the recent Animals Australia exposé of the extreme suffering of sheep confined on the Awassi Express by Emanuel Exports highlights the ongoing national scandal of animal cruelty by the live export industry being:

    (a) animals starving to death from inanition;

    (b) animals dying from overcrowding, which caused the inability to access food and water;

    (c) animals dying of heat stress from high temperatures due to climatic extremes;

    (d) animals forced to stand in their own excrement for periods of up to a month, causing respiratory distress and blindness from ammonia fumes; and

    (e) multiple and persistent breaches of Australian animal welfare laws.

    (3) That this House congratulates Faisal Ullah, the Awassi Express assistant navigator, for performing a brave and merciful act of public service by recording the scenes of misery and suffering of sheep aboard the sheep.

    (4) That this House calls upon the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair, to meet with the Federal Minister for Agriculture to convey this House’s deep disgust at the continued breaches of Australian animal cruelty laws, and to advocate for a ban on live animal exports.

    (5) That this House calls on the Government to prohibit the land transport of animals to New South Wales ports or other States for the purpose of boarding onto live export ships.

    MARK PEARSON:

    The live export industry cannot save itself from itself, and no government of any persuasion has ever been able to save the live export industry. We cannot accept those constant statements from Ministers for agriculture over the years. Even the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, refers to this as “one incident”. The reality is that there is a litany of incidents in live exports. The reality is that if Faisal Ullah had not documented what happened on this ship this would not have been an incident.

    In June 2016 there was footage of cruelty in Vietnam where cattle were being bludgeoned to death at the port of disembarkation. In January 2016 a ship was stranded outside of Fremantle, hardly out of Australian waters, and the welfare of 13,000 sheep and cattle was extremely compromised. In fact, 7,500 sheep and 5,500 cattle perished. In June 2015 there were allegations of cruelty to cattle at an Israeli abattoir. On 22 October 2014 there was footage of Australian sheep and cattle being slaughtered outside approved abattoirs in Kuwait, Gaza and Jordan, and Wellard had to cease the Jordan trade. The list goes on and on. From January to February 2014 4,000 sheep were reported to have died of heat stress on the Bader III. From November to December 2013 there were allegations of animal cruelty when footage was taken of bulls being abused prior to slaughter in Mauritius, and of brutal methods of cattle slaughter in Gaza. On 8 November 2013 the Federal Government abolished the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

    The mortality rates in live export are a clear measure of the savagery of the live export industry. On long haul voyages, an investigation is triggered only when mortality rates of 2 per cent for sheep and 1 per cent for cattle are reached. On a voyage involving 70,000 sheep, 1,400 animals must die before the cause of the deaths is investigated. In the past five years, 32 sheep voyages have had a mortality rate of more than 1 per cent when the industry average is 0.74 per cent, yet only three of them triggered an investigation.

    Let us look at this mortality rate—a mortality rate that is stipulated for an average journey of three weeks. Let us apply this mortality rate on a property carrying, say, 10,000 sheep and apply that to a per annum mortality rate. An acceptable mortality rate on ship over three weeks is 1.9 per cent. If that were on a property carrying 10,000 sheep, per annum that would equate to 33 per cent of the animals perishing. If the proposed acceptable rate for sheep becomes 1 per cent, which it is for cattle now, 0.9 per cent is equivalent to a 16 per cent mortality rate of sheep—1,600 sheep—dying on a property over one year. When we measure what mortality rates actually represent, we are seeing an animal welfare disaster—a routine event in the live export trade.

    Dr Roger Meischke was the first veterinarian appointed by the Federal Government to carry out an investigation on a live export ship in the early 1980s. He made it very clear that the mortality rate is clearly a measure of the suffering of those sheep that died, but with such high mortality rates it is also a measure of the impacts of welfare on all the animals that are trying to survive—they are suffering in a way which is not acceptable according to Australian laws that are about the prevention of cruelty to animals. Every time thousands of sheep are loaded onto a ship and sent out of Australian waters to the Middle East, that ship is carrying thousands of sheep which will gradually suffer cruelty, distress and death in a way that is totally unacceptable and would be prosecutable if it were to occur on Australian land and where Australian jurisdiction exists.

    Why do I ask the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair, to address this issue with the Federal Minister? The Minister for Primary Industries serves on the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum [AGMIN]. Membership of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum comprises Australian State, Territory and New Zealand government Ministers with responsibility for primary industries. It is chaired by the Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The role of AGMIN is to enable cross-jurisdictional cooperative and coordinated approaches to matters of national interest. AGMIN is the peak forum to collaborate on priority issues of national significance affecting Australia’s primary production sectors. Following recent actions from the Australian Government to improve the welfare of animals during live export—which is impossible—members discussed a future work program for animal welfare, including the process by which national standards are further developed. It is critical for the Minister for Primary Industries to have an effect on the plight of live animal exports.

    The Australian Veterinary Association [AVA] has just released a report on the recent incident of the deaths of so many sheep on the Awassi Express, which was exposed only a few weeks ago. It is the first time the Australian Veterinary Association has taken such a stand against live exports of sheep. It has released a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the role of heat stress and space allowance in contributing to poor welfare and mortality in the live sheep export trade. The report concludes that heat stress causing poor animal welfare and deaths is an inevitable consequence of sheep shipments to the Middle East during the northern summer. This is because the temperature and humidity encountered at that time overwhelms the ability of the animals to thermoregulate.

