• Productivity Commission Final Report Into Australian Agriculture

    Last week the Productivity Commission publicly released its Final Report into Australian Agriculture Regulations. Among other industry concerns regarding land, water and natural resources use, food labelling, and GMO, the Report also gave a thorough overview of the state of play when it comes to farmed animal welfare in Australia. It was heartening to see such articulate and professional submissions made on behalf of farmed animals and the unnecessary suffering they endure each and everyday.

    The Animal Justice Party submitted a detailed response to the draft report highlighting the Party’s views on an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, live export and state based animal cruelty legislation. In addition many other organisations such as Animals Australia, PETA Australia, Vegan Australia, Animal Liberation, World Animal Protection, Voiceless and Animal Defenders Office echoed the need for a drastic overhaul of how the community expects farms animals should be treated. However, it is still disappointing to note that most of the environmental groups seem to be still in denial about the massive adverse impacts animal agriculture is having on our climate, biodiversity and emissions.

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    Given the overwhelming consistency within the submissions in regards community expectations concerning farmed animal welfare, it is pleasing to see the Final Report note these concerns and make recommendations in-line with the general public. For too long industry has had the political advantage of drafting its own rules, regulations and responsibilities with the main focus being on boosting profit. Below is a brief overview of some of the Final Report recommendations for animal welfare.

    • Animal welfare regulations are to be reformed so as to achieve welfare outcomes that (among other things) meet community expectations. However, the current process for setting standards for farmed animal welfare does not adequately value the benefits of animal welfare to the community.
    • The process for setting standards would be improved through the creation of a statutory agency responsible for developing national farmed animal welfare standards using rigorous science and evidence of community values for farmed animal welfare.
    • Conflict of interest is an issue — the main concerns were disproportionate industry influence and perceptions of conflicts of interests of agriculture departments (that are responsible for farmed animal welfare policy).
    • After closely considering submissions and evidence from hearings on this matter, the Commission maintains the view that the most effective approach would be to establish an independent statutory agency — the Australian Commission for Animal Welfare (ACAW) — with responsibility for developing the national standards — the standards would be implemented and enforced by state and territory governments.

    A copy of the Final Report can be found HERE, go straight to Section 5 for Animal Welfare. It is important to note that much of what has been documented in the report is still a far cry from what is expected by the majority of the public, however, it is a positive sign that the voice for animals grows stronger by the day and will get even stronger with more Animal Justice Party elected representatives.

    In light of the release of the report, our single AJP MP, Mark Pearson, questioned the NSW DPI Minister on the reports recommendations and how NSW would respond. As the below video and transcript shows, the Minister is still in the hands of industry and not representing the NSW public’s concerns about animal welfare.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries. The recently published recommendation 5.1 of the Productivity Commission final report into Australian agriculture strongly endorsed the establishment of an independent statutory agency which would meet community expectations of accountability, transparency and high animal welfare standards.

    In light of this recommendation and given the Minister’s often stated confidence in the robustness of New South Wales’ animal cruelty laws and enforcement authorities, as well as the Government’s commitment to deliver on community expectations, will the Government establish an independent statutory body for animal welfare in New South Wales, and if not, why not?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. As Minister for Primary Industries, I have stated on many occasions in this House that we take animal welfare seriously. We believe that most of the participants within our industries take animal welfare seriously as well, which is why, quite often, we have allowed most of the system improvements and animal welfare improvements in New South Wales to be led by the industries that know them best. Good animal welfare practice is good farming practice when it comes to our primary industries. The Hon. Mark Pearson made mention of the Productivity Commission’s report. The Productivity Commission made a number of recommendations in areas concerning primary industries.

    The New South Wales Government takes note of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations but at times we can look at those recommendations and see that we have a system that is better suited to New South Wales. One has only to look at the recent decision of the Government to continue rice vesting in New South Wales, although it was contrary to the Productivity Commission’s recommendation when it looked at that issue. Likewise, when it comes to animal welfare we believe the systems and the agencies in New South Wales are adequate. At the moment they are serving their purpose. Because the Productivity Commission has looked at it and said one thing does not mean we have to go down that path. We always look at what is best for business and industry in New South Wales. We have the ability to take the recommendations of the Productivity Commission on board but we also have the ability to review our systems and current measures, and if they are adequate we will continue with those.

