• WAGGA WAGGA POUND RALLY

    The community was shocked and appalled when claims of kittens being left to die in freezers at its Wagga council’s Glenfield Road Animal Shelter was exposed. Further claims of dogs  wrongly killed, reports of pets going missing from official records and other animals being left without veterinary care was also documented.

    Volunteers at the pound claim to have found dead and dying cats that had been dumped in freezers while still alive. A Fairfax media investigation found that over the past three years more than 80 dogs and cats had vanished from the pound’s books. RSPCA New South Wales conducted an investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing.

    The community, volunteers and my office are in shock as to how the RSPCA could not find evidence of cruelty to prosecute. We demand answers. I asked the Minister responsible for animal welfare in NSW, Niall Blair, to please explain. The community deserve answers, these animals deserve justice. The Minister, under section 34B (4) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act has the power to request a report from the RSPCA, to demand answers.

    In response to this inaction from the Council, RSPCA and the Government, a demonstration will be held next Monday at Wagga Council Chambers, we will demand justice. I will be attending this rally to support the concerned community and to speak on behalf of these animals.

    WHEN: Monday 30 May 2016

    TIME: Rally to occur between 4.30pm and 7.30pm (Council Meeting starts at 6.00pm).

    WHERE: Wagga City Council Chambers (Baylis Street) (Parking available at Myers).

  • WAGGA WAGGA POUND

    12th May 2016

    Questions without notice.

    Wagga Wagga pound.

    ANIMAL CRUELTY

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:19): I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. On 3 April, theSydney Morning Herald reported allegations of aggravated animal cruelty at Wagga Wagga pound. Volunteers at the pound claim to have found dead and dying cats that had been dumped in freezers while still alive. A Fairfax media investigation found that over the past three years more than 80 dogs and cats had vanished from the pound’s books. RSPCA New South Wales conducted an investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing that would lead to convictions under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Will the Minister exercise his powers under section 34B (4) of that Act to request a report from the RSPCA providing the reasons for the decision and table that report in the House? If not, why not?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water) (15:20): I remember reading that article about Wagga Wagga pound. I will take the question on notice and provide a relevant response. It has been some time since it was published, and I want to refresh my memory of the details.


    21st June 2016

    ANIMAL CRUELTY

    In reply to the Hon. MARK PEARSON (12 May 2016).

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water)—The Minister provided the following response:

    As one of the enforcement agencies under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, RSPCA NSW has advised that it has investigated complaints about Wagga Wagga Pound and does not intend to commence proceedings. RSPCA has advised it is working with the pound regarding animal welfare.

    Records of surrendered or stray animals kept in council pounds are not covered by a Code of Practice under POCTA, they are regulated under the Companion Animals Act 1998 administered by the Office of Local Government.

  • WOOL INDUSTRY DEBATE

    10th March 2016

    WOOL GROWING INDUSTRY AND MULESING

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [12.48 p.m.]: I move:

    (1)      That this House commends the 80 per cent of Australian wool growers who are:

    (a)      breeding sheep to be resistant to flystrike by breeding out skin wrinkles; or

    (b)      using pain relief when mulesing sheep.

    (2)      That this House calls on the remaining 20 per cent of wool growers to begin breeding sheep to be resistant to flystrike, and in the interim, providing pain relief to sheep when mulesing.

    (3)      That this House congratulates Dr Meredith Schiel and the Australian Wool Growers Association for developing and promoting Tri-Solfen, an economical local anaesthetic and antiseptic gel spray for use on lambs to provide pain relief following mulesing, which also reduces blood loss and infection to improve wound healing.

    (4)      That this House commends Laurence Modiano, a leading European wool-buyer and distributor for facilitating the uptake in the textile industry’s demand for non-mulesed wool and for encouraging the Australian wool industry to move towards pain relief.

    (5)      That this House congratulates world renown fashion designer Count Zegna for, in the past two years, awarding his prestigious Wool Trophy for the best superfine Merino fleece to wool growers who have bred out the wrinkles in their sheep and adopted other management practices and therefore ceased mulesing their sheep.

