• Animal Justice MP Mark Pearson calls for mandatory CCTV cameras in abattoirs

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    Animal Justice Party MP, Mark Pearson calls for mandatory CCTVs in all abattoirs after yet another expose of animal cruelty; the latest in a poultry processing plant in Melbourne where footage shows spent layer hens entering scalding tanks whilst still alive.

    “The suffering of these birds would have been immense as their shackled bodies were lowered into the boiling water. These animals should have already been stunned and killed before they were immersed in the boiling water for feather loosing. We are constantly told by the regulatory authorities that such events are ‘isolated incidents by rogue employees’, but in fact such incidents occur frequently, often due workers being pressured to keep the kill chain going even where malfunctioning machinery causes harm to animals.”

    “For the sake of animal protection and to put management on notice that any acts of cruelty will be filmed and exposed, CCTV cameras should be mandatory in all places where animals are being slaughtered. There also needs to be resourcing for regular inspections of CCTV footage by the relevant authorities and a truly independent animal welfare regulator that has the capacity to ensure that any cruelty that is uncovered, is prosecuted.”

    The Animal Justice Party MP currently has before NSW Parliament a bill for mandatory CCTVs to be installed in all abattoirs. Debate and vote on the bill is expected next week in the Legislative Council’s final sitting for the year.

  • Defending introduced animals against state funded suffering

    Last week the NSW government passed a bill, that, on first glance looked innocent enough.

    However, when we dug a bit deeper, the bill enables the Minister to spend nearly $3 million dollars a year on providing farmers with 1080 baits and other cruel so called ‘control’ methods for killing animals deemed pests. Among these introduced animals deemed pests by livestock graziers and the like are foxes, pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, deer, and even our native Dingo. How did we as a society get to the point where we treat innocent animals with such disdain, such venom? That, in order to ‘ farm’ animals for slaughter and ruin the environment we then give money to promote suffering to introduced animals trying to survive in an ever decreasing natural habitat, is a massive contradiction.

    Mark ensured these animals had their say and urged the government to support a proposed AJP amendment that would see 25% of these funds to fund research and development for non-lethal methods of management.

    Watch or read the full speech below.

    I speak to the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2017. First, while the Animal Justice Party does not support the bill, I note that we oppose only one key section. That is the increased funding for killing so-called “pest species”. We had hoped to propose some sensible and proactive amendments but, as this is a money bill, that can only be done in the other place. I will touch on those amendments a little later. In relation to the Animal Justice Party’s concerns, my understanding is that the bill seeks to join general pest animal management funding with the existing locust fund, which generates its income from a levy placed on the landholders. While funding for locust control remains the main priority, residual funds will be used to target those species that are deemed to be pests with the cheapest, yet cruellest, forms of killing control—a control method that has been proven time and time again not to work in the end. In fact, it has the opposite effect in that mass slaughter provides only a quick, forced population control result.

    Professor Tony English of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine stated that, despite 200 years of shooting, poisoning and trapping, feral animal numbers continue to rise. Feral animal populations have thrived not due to the setting aside of national parks, but due to the massive degradation and devegetation of the landscape that has compromised natural ecosystems and their native specie, thus creating a niche for feral animals. Much research has been published about the crude killing methods of control. It reveals that removing an introduced species from an ecosystem that has adapted to its existence, to a point, has a negative ripple effect for other animals. A basic example is the wiping out of rabbits in certain areas. While farmers rejoiced, it caused a dramatic decrease in quoll numbers because our native raptors, rather than preying on defenceless, prolific rabbits, turned to preying on quolls. Quoll numbers decreased, raptors struggled for food, and more and more consequential changes occurred down the food chain.

    We cannot go back to 1769 in relation to introduced species. Foxes, wild dogs, wild pigs, rabbits, cats, mice and rats have been born here for many generations and now fill an ecological niche. Given the massive habitat loss and changes in landscape, mostly due to agribusiness and the forestry industry, we must accept that our ecosystems are evolving and adapting. Rather than, as this bill appears to propose, providing a new avenue of funding for 1080 poisoning programs, mass slaughters, cruel hunting techniques and lethal viruses that cause long, lingering deaths, we should be investing in the research and development of more humane and non-lethal, but effective, control methods. While I note that there is a research and development area within the Department of Primary Industries, it is limited by general funding that is provided to the entire department. There is no designated fund to evolve the area past being more than a mechanism to support more profitable animal farming. Sadly, in regard to animal welfare it is merely a token gesture.

