• Pig Dogging – A “Sport” of Bloodlust

    Pig dogging; the cruel and barbaric practice in which specially bred dogs are forced to hunt wild pigs. Pig dogging or “dogging” as it is generally known, represents a growing pastime based on the cruellest and most brutal form of hunting in Australia. In fact, it is the only form of legal hunting in Australia that sets one animal against another, resulting in immense suffering and distress to both dog and pig. In addition to its barbarity, it is also has a range of associated social, biosecurity, human safety and ecological issues.

    For the purpose of explanation, many in the House may not be aware of the true reality of pig dogging, in simple terms, pig-dogging involves the tracking, bailing, pinning, and mauling of wild pigs by specially-blooded pig dogs. Suffering and death is the name of the game and both dog and pig are the victims.

    The dogs risk being mauled and gored by pigs fighting for their lives, with Facebook posts often showing human hunters looking on in laughter. Token efforts from some hunters to fit their pig dogs with protective collars and breastplates do little to prevent serious and life ending injuries to their supposedly beloved dogs.

    If this is not cruel enough for people’s palette, then spare a thought for the immeasurable suffering of the pigs. In their struggle to escape, terrified pigs are savaged and may even be mauled to death if not found quickly by the human hunter. The standard method of death is by “sticking” – this is the stabbing of the stomach or chest to puncture the heart – before leaving them to bleed out.

    This is hardly a “humane” death.

    Despite all efforts to kill these sentient beings in this so called ‘humane’ way, this is rarely the reality. These bloodthirsty hunts cover large areas and it’s difficult for hunters to maintain contact with their dogs. Pigs are often mauled for long periods and often die a slow death before the humans reach the victim. This is in clear breach of current animal cruelty laws and regulations. It has even been seen that in many cases, hunters actually encourage their dogs to maul the pigs. A practice which was documented on a special ABC 7:30 Report back in 2012 and something that even pig doggers themselves admit is common place.

    I think it is fair and accurate to say that the majority of the community are probably unaware of this recreational bloodlust. But, once aware, there is no doubt in my mind that any decent person would find this barbaric form of hunting to be shocking and appalling. More so when we factor that this cruelty is actively promoted by Government agencies such as the Department of Primary Industries, the very government agency responsible for the welfare of every animal in this state.

    Members may be aware of my travels across regional and rural areas of NSW. These trips are vital in listening to members of the public who feel they are not being listened too or are too scared to speak up about this rampant animal cruelty in their communities. A common issue expressed to me, is that of injured and abandoned pig dogs. Dogs that are mauled and mutilated by the defensive acts of terrified pigs are often abandoned or left to suffer due to hunters not wanting to pay the vet bill.

    Some dogs are merely dumped at pounds because they don’t show the “killer instinct”. The even unluckier ones who don’t get dumped or re-homed are brutally killed or used as bait for other dogs to be ‘blood’ trained.

    Minister Blair likes to raise the issue of so called ‘pest’ animals and wild dogs, yet instead of blaming the animals maybe he should be looking at the hunting fraternity. It is common knowledge that lost pig dogs in the large rural areas of western NSW contribute to the wild dog population. This also increases the possibility of these highly-aggressive selectively bred hunting dogs interbreeding with dingoes creating a large, super-aggressive canine predator in the Australian landscape.

    Hunters who use pig dogging, claim that they are attempting to control pig populations, despite the fact that hunting is simply not a successful method of animal control. In addition, there have been many reports of hunters releasing pigs into national parks to increase the geographic spread of pigs for hunting. They also purposely do not take small pigs or sows thus ensuring ‘sport’ for future seasons. The fact is that this is about killing animals for sport, not for population control. A 2009 critique by the Invasive Species Council of Australia debunks the claim that hunters are conservationists. In reality, hunters have created a ‘sport’ based on suffering, cruelty and death. It has also spawned an industry in dog breeding and trading as well as commercial accessories such as GPS trackers, protective collars, jackets and breastplates.

    This is an industry they don’t want to see die, but in fact grow. Therefore, why would they actually want to eradicate so called feral animals?

    Pig dogging is the worst form of hunting and goes largely unchecked and unregulated. It often involves people who may have criminal records and therefore cannot obtain a gun licence to hunt. It involves pack hunting mentality and I have had a many report come to my office of alcohol and drug weekends sprees by pig doggers looking for a cheap thrill at the expense of innocent animals.