    Many years ago the economy of Australia was built on the back of the merino sheep through the development of the wool industry. It grew and became the fundamental platform of the first major economy for Australia. The industry, which has an important and interesting history, is now alive and robust but it also has the attention of the world. This motion calls upon the House to commend various activities conducted by people in the wool industry and various growers. The motion is about a win-win-win situation. The view of the Animal Justice Party is that it is a win for the almost 23 million lambs that are born every year in Australia. Many of the lambs undergo a surgical procedure called mulesing, which is the removal of skin and subcutaneous tissue around the vulva, tail and breech area of the animal.

    Twelve years ago I filmed this procedure and I sent the footage to organisations around the world so that the true story behind the production of wool in Australia could be observed. It was not exaggerated or highlighted. The document showed a procedure that is common in Australia. Over the past 25 years the Federal Government has appointed standing committees on animal welfare which have reviewed this procedure. Those reviews have resulted in the industry, through the research of the Australian Wool Innovation, addressing the mutilating procedure that is performed on animals without any analgesia or pain relief. As a result, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in Australia was required to include a provision to exempt sheep and lambs from this particular procedure where a prosecution would otherwise have been brought for unnecessary, unjustifiable and unreasonable cruelty to an animal. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.

    The second win would come from this House commending the work of proactive and progressive growers, people in the industry and retailers who want to introduce a change in the industry. The world is now looking at what we do in our backyard. Buyers such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Zegna, Armani and Hugo Boss are looking at what we are doing with our animals when producing various products such as wool. There was an international crisis when consumers and retailers of Australian wool became alarmed and concerned about what they saw. I will give an example. I was in London attending a meeting between the Australian Wool Growers Association and a senior executive of Armani. The conversation was critical. The Australian Wool Growers Association representatives were trying to convince a senior executive of Armani—a major importer of Australian wool—that mulesing is necessary for the wellbeing and welfare of the animal. That is the complexity of this issue.

    It is not like the argument about battery cages for hens where the cage is an instrument of cruelty. The procedure of mulesing is about preventing flystrike, which results in the lingering and painful death of an animal. However, the procedure is invasive and it is a mutilation. Veterinarians and wool buyers are highly critical of the procedure when it is performed without pain relief. The Australian Wool Growers Association representatives were trying to explain this point to a senior executive of Armani when he said, “Stop. I am a wool buyer. I have customers. Beautiful soft merino wool for my beautiful suits—bleeding horrible wound. Stop it. Fix it or I go to Spain or South America.”

    The message was clear. Our problem is flystrike. Armani’s customers do not want blood on the Armani label. The argument has moved to a new chapter. We have to fix the problems associated with the necessity for mulesing. It will continue to occur, but if changes are made by growers to breed out wrinkles so that after 18 months or two years the animals no longer require mulesing to avoid flystrike, then that will be more acceptable to buyers around the world. The motion calls on this House to commend the work that will result in a win-win-win situation: a win for the animals; a win for the wool growers who are progressive and visionary and, therefore, taking the industry forward in the world; and a win for Australia’s economy and world image. We will not be condemned or attract criticism that creates a crisis for the industry because we have not caught up with world’s best practice and acknowledged that animals must be protected.

    This motion is not about condemning the industry; it is about moving the industry forward. A recent petition signed by 38 wool buyers from around the world—from China, Europe and America—showed that wool buyers fear that wool from lambs that have been mulesed without pain relief will be mixed with wool from lambs that have been mulesed with pain relief when it is being washed, spun or knitted in China or other countries. This will cause serious blight and risk and liability to the wool industry in Australia if we do not give an absolute guarantee to wool buyers that we will make pain relief mandatory. That guarantee is important to wool buyers, particularly Count Zegna, whose company is at the upper aspect of the wool-buying industry. When Count Zegna was in Australia a couple of years ago he said that a trophy would be given to a wool grower not only on the quality of their wool but also on the basis that the wool grower was using pain relief or had stopped mulesing.

    [The Deputy-President (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones) left the chair at 1.00 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]


    WOOL GROWING INDUSTRY AND MULESING

    Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [3.32 p.m.], by leave: I move:

    That the motion be amended by omitting paragraph (2) and inserting instead:

    (2)      That this House encourages all woolgrowers to breed sheep to be resistant to flystrike and, in the interim, they should provide pain relief to sheep when mulesing.