    Our amendment idea is simple and, since I cannot move the amendment in Committee, I urge the Minister and the Government to think seriously about its intentions and desired outcomes. Simply put, we call for a proportion of the residual funds—that is, what is left once the allocation for locust control has been made—to go to funding specific research and development of more humane and non-lethal methods of introduced animal control. We propose that no less than 25 per cent of the residual funds be provided and utilised only for introduced animal control research and development, and for such programs that are shown to be effective in other parts of the world, such as immunosterility contraceptive methods. These methods are being used with wild horses in Canada and with elephants in Africa, and are being trialled with some success with possums in New Zealand.

    But to ensure transparency and an accurate cost-benefit measurement, we also suggest that an annual report be provided outlining where the funds were spent and the outcomes and trials conducted as part of the specific introduced animal management plan. This report should also show the percentage of funding allocated in excess of the minimum of 25 per cent. Overall, our aim with this proposal is to ensure that introduced animal management provided by government tackles the long-term strategic view of genuine population control through humane and effective, non-lethal means. If funds are to be used to kill animals in the most barbaric and cruel ways, based purely on cost, it is only reasonable that a portion of those funds go into research and development of, not just more humane methods, but better long-term outcomes in reducing innocent introduced animal populations.

  • Marks Impassioned speech opposing the bill to remove homeless people from Martin Place

    The Animal Justice Party is absolutely dumbfounded by the Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Bill 2017. I find it embarrassing that, in 2017, I am speaking to such a draconian, disgraceful, unconscionable piece of legislation.

    When the police arrest these people and pack up their very meagre belongings—as Mr Shoebridge pointed out, even the tiniest things; they could be photographs, locks of hair, a gift given to them by very important people—they are not valued in the way these homeless people value them, but they are going to be wrapped up and taken from them. It is questionable whether they will be returned. When the police arrest them and move them on, where will these people go? Where is their chance? Where is their space?

    It is important to note that one of the safest places—believe it or not—for homeless people to gather is in the city where it is busy and people and police are about, and Parliament and a hospital are nearby. Whether it be Martin Place or wherever they have chosen to gather in the city, they do so because living in a dark corner in Kings Cross or Newtown or any other backstreet is far more dangerous and jeopardises their wellbeing and safety. They come into the city for this sense of safety. But because a particular member of Parliament might find it uncomfortable to look upon these people we now have to remove this distasteful vista and push them away so we can have the space back . We do not know what has happened to them.

    I support the suggestions made by the Hon. Mick Veitch and Mr David Shoebridge. For God’s sake, we are a civilised society. The measure of a civilisation is how we take the vulnerable, the sick, the weak, the needy under our wings whatever the situation is that has caused these people to live in such a way that they are homeless. The notion that they are being belligerent and obstructive and may be choosing to live this way is utter rubbish. Even if some comment that this is the way they want to live, that person has a story to tell about why they have come to that decision. We cannot turn our backs on these people and treat them in this way.

    The aspect of section 7 that astounds me is that the provisions of the bill apply if the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person’s occupation of the reserve materially interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the rights of the public. Using a broader definition of enjoyment, these people are enjoying the relatively safe space here in the city. How could they be considered to be materially interfering with other members of the public? I have seen no complaint, I have heard no claim that another person’s liberty has been materially interfered with by a person who puts a very small, very uncomfortable, cold tent in a street next to another tent where people can walk freely on either side.

    We need to face this problem head-on, not dodge it and not punish people for finding themselves in a terrible situation through no fault of their own. It is time that we turned our minds to understanding compassion and how it relates to civilisation. One of the best measures of human beings is whether they honestly address problems, take responsibility for them, and work proactively together to solve them. We must work with people in this dreadful situation and address homelessness. Not only have they experienced bad luck and terrible situations but this Government has also put in place many mechanisms that obstruct their free access to the liberty of a home.

