• Mark questions the NSW government’s ludicrous Visit My Farm Initiative

    The NSW Department of Primary Industries, with the support of the Minister responsible for animal welfare, is trailing a new charade initiative called “Visit My Farm”.

    According to the Minister this new initiative is “helping to open farm gates all over the state as part of on a new initiative to bring urban and farming communities closer through the ‘Visit My Farm’ agri-exchange trial.”

    HOWEVER, while the Minister likes to speak glowingly about the department’s new industry backed charade, a quick visit to the website reveals not a single intensive farm in its list of farms to visit. Not a single observation of sows in farrowing crates and stalls, hens in battery cages, artificial insemination, routine mutilations without analgesia such as eyeteeth removal and tail docking of piglets, de-beaking of layer chicks, and sheds where 22,000 or more broiler chickens are packed in. How can such an initiative be accurately representative of the true reality of animal farming?

    Well we asked the question……..

     

  • When will the Minister responsible for Animal Welfare understanding animal suffering?

    The Minister for Primary Industries clearly doesn’t have any concerns about the pain and suffering caused to introduced animals such as foxes and wild dogs when baited with 1080 poison. His ministerial responsibilities include the welfare of all animals, and that includes so called ‘pest’  animals. Instead of addressing the question about options for non-lethal and humane controls, Minister Blair decided to attack me for the hypocrisy of once eating fish and wearing leather and wool (not true).

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: During question time on 5 April the Minister stated support for the widespread use of 1080 poison to kill introduced animals such as wild dogs and foxes. Given that the welfare of all animals in New South Wales is his ministerial responsibility, irrespective of the category status imposed by humans, will the Minister advise whether his department has considered humane or non-lethal alternatives to 1080 baiting?

    If not, does the Minister accept the scientific evidence that so-called “pest” species are capable of experiencing pain and suffering, and the ingestion of 1080 poison causes immense suffering to baited animals irrespective of which animals they are?

    The Hon. NIAL L BLAIR: I stand by the comments I made in relation to pest animals and 1080 poison. I know my department, along with other agencies, looks at alternatives to poisoning for some of these pest animals. For example, a good bullet in the head would be appropriate for a wild dog that attacked poor defenceless lambs or left some of the sheep they attacked with their guts hanging out and suffering. As I have said previously, 1080 is licensed for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. It is a Federal issue.

    The member should not think for one second that he can enter this Chamber and have me start feeling sorry for introduced species that inflict pain and suffering upon livestock and, importantly, to many native animals. Native animals, including birds, suffer attack by feral dogs, foxes and feral cats. I will not change my mind. The member is wasting parliamentary question time. The 1080 poison is registered for use. The producers and agencies must stay within the protocols of that registration. The agencies that make those decisions do not report to me. That is my answer.

    It is one thing to say that members should be concerned about animal welfare that is governed by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, it is another matter to suggest that these introduced pest animals are in the same class. They inflict damage upon the economy and environment of this State. I am not going to apologise for one second for the fact that our agencies and farmers are using 1080 to eradicate those pests. The damage they do far outweighs any other consideration. My answer stands and I will not apologise for it. As long as those responsible for the control of the pest animals adhere to the requirements and protocols attached to the products I will help producers to gain access to 1080 poison that eliminates feral animals.

    I have stood with farmers while Local Land Services handed out chicken heads injected with 1080 for use on their properties to control foxes. I will accept criticism that I am not doing enough in this space and I will go back to the agencies and say, “Let’s do more”, but I will never say in this Chamber that we should do less. I do not accept the member’s hypocritical view. We joke in this place about media reports concerning the member, but he walks in here with leather on his feet, wool in his suit and fish in his belly and attempts to impose his ideology on us. The member has been caught out as a hypocrite. The question is hypocritical. The member should stand up for our native animals. If the member spent more time on that area I might take the question seriously.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate upon his answer as to what is the research that the department is doing into humane and non-lethal methods for “pest” control?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: As I have previously stated, the department looks at other methods for control of these animals, including a bullet in the head or chest of some of the feral animals.

  • 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.

    live-export-cattle-australia-1

    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.

  • Adjournment Speech on Rewilding our shared environment

    The Animal Justice Party supports the acquisition of land to protect, conserve and expand wilderness, including the rewilding of land once used for animal agriculture. Over the past 200 years we have lost 75 per cent of our rainforests, nearly 50 per cent of all forests and 99 per cent of south-eastern Australia’s temperate grasslands. The remaining ecosystems are under constant threat of clearing and in desperate need of protection. It is a national shame and a disgrace. We need to start looking at ways to bring back life into areas that have been stripped of biodiversity. In Australia ecologists focus on rehabilitating landscapes by killing animals that are deemed to threaten biodiversity. We have poisoned, shot and bludgeoned to death millions of foxes, rabbits, pigs, goats, cats, horses, camels, dingoes and kangaroos over the past hundred years, all in the name of conservation. Our landscapes continue to degrade, and it is clear that we must do things differently.

    In the United States and Europe the concept of rewilding with animals is seen as part of the solution. Rewilding is a critical step in restoring self-regulating ecosystems. Rewilding acknowledges that natural processes are complex and that the interplay between flora and fauna allows nature to evolve to take care of itself. Species are introduced or reintroduced based on the role they can play in an environment. After initial support, they are left to create the balance required. The reintroduction of apex predators such as wolves is one example of successful environmental repair. In Yellowstone National Park grey wolves had been hunted to extinction, and by the 1990s ecologists were concerned about the damage caused by large herds of elk. Once wolves were re‑established in the park, their predation on the elk reduced the damage caused to vegetation. The elk broke into smaller groups, foraged less and moved more frequently, allowing grasslands to recover. Scavenger species began to thrive again, with ravens, eagles, coyotes, lynx and bears feeding on wolf‑kill remains. Insects that fed off the rotting carcasses became the food of smaller birds and rodents.

    It is time to trial the benefits of rewilding in the Australian landscape. Just as in Yellowstone, we have taken our apex predators out of the ecosystem. The mass killing of dingoes changed the environment, and at the same time we introduced species such as foxes and cats. Smaller native predator species such as quolls and goannas struggled with habitat loss. Quolls once numbered in the hundreds of thousands and are now a threatened species. It was not until quoll numbers plummeted that rabbits were able to gain an ecological toehold. A recent trial reintroducing dingoes into Sturt National Park has shown early evidence that dingoes suppress cat and fox populations, with smaller mammals and marsupials surviving in increasing numbers.

    Returning apex predators to the environment is only one part of the equation. Their relationships within ecosystems are critical. Research and evidence-based trials must be undertaken, and we should be open‑minded about what constitutes an apex predator. We cannot go back in time. Foxes, dogs and cats are now native animals; they have been born here for many generations and now fill an ecological niche. Given the massive habitat loss and change in landscapes, we must accept that our ecosystems are evolving and adapting. Rewilding is about allowing evolution and adaptation to occur while reducing destructive human activities. One bulldozer in one day can take out an ecosystem that has evolved for millennia, yet we demonise the fox and the cat. Thousands of hectares of degraded sheep paddocks are more of a threat to biodiversity than a thousand dingoes or foxes. It is well past time to protect and expand our wilderness, for the sake of all the species that share this fragile, ancient land.

  • 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.

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