    Research in Australia has put us in a position of world leadership on the use of pain relief and analgesia for farm animals. This has been an issue throughout the world because previously young farm animals have been perceived not to feel pain as much as other animals. This has come about because most farm animals are prey animals and, therefore, they experience pain in very different ways to predatory animals such as dogs, cats or hawks. Some outstanding work has been done in Australia looking at analgesia in relation to mulesing and other mutilations. The studies have been quite visionary and have helped bring the world forward in understanding pain in farm animals.

    The studies have examined mulesing procedures on sheep with and without pain management and have looked at nostril flaring, pupil dilation, movement of the eyelids and movement of the abdomen. Sheep do not writhe in pain or cry out, so researchers had to look at other symptomatology which showed whether the animals were in pain and the degree of pain. The study clearly showed that farm animals, lambs and calves, probably experience as much pain as predatory animals, which express pain by screaming, crying or writhing. Prey animals have evolved not to show pain or distress in order to avoid the wolf that may be watching to take out weak, sick or injured animals. They have evolved to cover their pain and distress so that they appear not to be in that state. But that does not mean that they do not suffer as much as other animals.

    Another aspect of this study is leading the way in pain management. Young animals—under six months or 12 months—under current legislation across Australia are exempted from being given pain relief. It has now become clear, through veterinary scientific and technical knowledge, that just because an animal is young and is less likely to demonstrate the symptomatology of pain does not mean it is not experiencing pain. Paediatrician Dr Meredith Schiel developed Tri-Solfen, a topical analgesia which contains three different types of analgesia: fast acting, medium acting and slow acting. In her work as a paediatrician she was alarmed to discover that not long ago the view was held that human children, because they were so young, did not feel pain and distress. This has been very clearly proven not to be the case. In fact, this belief is a serious embarrassment to the medical fraternity.

    Progress is such that the cattle industry, rather than waiting to be stung or experience an international crisis such as that experienced by the wool industry, is now proactively adopting analgesia and pain relief for surgical procedures, such as castration, tail docking and branding in cattle. It has put proposals before the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority [APVMA] to adopt analgesia for those procedures. As well, the European Union has looked at what is happening in Australia and has sought to adopt the measures in drug regulations so that analgesia is used when piglets are castrated or having their teeth clipped.

    Australia has shown world leadership over the past eight years in relation to progress on farm animals’ pain, young farm animals’ pain and the application of analgesia. I commend this motion to the House, which notes the progressive work by the farming community, the researchers who have developed the analgesia and the industry that will take this work forward. I also commend this motion to the House as it encourages all wool growers to adopt humane and progressive ways of treating farm animals.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water) [3.40 p.m.]: On behalf of the Government I contribute to debate on the motion relating to the wool growing industry which was moved by the Hon. Mark Pearson. This motion has been on the Notice Paper for some time because it contained elements that the Government did not support. The Hon. Mark Pearson has now moved an amendment to his original motion. I doubt the debate will conclude today but will be adjourned to next week. In the intervening period I will look closely at the amended motion but for now will reserve my right as to whether the Government supports it. I do say that the motion appears to be heading in the right direction.

    The Government supports much of the motion before the House. Over many years members on both sides of the Chamber have been involved in debate on farm animal treatment. I acknowledge the contribution of the Hon. Mark Pearson and I am sure members from both sides will want to contribute to the debate. The motion recognises the progress of the industry in the treatment of farm animals. That is worth celebrating. However, I indicate that the Government had issues with the underlying intent of the member’s original motion. The prevention of flystrike is a key priority for the Australian sheep industry. Flystrike is a horrific disease, as anyone who has worked with sheep will tell you. The sight of maggots eating away at the flesh of a live animal is not something that can be forgotten. When the Hon. Mick Veitch makes his contribution to this debate, I am sure that he, as a former shearer, will touch on this point.