    I have faith in our systems in New South Wales. I have faith in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. I also have faith in the agencies under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that are responsible for the enforcement of animal welfare. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I know he is extremely interested in this area and I know he has a different view from me. He does not have the same faith in those agencies because he has been influenced by his past interactions with them. As I said, we look at what others research and find, and then we look at those issues through the lens of what is best for New South Wales. We did it with rice vesting, and it is what we are doing with animal welfare.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister please elucidate how the New South Wales approach to this report is either the same as or an improvement on the recommendations of the Productivity Commission?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: The New South Wales approach is the best approach for New South Wales.

  • Question Without Notice-Live maceration of newly hatched chicks in the egg industry

    Earlier this month an Australian-first investigation by Animal Liberation and Aussie Farms revealed the mass killing of ‘useless’ male chicks and the painful de-beaking of day-old females. This commodification and basis of worth placed on individual sentient beings is inevitable in the animal agriculture industry. The male chicks are seen as ‘wastage’, no different to the wastage in the greyhound industry, the females are a commodity producing machine with an expiry date. In response to this footage, I asked the Minister whether this unnecessary and unjustifiable suffering would be outlawed.

    MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries.

    The current egg production regulatory framework allows for the live maceration or gassing to death of millions of newly hatched male chicks as “industry wastage” because they are of no economic benefit to the industry. Gene technology can now differentiate between male and female chicks in the early egg incubation phase, with German researchers soon to release a commercially viable in-ovo sexing test that will result in the destruction of male embryo eggs prior to them developing sensibility and a capacity to feel distress and pain.

    Will the Minister advise when the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry will be revised to prohibit the live maceration or gassing of male chicks as an unjustifiable practice?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water): I thank the member for his question and for highlighting the research the industry is doing and its investment into advancements in chicken sexing in egg production. It is a good example of how our food and fibre primary producers are addressing issues of concern to consumers. They are investing a record amount into research and continuing to look at the innovation and technology available in Australia and around the world for their production processes. We should all be standing up and saying that is exactly what we want to see from a mature primary industries sector in this State. For example, they are investing in better techniques in animal husbandry and, as the member highlighted, in chicken sexing in the egg industry. That is what we ask of our industries.

    My point is that we do not need government to be telling industry what to do. In this case our primary producers are leading the charge and backing up their actions with record amounts of money. They are at the forefront of ensuring they are responsive to some of the issues in their industries. For further information, the industry is funding research by the CSIRO to enable the sexing of chickens in the early development phase in the egg. This will mean that sexing can occur close to point of lay and not require incubating and hatching of male chicks. The industry is doing that in cooperation with the CSIRO, which is a great example of how our primary producers are working within their industries. In some cases they do not need us to come down with a heavy hand and introduce legislation telling them what to do because they are already doing it.

    I have previously spoken in this House about our pork sector. I know the member is concerned about sow stalls. Again, the industry determined that it would voluntarily get rid of sow stalls and more than 70 per cent of the sector has gone down that path. That has not happened because we told them to do it; they were already doing it. They understood the issue and put their money where their mouth is. They are working with all producers to address those issues. I am proud of the primary producers in this State. They understand the issues that concern their consumers. Whether it is mulesing or egg or pork production, our producers are leading the charge. They do not need us to tell them what to do because they are already doing it.

    MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister please go to the specificity of the question, which relates to when in-ovo chick sexing is available will the Government amend the model code of practice to prohibit the maceration and gassing of male chicks?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the member for his supplementary question. Without repeating too much of my previous answer, layer chickens are specifically bred for egg production and the male chickens are unsuitable for rearing for meat. Male layer chickens are killed upon hatching and sexing of the chickens at layer hen hatcheries. This is recognised practice in the industry globally. Maceration is a humane method of killing day-old chickens as the chickens are killed instantly. It is recommended in the current national Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry, fourth edition. The industry is funding research by the CSIRO to enable the sexing of chickens in the early development phase in the egg. This will mean that sexing can occur close to point of lay and not require incubating and hatching of male chicks.