    The Animal Justice Party absolutely opposes this legislation, which is draconian and an embarrassment to this and the other House. I condemn the bill.

  • Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 debate speech

     

    The Animal Justice Party obviously will oppose the Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 and the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016. Today we are faced with a bill that makes a mockery of concerns about maintaining biodiversity. This bill makes no attempt at balancing the needs of animals and humans, and our shared environment. The Baird Government has instead kept its election promise to landholder vandals with an eye to immediate profit and not to the long-term well-being of the animals that share our environment. Harm will be caused to threatened species—harm that it should be promised never affects other beings or animals on the land that is controlled by and under the care of a person.

    The proposed legislation will eviscerate our environmental protections and allow unfettered destruction of what remains of habitat on marginal farmlands. Our current biodiversity protections urgently need strengthening, not weakening. Just as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides a legal framework for engaging in animal cruelty, our existing environmental laws regulate the methods for harming flora and fauna. Despite our current protections being less than optimal, the Native Vegetation Act has slowed down the rate of agriculture clearing since its introduction in 2004.

    There has been an estimated reduction of wild animal deaths of more than 100,000 per annum. Thousands still die every year from land clearing. The needless death of even one animal is a cause for concern.

    It is the one animal that is important to the Animal Justice Party, just as it is to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is not just about protecting a particular number of animal species; we need to be turning our minds to protecting an animal from distress, pain and suffering, and harm. This is what a landholder must take into consideration when looking at their land—that on that land animals are passing through, nesting, breeding and then moving on. The responsibility to those animals that did not give their consent to be invaded by these processes is much greater.

    Only last week it was reported that the world is heading towards a mass extinction of animal life not seen since the disappearance of the dinosaurs millions of years ago.

    By 2020 the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and other vertebrate species are on course to have fallen by more than two-thirds over a period of just 50 years according to the Living Planet Report.

    In New South Wales there are 989 species of plants and animals and 107 ecological communities threatened with extinction. Why on Earth would we do anything to risk adding to that dreadful toll? We owe it to future generations to ensure that we do not cause the extinction of any more species on our watch. It beggars belief that the Baird Government would even contemplate introducing legislation that will make it easier to wipe out the habitat that our rare, vulnerable and endangered animals rely upon for food and shelter.

    The Government states that this bill and its administration is and will be based on science, yet, as was referred to earlier, it is clear the science community does not agree. In fact, I received a letter and a public statement signed by 73 New South Wales based scientists condemning the bill and its associated methodology. This statement goes on to confirm that land clearing is the primary threat to our biodiversity and is also a major contributor to climate change as well as the deterioration of soils and water quality. These scientists called on the Government to sincerely apply the principles of ecologically sustainable development under section 6 (2) of its own Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991.

    Over the last 200 years we have lost 75 per cent of our rainforests, almost 50 per cent of all forests and 99 per cent of south-eastern Australia’s temperate grasslands.

    It is time to reverse the damage caused by land clearing, not to encourage greater destruction—rather to give something back, not keep tearing away. With the looming impacts of climate change, we need to repair and return agricultural land to native bush and grasslands for carbon sequestration in trees and soils. I find it completely astounding that this bill does not address the significant challenges we face because of climate change. There are only two brief mentions in a 200-page document. The climate change deniers have won out in drafting this bill and capturing this Government.

    Like all members here today, I have been inundated with emails, letters, submissions and requests for meetings to discuss the dangers of this bill. Many farmers and landholders have written to me stating that they do not want or need these proposed laws. I note landholders and farmers have written and come to see me. It has been heartening to meet with farmers who recognise that, as true guardians of their lands, they want to enrich the diversity and complexity of animal and plant life on their landholdings. They know that attempting to farm on marginal lands is a zero sum game for both humans and animals.

    The health of any landscape is measured by its biodiversity, not by its yield and not by its economic profit. In a time when the divide between city and country is expanding, people are questioning the status quo of agriculture practices. This bill, not unlike the so-called Biosecurity Act 2015, further exacerbates this divide; it does not bring us together. Rather than be open and honest about how food is produced, how land is treated and how animals are treated, it seems the industry, again, has wielded its Thor-like hammer on a captured Government. Let us hide the truth. Let us remove laws that are moderately effective in their outcomes. Let us make legal what is illegal.