    The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: We hope in not too graphic detail.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I acknowledge the interjection of the Government Whip. It is important to talk about the graphic details. It is not just the sight but also the smell that sticks in one’s memory. That is an issue that needs to be raised. As well as the obvious commercial benefits gained from the prevention of flystrike in sheep, the industry has been proactive in working towards the ultimate goal of flock flystrike resistance. The Government supports our sheep and wool industries. The Government does not support the mandating of sheep industry standards in New South Wales because it is not necessary. The industry is already doing a good job in setting sheep standards and wool growers continue to make improvements, particularly in areas such as flystrike.

    As the Hon. Mark Pearson’s motion states, 80 per cent of producers already use pain relief or are breeding sheep to be resistant to flystrike. I see that as the glass being 80 per cent full, not 20 per cent empty, and that is due to the work of the industry and those within government who have advocated for this industry. Members will recall the efforts of the Hon. Duncan Gay, as the shadow Minister for Industry, and his support of Australian Wool Innovation [AWI] and the industry in their move towards better methods of flystrike control. One of the many reasons the Hon. Duncan Gay has been a champion in this space is that he saw the advantages for the industry as a whole. As a sheep farmer, he knows firsthand the horrors of flystrike and the need for improvements. I also look forward to the Hon. Bronnie Taylor contributing to this debate as she comes from a renowned sheep-breeding and wool-producing property in the Monaro.

    The industry has made and continues to make improvements. Therefore, it is not necessary for the Government to mandate the wool industry in New South Wales. The Australian wool industry is on the front foot in tackling the issues and has made world-leading progress in the management of flystrike. The Hon. Mark Pearson, in his contribution, said that the Government should mandate standards because of the possibility of the mixing of wools in offshore processing. The Government disagrees because it considers that the industry is heading in the right direction.

    The industry has made great advances in non-invasive management and improved welfare practices. For example, with regards to pain relief, already 77 per cent of lambs being mulesed each year are treated with pain relief. This massive on-farm change, which has occurred in less than a decade, has been led entirely by industry members. I commend them for this change. It did not occur as a result of the Government taking a big stick approach and mandating; it occurred as a result of leadership within the industry—as has been acknowledged in the amended motion. Further, producers in New South Wales have introduced other husbandry practices to improve flystrike management, such as double crutching, lambing times, pasture management and strategic use of chemicals.

    The producer-funded marketing organisation Australian Wool Innovation invests in research and development to increase the profitability and sustainability of all production in Australia. The industry has undertaken genetic research and development to breed sheep with flystrike resistance. There is no doubt that this is the long-term goal that everyone is striving towards. Some of the most recent developments for sheep producers include tools to score sheep breech traits. Sheep most susceptible to flystrike have a higher degree of skin wrinkle and wool coverage in the breech region. Sheep producers can now use a nationally consistent set of breech trait scoring charts to increase the resistance in their flock by selecting sheep with greater natural resistance to flystrike. Breeders can also use a national set of merino sheep breeding values for breech wrinkle traits to identify sires with enhanced natural resistance.

    The industry is confident that these breeding tools will accelerate the entire industry’s progress towards a more naturally flystrike-resistant flock. By the use of research and development in genetics, the industry has identified about 50 per cent of the causes of flystrike and has determined the genetic correlations and heritability of them all. Practical tools have been developed to reduce susceptibility to flystrike, such as the development of the Australian Sheep Breeding Values which growers are now using basically to fast-track natural breeding programs. The entire blowfly genome has been mapped and is now being used to develop new target chemicals for treatment and prevention. Commercially the industry has introduced the National Wool Declaration to allow choice in the marketplace for buyers and processors. Latest figures show that 49.5 per cent of the total wool clip is now classified under the declaration, and that is in all categories.

    The industry, through AWI, the woolmark company, works the entire supply chain, including the retail sector. In recent years the industry has witnessed a significant upswing in interest in wool, with increased usage and demand for wool in key apparel markets. Wool continues to be on trend and recognised as a fabulous natural fibre. The industry is on the front foot in combating this issue. This is another opportunity to say to the people responsible for animal husbandry practices and the management and welfare of their flocks that we appreciate what they are doing and the money that is being invested by industry and the producers in research in order to achieve better outcomes. The industry is willing to work within the different levels of the supply chain to achieve better outcomes for wool producers in this country.