    Furthermore, children are often present on pig-dogging hunts, and the lasting effects on them of witnessing this violence first-hand are extremely worrying. Teaching children to chase, torture and kill animals is cruel and further ingrains the bloodlust desire inherent in this so called “sport”.

    What I and many people find most disturbing is that in 2017, pig dogging remains legal on NSW. I would put to this House that by its very brutal nature, it is impossible to participate in this form of hunting without compromising the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. Few, apart from its direct supporters, would mourn the end of this industry of bloodlust passing into history. It will then appropriately reside in the dark parts of our history with such other blood sports as bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and greyhound coursing.

    Pig dogging is a blight on our reputation as a humane and developed society, and it must stop.

  • Notice of Motion-Whipping of Horse in the Racing Industry

    Whipping of Horse in the Racing Industry

    This Motion was OBJECTED to by the Government.

    1. That this House condemns Racing NSW for permitting the practice of jockeys whipping horses for the purported purpose of increasing the horse’s performance, given that it is an offence under s4 (2) d) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 for animals to be unnecessarily inflicted with pain.
    2. That this House notes the research commissioned in 2012 by the RSPCA and undertaken by Professor Paul McGreevy, Sydney University; “Whip use by jockeys in a sample of Australian Thoroughbred races – an observational study” which
      1. confirmed that repeated striking with a whip (of any type) in the same area of the body has the potential to cause localised trauma and tissue damage, and
      2. identified that the injury will increase with the force of the strike and the number of repetitions.
      3. confirmed that there is unacceptable use of the whip in thoroughbred racing and
      4. the RSPCA recommended that the whip as a performance aid be prohibited.
  • 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-RSPCA staffing levels over holiday periods

    Many reports from the community come to our office about dissatisfaction with the RSPCA and their obligations to investigate and prosecute animal welfare laws.

    With the recent heat wave over the holiday period, and a period where many companion animals are placed into boarding facilities and companion animals suffer greatly, it appears the RSPCA are not protecting animals inline with community expectations. The NSW Police put on extra staff to accommodate the so called silly season, yet the RSPCA winds back their inspectorate staffing levels. How can this be justified?

    Mark Pearson asked the Minister as to whether he is monitoring the RSPCA’s work under the law to properly meet their obligations in regards to animal welfare laws in NSW. We hope both the Minister and the RSPCA take these concerns seriously and provide the community with a detailed response.

    RSPCA STAFFING LEVELS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry.

    Over the summer period there was animal suffering and deaths caused by heat stress, dehydration and starvation in council pounds and boarding kennels. Unlike the NSW Police, which rostered on additional officers during this busy holiday time, the RSPCA reduced the number of inspectors on duty, resulting in delays and animals being left at risk of harm during this critical time.

    Given that the statutory obligation to investigate and enforce our animal welfare laws is a year-round responsibility and overseen by the Minister, what steps does the Minister’s department take to monitor the availability of RSPCA inspectors to discharge their duties under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. Obviously, as we have heard many times in this House, the member has a particular interest in the RSPCA and its actions—or, in his view, its lack of action at times. I know he has a particular history with the RSPCA. Nonetheless, the member has asked an important question. It is obviously very much an operational matter as to how the RSPCA schedules the number of officers on duty and when it does that.

    The Hon. Mark Pearson also referred to the role that my agency plays in relation to liaising with the RSPCA, in particular for the parts of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that it is responsible for. In light of the level of operational detail that the member has asked for in his question, I will refer the question back to my department and I will take it on notice. I will seek an answer, and I may need to liaise with the RSPCA as part of that answer, and come back to the member with a detailed response

  • Opinion: Who benefits from silencing animal activists?

    Recent media publications by The Land and The Guardian of meeting documents provides disturbing details of a forum held in August last year between agribusiness owners, NSW Farmers Federation, Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair along with Police and the RSPCA. They reveal the extent to which industry and government are working together to silence activists seeking to expose animal cruelty in farming.

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    Federal agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce

    The documents obtained under freedom of information laws confirm what many activists have argued for a long time; the interconnected links between animal agriculture, government and sadly, the RSPCA. The forum participants committed to an action plan to harmonise state laws regarding the supposed threat of “farm trespass” by animal activists. The plan reflects the fears of an industry that understands the implications of its routine practices being exposed to the public. Transparency and truth are to be avoided at all costs. We also see Federal and State governments intent on ensuring cruel practices remain hidden from view. Rather than listening to community concerns and accepting that animal welfare standards need to be radically reformed, government is determined to keep animal welfare legislation in the 1970s.