    The report also concludes that space allowances under the Federal legislation governing the exports are inadequate. The report makes several recommendations, including that the northern summer shipments of sheep to the Middle East be stopped, and that space allocations for those shipments at other times of the year be increased by 30 per cent. The Federal Minister cannot misunderstand this recommendation by believing that it is in relation to heat stress; it is not. The Australian Veterinary Association has said it is not acceptable for sheep to be able only to stand and never to rest or lie down, and that is the main reason that there needs to be an increase of 30 per cent.

    Even though the Animal Justice Party and many of my constituents would prefer that we do not turn our mind to the issue of animals that are exported live instead being slaughtered in Australia, the reality is that the slaughter of animals for food production in Australia is lawful. Australia has welfare requirements in abattoirs which, if strictly adhered to, dramatically improve the welfare of the animals that are going to be slaughtered. It is not acceptable for us to send animals that have been reared on farms in Australia—animals which farmers say they love and care about—up a gangplank onto a ship on a 2½ to 3½ week journey from Australian waters into waters over which we have no jurisdiction and into countries where Australia has no jurisdiction over animal welfare. Many of the importing countries have no animal welfare laws. It is unconscionable for the people in charge of these animals to participate in any part of live export because when we do that we are contributing to the animals undergoing immense suffering and distress.

    Imagine a sheep in Lightning Ridge being put onto a truck, transported thousands of kilometres to Port Adelaide and sent up a gangplank onto a ship which sails to Fremantle. The sheep stays onboard for two or three days while other sheep and cattle are being loaded at Fremantle, and it then travels across the seas for to 2½ to 3½ weeks to the Middle East. There it is trucked from, say, Aqaba to Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Kuwait or other Middle Eastern countries. It is then transported by land across these territories to various abattoirs. The sheep endures all this just to be killed. It is utterly absurd.

    The economics of sheep live export is of interest. Fewer than two million sheep are sent for live export each year, mostly to the Middle East. Of these about 1.64 million, or 82 per cent, leave from Western Australia. Twenty-eight per cent of the Western Australian turn-offs go to live export. The bulk of the rest of the Western Australia turn-off, 72 per cent, goes for export as sheepmeat. Because of that, the major impact of any change in the live export of sheep from Australia will only be in Western Australia. Australia is not the largest exporter of live sheep to the Middle East. It has significant competition from Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti.

    The total value of the live sheep export market is about $250 million, while the value of the sheepmeat exports—lamb and mutton—is about $2.65 billion. Thus the live export of sheep accounts for less than 10 per cent of the value of sheepmeat exports and about 6 per cent of the value of all sheep and lamb exports. About 411 kilotons of sheepmeat is exported each year and, of that, about 20 per cent goes to the Middle East, mostly by airfreight as chilled meat.

    Several important conclusions can be drawn from this. First, the significant export of chilled sheepmeat to Middle Eastern countries indicates that there is no shortage of refrigeration in those countries. A 2014 survey by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics concluded that in the Middle East, substitutability between Australian live sheep and sheepmeat imports has increased in recent years, largely reflecting growth in incomes, urbanisation, refrigeration and the availability and popularity of Western‑style supermarkets. This is underscored by the experience of Bahrain, which stopped importing Australian sheep in 2014, after which sheepmeat imports from Australia increased twofold and also brought significant income to New South Wales.

    It is time for live export be relegated to the scrap heap of history, where it belongs. This industry has been in question and has had numerous investigations going back to the 1970s and 1980s by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare. Every Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare has concluded that the live export trade is untenable. It can never reach and maintain welfare standards that are acceptable under Australian laws. Therefore, it is unconscionable and unacceptable for us to put animals that we have reared and cared for in Australia up a gangplank, onto a ship and send them off into peril. The live export industry must be relegated to the scrap heap of history once and for all.

  • 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.

  • Mark visits the South Coast to meet grassroots AJP members

    Mark Pearson addressed an enthusiastic and concerned local crowd of animal lovers and advocates at the Soldier’s Bay club in Batemans bay on Monday 19th of February.

    Mark discussed his work in parliament and his proposed bills on banning the whipping of racehorses, banning animals in circus and the Right to Release bill. Many local people expressed their concern at the annual Huntfest in Narooma which takes place on the June long weekend, in particular, the fact that organisers are billing this as a family friendly event. Concern was also expressed about the ongoing legitimacy of ‘sport’ fishing in the area given the extreme cruelty involved.

    There was a great amount of will in the room to start up a local South Coast branch of the Animal Justice Party in the region. Louise Ward the NSW State Director of the Animal Justice Party will be returning to the South Coast next month to work with local people in establishing a South Coast Animal Justice party regional group.

    Mark also met with representatives of Wildlife rescue South coast, south coast animal rescue, Coast to Coast animal friends along with other individual animal carers and rescuers. Of great concern is the loss of habitat for our native animals coupled with the threats posed by both legal and illegal hunting, leaving wildlife carers fear and fear safe places to release animals. We also heard of the incredible, personal, emotion and financial burden experienced by carers and rescuers, who spend thousands and sometime hundreds of thousands of dollars on the animals in their care, without any government assistance.

    Mark with a wildlife and rat rescue volunteer in Nowra.

    Mark with Leon from the Animal Justice Party Southern Highlands RG, as well as Woody, Kirsten, Greg and Justine from Wildlife Rescue South Coast.
Page 1 of 1212345...10...Last »