    The Hon. Mark Pearson has another motion on the Notice Paper in relation to mulesing. It goes further and congratulates a wider range of people within the industry. As I have stated, the work of Dr Meredith Sheil and the Australian Wool Growers Association to develop products for pain relief is to be applauded. The work that the industry has done also should be applauded and is worth recognition by the House. In consultation with the Hon. Mark Pearson, I will look at the amendment and when the debate is called on again next week the Government will state whether it will support the motion. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for bringing this matter before the House and allowing us to note the achievements of this industry.

    Although we come to this debate from different sides of the argument as a result of our different experiences, we all want similar outcomes. We are in agreement that we want to make sure that Australia continues to ride on the sheep’s back into the future and is able to service the demand for wool products. Our farmers must be supported and celebrated. They should be at the centre of all conversations around animal husbandry practices and the operation of their businesses. We may differ on how to achieve good animal welfare outcomes but the intent is the same. I applaud elements of this motion. The industry is looking at how to achieve better outcomes while maintaining a viable industry which is a large employer in regional New South Wales. We must hold true to the values of the family farm and our primary industries. I again thank the member for bringing this matter before the House and look forward to listening to the contributions of other members to the debate.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH [3.54 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition in debate on this motion moved by the Hon. Mark Pearson. I congratulate the member on bringing this matter before the House. It is a matter that should be debated by the House. I have not had many opportunities to talk in the Chamber about my history in this area. I grew up on a farm and during the school holidays my father would take me to the shearing sheds. It was a great place to spend time and to listen to the yarns of the shearers. Some of them were capable of spinning a good yarn.

    The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Unlike yourself.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: Unlike myself. I learnt a lot about looking after sheep in those shearing sheds and I learnt from the graziers about their practices in looking after the sheep on their properties. Some school holidays I spent on the back of a horse going from paddock to paddock. I grew up on a farm called “Coorumbene”, which was on the Yaven Creek in the beautiful Ellerslie Valley. Dad worked for Michael Roche and John Reynolds. We would regularly muster the sheep into a corner of the paddock and then let them run past one at a time as we looked for indications of flystrike. That was done regularly in order to pick up flystrike in the early stages so that we did not have the ugly scenes of heavily struck sheep.

    The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: You spent your school holidays looking at sheep bums.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: Interestingly, they strike in more areas than the breech region. Quite often it is around the flank and neck. It is a common mistake for people to focus on the breech region. They will strike in other regions. Flystrike is horrific regardless of where the sheep are struck. As a shearer I had the misfortune of seeing a lot of sheep in agony. We would have to shear the wool away to get to the wound. In some cases we were too late and we would shear the dead sheep. I can think of many bad ways for an animal to die but to see a sheep die from flystrike never, ever leaves you. It is a horrendous way for an animal to die. The Minister spoke about the sights and smells that stay with you. As a former shearer I can remember the smells of the shearing sheds. A lot of things bring back memories of the shearing shed.

    The Hon. Niall Blair: Smoko more than anything.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: I used to love the smoko, the billy tea and the cold dog’s eye. The one thing that I particularly remember about flystruck sheep is the smell. When the shearers, roustabouts or shed hands were shearing a flock of sheep that were heavily flystruck they would be covered in maggots. The maggots would be up your arms and inside your clothes and you would smell. The facilities to clean yourself or to have a smoko or lunch were limited—shearers generally ate in the shed. Those memories do not leave you. It is a very hard way to make a living but that made it even harder. To make a living by picking up the boggi and putting on the dungas is admirable and I acknowledge the hard work of those individuals. It is probably one of the hardest ways to earn a crust in Australia.

    The Hon. Niall Blair: Although working for me is pretty hard.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH: What was that, Minister? Did you say working for you is harder? What I will say though is the processes that we have to put in place to stop that are really important. I understand that people have issues around mulesing and it too is quite an aggressive way of preventing flystrike. This resolution is talking about the industry’s progression away from mulesing. If we can move away from mulesing, then that will be a good thing. I know every shearer in this country would relish the day when they do not have to shear flystruck sheep. That would be a good thing. For the producer, the wool of flystruck sheep is lost income and a lost asset.

    Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted to permit a motion to adjourn the House if desired.

    Item of business set down as an order of the day for a future day.

    Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted at 2.30 p.m. for questions.

  • SEE NO EVIL – TREATMENT OF ANIMALS

    23rd March 2016

    Adjournment speech.

    ANIMAL WELFARE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [4.20 p.m.]: See no evil. My adjournment speech is based on the writings of Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan on the equitable treatment of animals in governance and policy. Since the time of the Industrial Revolution animals have been slowly excluded from the lives of most humans. Until relatively recently both rural and city dwellers had direct experience of the economic exploitation of animals, from horses used for transport and in agriculture, cattle and sheep driven to be slaughtered at open markets, to eggs collected from backyard chicken coops.

    Increased urbanisation and agricultural industrialisation ended the eye witness observation of the lives and deaths of animals used by humans. This dislocation has resulted in the invisibility of the lived experiences of farmed animals and those animals used in medical research. Slaughterhouses with all their blood, gore and stench have been exiled from our cities. Intensively farmed pigs and chickens spend their few miserable weeks of life contained in massive, windowless sheds far from the casual observation of passers-by. While farmed animals may live their lives almost entirely unseen, that does not mean that they are not subject to the law.

    We have animal welfare legislation such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and a multitude of codes of practice, standards and guidelines which detail the ways in which animals may be lawfully treated by industry. A thin veneer of animal welfare sits alongside a prohibition of unnecessary suffering. However, if the average citizen could see the suffering caused by lawful practices such as mulesing, castration, de-horning, tail-docking and eye teeth removal—all without pain relief in the main—I am sure that they would demand higher levels of standards of care. Our citizens rely upon their members of Parliament and regulatory bodies to safeguard that what happens in these hidden places meets community standards concerning animal wellbeing. Time and again it has been shown that the public’s expectations are not being met.

    Exposés by animal rights and welfare groups have shown cruel treatment of pigs, ducks, turkeys and chickens, to name a few instances where animal activists have recorded images that horrify the nation. Community outrage occurs each and every time these images of suffering are broadcast and it clearly shows that the public does care about the lives of animals. It is disturbing, however, that the Government and industry response is not to improve animal wellbeing standards and better resource enforcement agencies, but rather in the main to attack and criminalise the messenger.

    This lack of transparency disenfranchises citizens and helps generate inconsistencies in animal welfare laws. It undermines the role of citizens as policy participants and forces animal activists to engage in illegal behaviour in an attempt to put animal welfare on the political agenda. The introduction of ag-gag laws via the Biosecurity Act and the Inclosed Lands Amendment (Interference) Bill increase penalties for animal activists who in the public interest capture footage of animal suffering on private lands. Ministers talk of activists as vigilantes and terrorists but our regulatory system makes independent oversight of intensive farming facilities virtually impossible. Dr O’Sullivan stated:

    The only people who see agricultural animals are those who financially benefit from bringing them into the world, and then killing them. Such people are not reliable witnesses. They cannot be trusted as the only source, or even the primary source, of information about whether an animal’s life is good or not.

    How can we ensure that the laws regulating the lives of animals reflect community values, when the community has little to no capacity to see or engage with animals? How can the community inform animal welfare laws, when we know very few animals? If the community is unable to draw its own conclusions about the suitability of animal protection laws made in its name, what type of challenge does this pose to liberal democratic values?

  • PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS AMENDMENT (STOCK ANIMALS) BILL 2015

    22nd October 2015

    Second reading speech.

    Amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS AMENDMENT (STOCK ANIMALS) BILL 2015

    Bill introduced, and read a first time and ordered to be printed on motion by the Hon. Mark Pearson.

    Second Reading

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [10.50 a.m.]: I move:

    That this bill be now read a second time.