  • 23/03/2016: Debate speech to Greens Climate Change Bill

    In the ensuing debate around climate change, emissions and human impacts that took part in reference to the Greens Climate Change Bill, all ignored the cow in the room, that is animal agriculture. Whilst I and the Animal Justice Party acknowledge the devastating impacts as a result of fossil fuels, we think it is somewhat convenient that animal agriculture is omitted from the debate. Is it easier to force government and industry to change than to change our own habits? In my speech I didn’t feel the need to address the common enemies but to challenge those that believe in climate change to acknowledge the impact of animal agriculture and hopefully change their lifestyle to suit.

    Google ‘meat and climate change’ or ‘diet and climate change’ and countless articles supporting this pop up, the UN acknowledges it and here in Australia it is the hot topic. When we have 29 million cattle, 72 million sheep and just 23 million people, our accumulated climate impact is right up there with France, with its 66 million people. It’s not always the human population that determines a country’s environmental impact.

    Read my speech below and for the full debate go HERE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: The Animal Justice Party supports the Climate Change Bill 2015. I congratulate Ms Jan Barham and her staff on all the work that has gone into this bill. The Animal Justice Party will support the Opposition’s amendment to refer this bill to the relevant committee. In December 2015 the landmark climate conference in Paris found that animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than the transport system around the world, so it is important to take this issue on board. Thirty-eight years ago Russian scientist Vladimir Nesterenko publicly stated that the death of frogs in the Himalayan mountains was a measure of climate and atmosphere crisis. Frogs have a membrane that measures in the most sensitive way any changes to the environment. Vladimir Nesterenko was a visionary scientist.

    We are now seeing the consequences of his prediction. It is important to look at the chain of events that led to animal agriculture. We clear old growth forest to grow grain with a lot of water, the grain is then harvested and transported long distances creating further emissions, it is stored in silos and from those silos transported to feedlots that practise intensive farming such as cattle, piggeries, battery hen facilities and other livestock. That then creates massive effluent pools. It is clear that the movement towards animal agriculture on such a major scale around the world is, as the Paris conference finding states, contributing more to global warming than the transport system around the world, which is quite a statement. It is irrelevant whether climate change is due to a natural change in the universe caused by the movement of the sun and earth or is directly related to human kind’s activities or a combination of the two—which the Animal Justice Party says is the case.

    What is relevant is that the human species is capable of bringing change, grappling with problems and crises and can contribute to reducing global warming. What is clear is that we have to support a move towards a plant-based diet. While we push animal agriculture into China and other Asian countries we are striking at and feeding the fundamental problems contributing to global warming. The Animal Justice Party supports this bill but will also support the Opposition’s amendment to send the bill to the relevant committee. The Animal Justice Party will push for terms of reference to include an analysis of the animal agriculture industry and its contribution to global warming. I commend the bill to the House. I commend the Opposition’s amendment to refer the bill to the relevant committee.

  • Mark’s 2015 festive good will message-Thanks for the support.

    A personally wanted to thank all AJP members, volunteers, supporters and those of you that chose for one reason or another to give animals a voice in NSW Parliament.

    Your support for the Animal Justice Party has helped make history. I am honoured to be the first MP to be elected on an animal protection platform and I will continue to be a voice for all those that need it.

    Have a safe and peaceful holiday and where ever you may be spend some time with a non-human animal and share their kindness and love.

    Stay safe,

    Mark and staff.

  • 22/10/2015: History Made-Mark introduces the AJP’s first bill into NSW parliament

    Today a historic milestone was achieved. The Hon. Mark Pearson introduced the first AJP bill into NSW parliament. Mark delivered a powerful second reading speech of the bill which focuses on the fundamental spirit of the Act in which it amends, that is people who farm, work with and care for animals have a duty of care to PREVENT cruelty occurring. It is a proactive bill which given the public and industry responses to animal cruelty should be supported.

    Check the status of and download a copy of the bill HERE

    Watch Mark’s powerful speech below.

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