• 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.

  • Mark visits WW1 killing fields to pay respects to animals fallen in war

    Lest We Forget

    Throughout history, in war and in peace, animals and mankind have worked alongside each other.

    As “beasts of burden”, messengers, protectors, mascots, and friends, the war animals have demonstrated true valour and an enduring partnership with humans.

    The bond is unbreakable, their sacrifice great – we honour the animals of war.

    Mark has been spending the parliamentary break visiting the WW1 killing fields of Northern France.

    One destination was particularly poignant; the Animal War Memorial at Pozieres. Amidst the war graves of fallen soldiers there lies a small memorial garden set aside to honour those horses, donkeys, dogs, and pigeons that were conscripted into war service and killed in action. These forgotten heroes finally have a place where their sacrifice can be remembered.

    The Animal War Memorial at Pozieres was only opened in July 2017 and has already become a focal point for visitors around the world. The establishment of this memorial is owed in large part to Nigel Allsop, a former veteran who worked in all aspects of military canine operations and training, and who established the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation. Allsop raised the funds for the Pozieres memorial, and has intentions to further enhance the the site with more statuary, in honour of animal war service.

    “I will honour and pay tribute to all those fallen in WWI – both human and non-human. Animals did not choose nor were conscripted to war but forced by our hand. Despite this, their loyalty and trust still came through.

    I am so appreciative of the French government and, in particular, the village residents and Mayor of Poziers for establishing a special Memorial for them there. A place where so many horses and dogs died from gun shot or a long lingering death from injuries whilst trapped in mud.

    What I discovered on this visit to Pozieres Australian Animal War Memorial is something I will never forget. Here, in only three weeks, more Australian soldiers and animals fell than anywhere else during WW1. These were just kids in uniforms and animals forced into a living hell. Despite this, even upon hearing the discharge of a bomb shell which they sensed could target them, horses and dogs were seen to lean over and ‘cover’ their soldier comrade to shield them from the impact. Horses with their heads, dogs with their bodies.

    Extraordinary.”

    Lest We Forget them too.

    Mark Pearson will be wearing a purple poppy during his visit, signifying the sacrifice of those animals who endured the horrors of the battlefields. Some 9 million horses and unknown numbers of other animals were killed during wartime. Tragically, surviving horses were denied return to Australia and soldiers were traumatised at having to leave their companions behind to an uncertain fate. Many shot their horses rather than risk their ill-treatment or slaughter for food.

    The “Animal” Poppy

    Most people are unaware that as well as the traditional red poppy worn to mark the Armistice Day of 11 November 1918, that there is also the purple poppy, worn in remembrance of the animals who died during conflict.

    The Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation (AWAMO) issued this purple poppy, intended to be worn alongside the traditional red one, to signify and pay respect to the sacrifice the animals made alongside their human comrades.

     

    Mark Pearson with Mayor Bernard Delattre at the Australian Animal War Memorial, Pozieres, France

  • Our submission to the Draft Plan of Management of the Brumby

    It seems the NPWS and the Office of Environment & Heritage continue to push their mass slaughter agenda, one that will result in brutal cruelty. My office submitted or submission to the Draft Plan of Management in which we address the multitude of inaccuracies and failings of the plan and associated technical reports. Our submission makes a number of sensible, proven, sustainable and most of all humane recommendations to address the lack of science, independence and long term outlook of the plan.

    Reading the plan the question has to be asked as to what the proposed slaughter is actually setting out to achieve other than bloodshed. The government is endorsing this slaughter on the supposed huge increase in numbers yet it contradicts itself by saying, in effect, it has no real idea on the numbers. The assertion that fertility control measures are ineffective and the glowing endorsement in the ITRG Report of aerial culling as the best option for animal welfare fly in the face of past mistakes, mistakes that resulted in terrible animal cruelty and suffering.

    In light of all this our submission makes three critical recommendations that MUST be implemented now so as the other recommendations and information can be assessed. These 3 critical recommendations are:

    “For all the reasons outlined in this submission the Animal Justice Party totally disagrees with the draft Plan and recommends as a matter of urgency and public interest that the following be adopted:
    1. That this draft Plan and wild horse (brumby) management in general be subject to the proper parliamentary scrutiny via a Committee Inquiry.
    2. That this current draft Plan and ongoing processes be placed on immediate hold pending the recommendations of the above inquiry.
    3. Passive trapping and rehoming of suitable horses should continue with increased transparency and responsibility taken by the NPWS.”

    To read our full submission please go to our AJP Brumby Plan Submission page.

    If you have any questions or concerns please contact Josh – joshua.agland@parliament.nsw.gov.au

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  • Brumby update-Mark to call for a legislative review of the Draft Plan of Management

    Mark and his office are utterly appalled at the governments decision to slaughter the Brumby. Having reviewed the reports, the Draft plan of Management and other statements from the Minister for Environment it is apparent that there is NO justification for this slaughter. The draft plan and associated technical review proposes a range of control methods to reduce the population from the estimated 6000 down to 600 over the next 20 years. The so called science and  independent technical review  is so utterly flawed that there is no other option but place this decision and the reasoning behind it under the proper legislative scrutiny.