    The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Stock Animals) Bill 2015 goes to the very heart of the principles of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979—an Act that is about being proactive, not reactive. I refer to the fundamental principles of the Act, which were reviewed in 1997. The objects stipulate that the duty of care, control and supervision of animals is a positive duty, not a reactive one. The fundamental principle of this bill is that a person must promote and ensure the welfare of animals and must prevent cruelty or harm and suffering to those animals, even if the act of cruelty is not intentional.

    The object of the bill relates to the wellbeing or welfare of livestock, that is, stock animals including poultry, pigs and cattle. In New South Wales the numbers of poultry are in the millions. As we speak, up to seven million chickens or poultry are being kept in various stages of intensive housing, as well as up to approximately 900,000 pigs and tens of thousands of cattle. This bill relates to intensive farming as well as to intensive and free-range facilities and the need to provide a secure enclosed area to protect the animals from predators and extremities in temperatures.

    Several incidents have stimulated me, on behalf of the Animal Justice Party, to introduce this bill. These include incidences of extreme suffering where many hundreds of animals have burnt to death. A recent incident occurred at Wonga piggery near Young in central New South Wales where 2,500 weaners were killed in a fire. The manager of that piggery stated that he had no knowledge of how the fire started. Another incident was at Boen Boe Stud piggery near Joadja in the Southern Highlands where on 9 April 2015 400 pigs were burnt to death in a fire. In a facility near Gloucester belonging to Pace Farm approximately 22,000 hens were burnt to death in a fire. I will talk about alarm systems later.

    I turn now to the three major areas that this bill addresses. First, it addresses the risk of fire. The bill provides that the proprietor of an abattoir or intensive livestock-keeping facility must ensure that a fire sprinkler system is installed and maintained in the abattoir or facility. At a piggery at Grong Grong, 500 pigs died from heat stress as a result of a breakdown of the ventilation system. The alarm system did not function properly so the owners were not alerted and were unable to assist the animals. I was in attendance at Henholme, a battery hen facility owned by Pace Farm, when it was discovered that the feeding system had malfunctioned. Feed was pouring out onto the hens and several hundred of the hens were suffocated. No alarm system was in place to notify management of any malfunctions. This bill contains a requirement for the proprietor of an abattoir or intensive livestock-keeping facility to install and maintain an alarm system.

    In New South Wales and elsewhere several incidences of cruelty to animals, often egregious cruelty to animals, have been exposed. These incidences were exposed by way of surveillance camera recordings. How and who installed the cameras is not relevant. The recordings of the treatment of animals have resulted in investigations and prosecutions by the NSW Police Force. At the Burrangong Meat Processors abattoir near Young, in 1990 recordings from surveillance cameras, which had been installed by workers, depicted pigs not being bled out properly and rendered unconscious, pigs being lowered into scalding tanks while still conscious, and pigs being beaten. This treatment of the animals, which was exposed by the surveillance cameras, led to a major investigation by police and to charges being laid against the abattoir. It also led to a $1.2 million investment in the facility to ensure that the pigs were rendered dead before being lowered into a scalding tank.

    Last year an abattoir in the Hawkesbury Valley, not far from Sydney, was exposed for cruelty to animals during ritual halal and kosher slaughter. This caused an investigation by the NSW Food Authority, the police and the RSPCA and led to an overwhelming improvement in the welfare, wellbeing and treatment of animals. It also led to a very important undertaking by senior rabbis of the Jewish community to address factors surrounding kosher slaughter and the welfare of animals killed in that manner. Cameras that were installed in Inghams turkey abattoir near Tahmoor also revealed extremely brutal treatment of animals, which led to police investigations and prosecutions under the Crimes Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which led to major changes at this abattoir. The purpose of this bill is to introduce mandatory surveillance cameras at critical points in either an abattoir or an intensive livestock facility to ensure animal welfare. Schedule 1 to the bill states:

    24Z         Operations to be recorded in abattoirs and intensive livestock keeping facilities

    (1)      The proprietor of an abattoir or intensive livestock keeping facility must ensure a video and audio recording is made of all operations relating to the keeping, movement, handling and slaughter of animals at the abattoir or intensive livestock keeping facility.

    (2)      The proprietor must ensure that the equipment used for the purpose of making a video recording under this section is, at all times, positioned to ensure an unobstructed view of the operations being recorded.