    One obvious example is the continued demonisation of the kangaroo. As more habitat is cleared, more kangaroos are forced from their grassland homes to graze on pasture, but up goes the cry that we have too many kangaroos. Overwhelmed, hunters take their deadly aim and millions of kangaroos are slaughtered.

    It is the world’s largest land-based slaughter of any mammal. This is what precedes. Then, as former grasslands turn to dust with the cloven hooves of conscripted sheep and cattle, the profit mongers demand more land to desecrate and desiccate.

    It is noted that the requirement for fauna assessment has been significantly reduced in this bill. There is now a heavy reliance on habitat as a surrogate for determining the presence of fauna. Our environment has become so degraded in some parts of the State that paddock trees have become crucial for the survival of many animals. Under this bill, paddock trees in category one land will be able to be cleared without assessment.

    There are large amounts of published scientific information that support the crucial importance of paddock trees as habitat for fauna and as avenues to allow movement of fauna across vast partially cleared landscapes. It is on this basis that they have been protected in the past. Under the proposed Local Land Services Act, the impacts of the removal of paddock trees can be self-assessed by a landholder under a self-assessable code. Some threatened species that use paddock trees have cryptic behaviour. For example, hollow dependent microbats are not likely to be detected by a landholder who does not have expertise in fauna surveys. The presence of those lone trees with hollows, leaves, blossoms and seed could mean life or death for animals seeking rest, refuge and sustenance as they make their way to safer and more abundant habitat. With migratory birds experiencing massive habitat loss around the globe, those resting trees may be the only thing between survival and extinction.

    On my recent trip to Menindee and Broken Hill with my dear friend Uncle Max, elder of the Yuin people, we stood by a century-old seemingly dead tree.

    Uncle Max stated that those trees are as alive now as they were when they had leaves. Birds and small mammals make nests and homes in the hollows and birds take the fallen branches of those trees to far places to build nests. Those trees do not die.

    With the stake so high, why would we rely on the obvious conflict of interest regarding self-assessment to protect migratory birds and travelling wildlife? Another important teaching of Uncle Max is the importance of the totem animals as well as the songlines of the land. Those songlines and totem animals, which will be dramatically affected by the repercussions of this bill, are the lines and centres of energy around which Aboriginal culture and all humanity is dependent for sustaining its balance and centredness.

    Kangaroos have already been failed by the Scientific Committee, which will continue to determine the listing for protection. The Scientific Committee has failed previously to identify that certain kangaroo populations are threatened or vulnerable as a result of commercial and non-commercial killing. With the proposal for greater streamlining of the committee’s processes, kangaroos are even less likely to be afforded protection. The bill waters down the protection of individual animals as well as groups and numbers of animals with a risk‑based approach to regulating wildlife. Under the current legislation, this approach differentiates between low‑ and high‑risk activities. The existing legislation prohibits certain wildlife activities without first obtaining a licence. For example, it is currently an offence to harm a protected animal such as a kangaroo unless a licence is obtained.

    Under the proposed tiered approach, people can carry out certain low-risk activities that harm wildlife without obtaining a licence. Harming wildlife as part of these activities would not be an offence should the bill be passed into law. Exactly what activities would be allowed is yet to be seen given that, as usual, the devil will be in the detail of the regulations and industry codes of practice. We know that the risk relates to populations of animals, not individual animals. The Animal Justice Party believes that protections should be accorded to individual animals as well as populations. All animals are sentient and have the capacity to experience harm and pleasure. The question must be asked: Without the protection of a licence, will people who cause harm to individual animals under the tiered approach be committing an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act?