    Reading the report the question has to be asked as to what the proposed slaughter is actually setting out to achieve other than bloodshed. The government is endorsing this slaughter on the supposed huge increase in numbers yet it contradicts itself by saying, in effect, it has no real idea on the numbers. The advised killing methods in the report again seem to be contradictory of community expectations and common sense. The assertion that fertility control measures are ineffective and the glowing endorsement in the report of aerial culling as the best option for animal welfare fly in the face of past mistakes, mistakes that resulted in terrible animal cruelty and suffering. How could any of us forget the infamous aerial cull, reminiscent of a brutal Rambo operation by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the Guy Fawkes River National Park in October 2000? Terrified horses were driven up against an escarpment by a helicopter as shooters opened fire with semi-automatic rifles, slaughtering more than 600 horses. The slaughter scene depicted horses riddled with bullets suffering slow, agonising deaths. One mare was shot while giving birth whilst new born foals were left to starve because their mothers had been killed.

    Mark and his office attended a public community forum in Jindabyne on Saturday 21st of May, the meeting was organised by the Snowy Mountain Brumby Sustainability & Management Group Inc. The meeting was well attended with over 70 with visitors from all areas including Gundagai, Tumut, Tumbarumba, Grenfell, Newcastle, Talbingo, Cooma and the Jindabyne region. Mark addressed the meeting and spoke of his disgust that the government was hell bent on wiping out the Brumby based on bad science, invalid population estimates and the lack of genuine community engagement on the issue. Amongst other sensible resolutions proposed and supported at the meeting Mark proposed a resolution of his own which was adopted unanimously, this being;

    ‘To support that the Draft Plan of Management and brumby management in NSW generally be referred to relevant Legislative Council Standing Committee (GSC5) for detailed review and to call on the local member and National party to support this review’

    On Thursday 26th of May Mark was lucky enough to have a personal visit of the Hunter Valley Brumby Association’s sanctuary. Mark witnessed first hand the great work HVBA is doing to protect, educate and save the Brumby. The HVBA team is a great example of a professional, passionate and experienced advocacy group that rescues and re-homes Brumbies. A big thank you to Kath Massey and Madison Young for allowing us to see first hand the care and love the team has for these animals, it was a truly great experience.

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    Madison Young, Vice President of the Hunter Valley Brumby Assoc, Mack and Mark

    Mark Pearson: “It seems we have not learnt from our past mistakes, killing is NOT the answer. I acknowledge that humane management is not a quick fix one size fits all solution. However it is our duty to ensure that we invest and utilise best practice and sound methods of estimating and reporting the true population numbers. Where required, fertility control is to be used and in parallel we must invest in fertility control via humane research and development. Mass slaughter does not equal management and until governments realise this it is likely that the continuous cycle of killing and responsive population growth will continue.”

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    Mark with Guy Fawkes Brumby Diesel

  • Mark defends the Brumby in heartfelt Adjournment speech

    The Brumby holds a special place in the Australian psyche, personifying the Australian courage and spirit of freedom. Yet, today, just like the kangaroo, they face an uncertain future, considered by some, including this government to be feral pests. They find themselves becoming increasingly marginalised in lands that have been their home for over a century. A home thrust upon them when early European settlers found little need for them with the onset of farm machinery and released them into the wild, left to survive. It is this survival that spawned a time when only the toughest survived, natural selection saw the evolution of wild horses with the traits required to thrive in the environment in which they found themselves.

    The Brumby has gallantly served human, toiling on farms as stock animals, building the roads and railways we relied upon, even serving as police horses enforcing the law of the bush. They accompanied men to war, with over 70,000 horses losing their lives in World War I alone.

    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 of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in their role in the mass slaughter.

    Yet it seems we have not learnt from our past mistakes, killing is NOT the answer. All of the so-called “feral” animals were brought to Australia by human beings. We brought the horse here not out of love but out of the notion that they would provide us with something useful. We exploited them and then when they weren’t needed we disposed of them like mere objects and sent them on their way into the wild bush, Wanted Yesterday, Unwanted Today. They survived and adapted like any other being on this planet and yet some continue to persecute them and if this government gets its way decimate their existence to such a degree that their heritage and bloodlines will be threatened.

    I acknowledge that humane management is not a quick fix one size fits all solution. However it is our duty to ensure that we invest and utilise best practice and sound methods of estimating and reporting the true population numbers. Where required, fertility control is to be used and in parallel we must invest in fertility control via research and development. This is a very successful method used for the wild horses of the Canadian Rockies and the elephants in Africa. The use of fertility control would also mean that fewer Brumbies would be born each year and result in a proper and sustainable management plan. Mass slaughter does not equal management and until governments realise this it is likely that the continuous cycle of killing and responsive population growth will continue.

    Passive trapping and rehoming programs aim to capture horses with minimal interference from humans and released to suitable rehoming groups. Whilst strict adherence to best practice and horsemanship is critical to the success of such programs, this is another non-lethal strategy that both reduce numbers in the wild whilst maintaining the cultural heritage and significance of the brumby. The Hunter Valley Brumby Association is one such group which to date has taken on over 50 brumbies to their sanctuary, 30 of these have come from the Kozciuszko National Park.

    In closing, I challenge the persistent notion and labelling of “feral” animals. These animals are not feral; rather, they are wild, untamed survivors of humans’ past failings. I once asked an Indigenous elder, “So what do you think makes an animal a native Australian?” He replied, “When it is born here.”

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