    One of the more alarming revelations is the active participation of the RSPCA in such discussions. The RSPCA’s willingness to side with industry and government is an affront to their charter, and would no doubt come as a surprise their many supporters. The fact that the RSPCA participated in such discussions which made no mention of enforcement or prosecution of animal cruelty laws is concerning. One is entitled to ask, what is the role of the RSPCA in farm trespass policy discussions? Why are they not holding industry to account for their cruel practices? As has been said many times; if we kept a dog in the same conditions that industry keeps pigs in intensive farms, animal cruelty charges would be laid.

    The document identified that;

    38 piggeries in the Young area of NSW, along with poultry farms in other states, were known to have been “invaded for the purpose of installing unauthorised surveillance devices, ostensibly to ‘reveal’ animal husbandry practice believed to be poor”.

    Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, this statement reflects the absolute lack of concern for animal well-being. The treatment of these animals is appalling, not poor. Animal cruelty is standard industry practice, not an aberration. Activists seek to bring transparency and truth to the public arena, enabling consumers to make balanced decisions about their purchases and food choices.

    If industry is confident that their practices are acceptable then there should be no issue with footage showing industry practice. If the government is confident that their animal welfare laws are so robust, then let’s show those lawful practices to the public. Tail docking, castration, eye teeth clipping, debeaking, removal of skin (mulesing), battery cages, farrowing crates, faeces laden broiler sheds- let’s shine the camera light onto the everyday cruelties that these animals suffer.

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    NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie is documented as stating that;

    “These incursions fall into the ‘trespass with intent’ category, NSW Police have been investigating these incidents actively, but evidence gathering around such incidents presents significant challenges”.

    No comment on the crimes exposed by activists?

    Many may not be aware, but the NSW Police are also an enforcement agency under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is not just the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League that has powers to enforce and prosecute animal cruelty crimes, yet the attitude of government and the NSW Police is to leave enforcement to a poorly resourced charitable organisation that is almost completely unaccountable to government. Yet significant police resources are being used to investigate and pursue animal activists.

    Statistics show that cruelty committed against animals often leads to crimes committed against people, yet, as can be seen from this attitude of the NSW Police, significant police resources are being used to investigate and pursue animal activists filming intensive farms. This shows a narrow-minded approach to tackling crime and future protection of the community. Would the community, or indeed government be satisfied if a child services charity were tasked with the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against children? Would it be acceptable for the NSW Police to be actively pursuing whistle-blowers filming or recording child abuse despite the physical smacking of children being lawful?

    NSW Police also told the forum that;

    “the ideology of farm trespass by animal activists was “complex” and not based on improving animal welfare practices.”

    This is correct, it is not the job of animal activist to improve animal welfare. This is the job of every stakeholder that attended this forum and their decisions should be based on truth, transparency, and the wider public’s expectations of what is acceptable welfare practices. Indeed, the activists are doing the job that all these stakeholders are failing to do themselves, that is to publish the truth to the public and allowing the public to decide what they expect. Instead, animal welfare is seen as an unnecessary cost to already profitable business models that seek to sanitise and disconnect the public from what really goes on behind the factory farm shed door.

    The documents go on to suggest;

    “Introduction of other measures to improve evidence collection, for example, security cameras may also be considered.”

    How can someone, on one hand, justify installing elaborate security recording networks to deter activists YET dismiss sensible reforms such as mandatory CCTV of inside the shed or inside the slaughterhouse? Does one not stop and think that maybe, if farmers installed cameras facing in the shed, on the animals, then there will be no need for cameras facing outside the shed to deter activists?

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    Indeed, for me it has become personal. Twelve months ago I attempted to visit Rivalea pig slaughterhouse to discuss the cruel method by which pigs are subjected to gassing prior to slaughter. I was refused entry at the front gate and never left public space and yet I am currently the subject of a police investigation as a result of that visit. Again, this is a sign of cover up and intimidation, rather than let an elected MP formally tour the facility and witness the slaughtering method, I was denied access. Rivalea engaged their industry heavyweight, Australian Pork Ltd, and now almost 12 months to the day I am contacted by the NSW Police and informed that I am under investigation. It is true that, due to all the industry efforts to hide and cover up standard practices that they are ironically so proud of, they have in fact made the public more suspicious.

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