    (3)      The proprietor of an abattoir or intensive livestock keeping facility must ensure that a recording made under this section is retained for a period of not less than 3 months after the date the recording is made.

    Under schedule 1 to the bill, new section 24ZA deals with inspectors under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which includes the police, the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League and officers with prescribed authority under the Food Act. In relation to those officers it states:

    (1)      An officer may, at any time within 3 months after the making of a recording under section 24Z, require the proprietor of an abattoir or intensive livestock keeping facility to provide the officer with access to the recording.

    (2)      A person must not fail to comply with a requirement of an officer under subsection (1).

    Maximum penalty: 25 penalty units.

    (3)      The officer may do one or more of the following:

    (a)  examine, inspect or listen to the recording,

    (b)  make a copy of the recording,

    (c)  examine the equipment with which the recording was made.

    It is important that the bill provides an exemption from the oversight of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 which will not prohibit the installation, use and maintenance of a listening device within the meaning of the Act for the purpose of making a recording required under this section. This bill is important because it also goes to some very significant findings in law in relation to the responsibility of people who have animals under their care, control and supervision. When cattle were found dead or dying from starvation on a property it was successfully argued in the Magistrates Court that there was not a strict liability upon the owner of those animals because there was no mens rea—the owner did not know that the animals were suffering. This case was appealed in the Supreme Court before Justice Dowd and an unreported judgement in Bell v. Gunter was handed down. It was argued that the owner of the animals, the person who had the care, control and supervision of the animals, was unaware that those cattle were in that state and dying from starvation.

    The RSPCA won the appeal, which set a very important precedent which goes to some of the underlying principles in this amendment bill. Justice Dowd found that there is strict liability and that once a company or a person in charge of animals places those animals in an enclosure, on an intensive farm, in a restricted area with a fence or other confinement around them where they can be rounded up and put in an abattoir or wherever—and they are not wild animals or where they cannot freely access food and water—then the onus of responsibility sits fairly and squarely on that company or person. There is no excuse for them not to know. The fact that someone has decided to purchase 100 steers, 1,000 pigs or 5,000 hens and then put them into a cage, a confinement or a shed at any given time means that the onus of responsibility is totally on that person to ensure they know where the animals are, what is happening to them, their situation and the elements and factors around them that could cause them harm.

    This bill is really about sending a message and helping owners, managers and people who have responsibility for animals that they have a positive duty to ensure that they know where those animals are and that there are systems in operation that will prevent suffering, in the best and most reasonable way. This bill states that a watering system and sprinkler system need to be in place. If watering systems are placed along the floors of sheds for pigs, chickens or cattle to drink from then it is also possible to have a sprinkler system that is triggered in case of fire to prevent animals from burning to death or being injured, which no reasonable person wants to happen to any animal.

    This bill addresses the positive duty of farmers, owners and managers of animals to ensure their wellbeing and welfare under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act by preventing them from being burnt to death. That can be done by having functional alarm systems in place that many people can respond to. For instance, a ventilation system at Grong Grong piggery broke down and many animals died from heat exhaustion and suffocation, which is a terrible way to die. If a CCTV camera system is put in place it will work towards the principle of ensuring that animals are treated humanely. When the call comes from an abattoir to say that 400 pigs have to be on the truck by 2 o’clock and they have to speed up the line having mandatory CCTV cameras in place will ensure that workers’ interactions with animals remain lawful and that they act with the best possible regard for animals. It will also help to ensure that workers at the operation are being looked after.

    Those factors relate to the cases in which Justice Dowd found there is clearly a positive duty upon the owners and managers of an abattoir or intensive livestock facility, or a free-range facility for that matter. Justice Dowd found that the responsibility lies fairly and squarely on their shoulders. As I said, this bill goes to the very foundation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act because it is about the prevention of cruelty to animals. It will strengthen the foundation of the Act, which is about ensuring the welfare of animals and putting in place the best possible practices so that animals that are totally reliant on our activities, responsibilities and duties are offered the best possible protection from harm, injury and vice. I commend the bill to the House.

    Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps and set down as an order of the day for a future day.

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