    The failure to include the “improve or maintain environmental outcomes” protection from the existing legislation means that there is no mechanism to ensure that there will be no net loss of vegetation at the local level. The bill relies heavily on self-assessment, which renders animals vulnerable to those with a vested interest in not seeing koalas in trees. The biodiversity offset scheme is a bait-and-switch scam of the worst order. There is no requirement to meet the like-for-like criteria. The offsets do not even have to be in the same area, only within New South Wales, and 200-year-old trees with nesting hollows are not replaceable by 200 seedlings. It does not make any sense to approve the draining of a wetland by paying credits into an offset scheme. Money for rehabilitating one part of New South Wales will not bring back dead ecosystems approved for destruction in another part of the State.

    Of great concern to me are the amendments to the Local Land Services Act 2013 to align with the provisions of the proposed Biodiversity Conservation Bill that gives powers to authorised persons under the Act. The proposed changes seem to corrode and undermine the importance of environmental protections by focusing on the use of the land for human exploitation. Any such protective measures in the Biodiversity Conservation Bill are then further diluted as they are overridden by allowable activities under the proposed amendments to the Local Land Services Act 2013. The Local Land Services Act is essentially concerned with agricultural production, biosecurity and pest management. There is scant reference to environmental values and land, and land is seen more in respect of resource management rather than its importance being recognised as habitat for numerous animals.

    It is inappropriate for Local Land Services to play any role in regulating the management of native vegetation. It does not have the expertise nor is its focus on habitat protection. Its power to allow clearing that is considered to have a lesser impact on biodiversity through a framework of allowable activities and codes of practice is a recipe for disaster.

    As any animal protection advocate will say, codes of practice have a habit of regulating industry practices rather than seeking best practices and outcomes for animals.

    I am also deeply concerned by the panel’s recommendation to streamline the regulation of human and wildlife interactions, which has been included in the bill. Under the bill, interactions with wildlife will be assessed according to the risk to human safety, populations in the wild and animal welfare. This allows low-risk activity to occur without licencing. In effect, it opens the door to the private keeping of native animals. Any move from licencing towards codes of practice makes for less protection for animals. The Government’s own explanatory fact sheet on the bill flags the possibility of wildlife management codes of practice to allow the keeping of certain reptiles as pets.

    We have enough problems with puppy farms without a pet trade in native species. The Government states that licensing will be retained for situations where there is a risk that a code-based regulatory approach may cause any animal species to move toward extinction. How will this be monitored and assessed? I am deeply disappointed and concerned about the direction of these reforms. I am not convinced that they are necessary or desirable, or indeed that they will have the desired effect of improving biodiversity. This bill is a colossal failure for animals and the environment. I cannot support the passage of this bill.

  • A victory for greyhounds!

    Its is final, the Greyhound Prohibition Bill 2016 presented by the Mike Baird government passed in the Legislative Assembly at 3:45 AM Wednesday 24th of August 2016. Since the announcement by Mike Baird and Troy Grant that the government would shut down the greyhound industry in response to the finding of the Commission of Inquiry Report, the industry ramped up their defence propaganda in an effort to spook the government into back down. To their credit the government did not back down, it in fact presented a measured and solid bill to Parliament for the orderly closure of the industry. Whilst their is some minor concerns, the message had to be sent-we support this governments brave, but right decision.  The future suffering of unborn greyhounds has been prevented and as we celebrate the end of this vile industry, no doubt all of us are thinking about those animals that were needlessly and brutally killed. For all those greyhounds, possums, piglets, kittens and chickens, we are sorry that you could not be saved. May we remain vigilant and committed to ending animal suffering when ever and where ever it occurs. Our immediate task now is to ensure that promises are kept and the orderly process of re-homing begins. Thank you to everyone who made this victory possible.

    The NSW Labor party, under the leadership of a seemingly cold Luke Foley on the other hand decided to make this decision their defining moment. Luke Foley and NSW Labor’s opposition to the ban is very disappointing, more so, that they have pledged to overturn the ban if elected in 2019. It seems any real interest that Labor indicated they had in animal wellbeing comes a long second in a chance to score political points. This was evident in the tactics Labor employed in both houses during the debate. In the Legislative Council, members constantly objecting and causing a division and vote at every step. In the Legislative Assembly, Labor leader Luke Foley’s marathon 3 hour speech in reply causing the final vote occurring at 3.45 in the morning.

    My second reading debate speech to the bill can be found HERE

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