• Question Without Notice-Climate change increasing heat stress in cattle

    In the first week back to NSW Parliament for 2017 Mark questioned the Minister on what the government is doing to alleviate the suffering of heat stress in cattle.

    We know climate change is real, its happening, and while some argue the cause of climate change, the innocent animals are suffering. The root cause of this suffering is the exploitation and commodification of individual beings. As animal agriculture continues to expand, unaccountable to its adverse impacts, the planet and the animals that inhabit it will suffer.

    During the weeks leading up to this NSW suffered some of its highest temperatures on record. Cattle penned up in feed-lots and in dairies were greatly affected, in one of the worst cases reporting up to 40 dairy cows dying from heat related suffering. It is understood at least two other farms each suffered 15 or more deaths.

    HEAT STRESS IN CATTLE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry.

    Given that the New South Wales Government recognises that climate change means that farmers will need to adjust to prolonged periods of high temperatures during the summer months, what steps is the Minister’s department taking to ensure that the recent prolonged suffering and death from heat stress of 40 dairy cattle at Shoalhaven does not become a regular occurrence in our paddocks and cattle and sheep feedlots, in particular where this occurred due to the failure to provide adequate shelter?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I am sure that he had a good holiday, like the rest of us. He had plenty of time to fly his drone, no doubt. I hope he is well rested. I hear that he has not yet finished. I thank him for his question. I know that issues in relation to how stock handle extremes of temperature, including heat stress, is something that is managed by a lot of private businesses in our primary industries. In relation to the dairy that the Hon. Mark Pearson spoke about, I will take the question on notice and come back to him with a detailed answer. Given the nature of the question and given the timelines he spoke about, I am sure that there will be ongoing investigation. It would not be helpful for me to make comments while an investigation is being undertaken so I will take the question on notice and come back to him.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Point of order: The question from the Hon. Mark Pearson clearly mentioned climate change, which is a very serious issue and an issue of interest to people across New South Wales as well as honourable members. So far the Minister has not mentioned climate change in his answer. It is pertinent. It is central to this issue, and I would ask that the President direct the Minister to be relevant to the question that was asked.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I ask Mr Jeremy Buckingham to be seated. That is not a point of order by any stretch of the imagination. Mr Jeremy Buckingham should not use points of order as an opportunity to make debating points. The Minister was being generally relevant, and he will be heard in silence.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Before I take this question on notice and come back to the Hon. Mark Pearson I just make the observation that any person who would use the death of stock like this as some sort of political stunt in this Chamber, as Mr Jeremy Buckingham has just done, is an absolute disgrace. The Hon. Mark Pearson asked about—

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: You’re a disgrace, mate. People are going to the wall and you won’t even say the words “climate change”. You’re a fool.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind Mr Jeremy Buckingham that it was not my intention to call honourable members to order in this first question time. I ask that Mr Jeremy Buckingham allow the Minister to finish his answer in silence. The Minister has the call.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: We all know that the Hon. Mark Pearson is passionate when it comes to animal welfare. He has asked a genuine question. I was showing the member’s question the respect that it deserved, and I was going through it and answering the substantive part of the question. The stunt that Mr Buckingham has just pulled is something that every member of this House should stand up and condemn him for.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: You pulled the stunt, Mate.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: To use the death of stock and the loss of livelihood of a primary producer for a political stunt on climate change is nothing but a disgrace. If the rest of his colleagues had the respect to come to question time and to actually sit through this then I am sure they would be absolutely disgusted as well. He is a disgrace—using an unrelated topic to make a point like this.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: They are disgusted by you, mate. Thousands are farmers are going to the wall. The Minister is an absolute dinosaur and a fool.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I will not tolerate Government Ministers, Government members, Opposition members or crossbench members yelling at each other across the table. It is clearly disorderly. It is not something that I will accept. I ask that the Minister direct his answer through the Chair. Does the Minister have anything further to add?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Getting back to the substantive part of the question, I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I will take it on notice and come back to him with as much information as possible in due course.

  • 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.

  • Notice of Motion-Racing NSW Horse welfare fund

    RACING NSW HORSE WELFARE FUND

    (1) That this House congratulates Racing NSW for its decision to establish a Horse Welfare Fund which will be financed predominantly from a 1 per cent levy on all racing prize money paid in New South Wales.

    (2) That this House commends Racing NSW’s commitment that all New South Wales thoroughbred horses will be appropriately cared for outside of their racing careers and that this includes ex-racehorses as well as those thoroughbred horses that have never made it to the race track.

    (3) That this House notes that Racing NSW will provide resources for the care, retraining and eventual rehoming of all New South Wales thoroughbred horses by:

    (a) appointing a dedicated team of staff to manage the program, including a Horse Welfare Veterinarian;

    (b) establishing partnerships with riding schools, pony clubs, local agricultural societies and other equestrian organisations to promote the rehoming of thoroughbred horses;

    (c) expanding the current Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program with additional re-trainers to vastly increase the capacity for new horses; and

    (d) raising awareness for thoroughbred welfare and undertaking training days for their new owners.

    Motion agreed to.

  • Notice of Motion congratulating Virgin Australia

    REHOMING OF COMPANION ANIMALS

    (1) That this House congratulates Virgin Australia and Jetpets on entering into a partnership with companion animal rescue charities, Australian Working Dogs Rescue, RSPCA and Pet Rescue to:

    (a) provide free transport for companion animal adoptions and rehoming throughout Australia; and

    (b) assist in the relocation of surrendered greyhounds requiring rehoming as a consequence of the Greyhound Racing Prohibition Act 2016.

    (2) That this House notes that every successful rehoming of a companion animal removes a dog or cat from death row in council pounds and RSPCA shelters.

    Motion agreed to.

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