• The Psychological Consequences of Killing

    Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing

    I rise today to extend the discussion on the deleterious effects certain occupations have on our personal well-being.  Our first thoughts, naturally, turn to our emergency services such as our police, ambo’s, fire fighters, and the like. But what about the less ‘visual’ jobs, the less traditional jobs that, when we pause to think about, have very serious trauma attached to them. One such occupation that has, to my knowledge, never been considered seriously in this country, is that of the slaughterhouse worker.

    In the study In Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing Rachel MacNair gives rise to the term Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS). PITS, MacNair states is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However the distinction between the two is that PITS is caused not by being a victim or rescuer in trauma, but by being an active participant in causing trauma.

    Take the Martin Place siege for example, according to MacNair the survivors and witnesses would be sufferers of PTSD. The police, who stormed the Lindt café and killed Man Monis, on the other hand, would be sufferers of PITS.

    Sufferers of PITS, argues MacNair, is extended to slaughterhouse workers, where it is socially acceptable and in fact expected for them to cause trauma, including death. MacNair describes the symptoms of PITS as including drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression, increased paranoia, a sense of disintegration, as well as dissociation or amnesia.

    This less publicly discussed or understood psychological trauma suffered by slaughterhouses workers is not accidental. In fact, one would say it iss intentional as society becomes increasingly distanced from the realities of modern day food production and the business of killing animals for food. A study conducted recently in the U.S found that 85% of the meat-eating participants stated that if they personally had to kill an animal to obtain meat, they would not be able to do it. However, they were happy to pay another person to perform the task of killing, thereby acknowledging the trauma associated with such an occupation placing the burden on the shoulders of the slaughterhouse worker.

    As Paul McCartney once said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”. The business of killing living, sentient beings on mass scale is a violent, bloody task. Not only do these slaughterhouse workers face serious physical health hazards daily, but they also experience large-scale violence and death that most of us will never have to, nor want to encounter.

    In our society, we have a common understanding that taking pleasure in the cruel death of a helpless animal is an antisocial and potentially psychotic characteristic. In fact, its widely know that offenders that commit acts of animal cruelty often use it as a stepping stone to cruelty inflicted upon humans. A most notorious example of this is in the case of Anita Cobby’s killers, who enjoyed committing atrocious acts of bestiality, torture and killing on sheep, goats and other animals.

    A research paper published in 2008 by Jennifer Dillard titled A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees set a precedent by calling for legal redress for slaughterhouse workers due to psychological trauma. This trauma is directly caused by their daily experience of “large-scale violence and death” within an institutional culture that does little to reduce animal or human suffering.

    This is an interesting notion, if we think about the successful class action against James Hardie in relation to asbestos related suffering and deaths.  It’s not unreasonable to consider that just as soldiers fighting in wars suffer PTSD deserve acknowledgement, support and assistance, that slaughterhouse workers too should have this level of support. Will we see a class action brought forward against the wealthy corporations by those paid to commit violence on animals for PTSD, PITS, alcohol abuse or drug abuse?

    The social effects of slaughterhouses are harmful and far-reaching, and the legal regime and the general public must act to reduce those deleterious effects on society. It affects families, communities, and relationships. The strongest message we as citizens or consumers can send is that we do not want to participate in an industry that profits from suffering, pain and death. We owe it to the people and the animals caught up in the business of killing.

  • 18/04/2016: Question With Notice, Pig gassing cruelty investigation

    Last June I had a meeting with Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair regarding the gassing of pigs at Rivalea slaughterhouse. In this meeting I presented footage of the gas stunning process captured as the pigs were lowered into the chamber. In addition, I asked for the Minister to visit in person with myself and other concerned colleagues, the Rivalea facility and witness first hand the gassing process.

    Unsurprisingly the Minister declined the offer of a slaughterhouse visit. I then wrote a formal letter to the Rivalea management so as I and a member of my staff could visit the slaughterhouse, this was rejected without reason. So as you know, we, attempted to visit ourselves, we were not received with a warm welcome.

    It has to be asked if everything is OK then why all the secrecy? Why the denials and refusal of inspection?

    Well according to Minister Blair all is OK, in a response letter sent to my office he confirmed he had viewed the footage and that everything is fine at Rivalea. The issue filmed was merely the actions of individual workers as opposed to systemic cruelty. The RSPCA had inspected the facility and found it to be compliant. All is good, nothing to see.

    I do NOT accept this and so I my questioning of the claims in the letter have been written and formally submitted to the Minister, a response is required by the 28th of April.

  • 23/03/2016: Adjournment speech ‘See No Evil-Treatment of Animals’


    My adjournment speech is based on the writings of Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan in regards to 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 upon 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.

    Exposes 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 drawn 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?

    Watch the video of the speech below.

  • 16/02/2016: Born To Die-The excursion into the Australian abattoir and beyond (Part 1)

    A few years back after viewing hours upon hours of footage taken as a part of the investigation into the Hawkesbury Valley Meats abattoir I felt the urge to summarise the barbarity of what I witnessed, the explicitness of what will be forever etched into my mind. This summary transformed into not just a question of ethics and morality but into an idea, that as caregivers to the next generation why do we hide the truth? Why do we teach disconnection?

    Ultimately if something is not acceptable for our kids eyes and minds then how on Earth is it acceptable for their stomachs and their future world?

    Below is Part 1 of what i titled Born To Die-The excursion into the Australian abattoir and beyond. 

    It is time to swing open the doors of these forbidden fortresses, abattoirs, which are so intricately woven into the fabric of our society and in ways that will surprise, if not astound, you. Almost every day in Australia the lives are drained from an untold number of totally healthy beings but with the recent exposures of systemic brutal practices in slaughterhouses both here and in other countries a deep, menacing discord has been struck within us.

    It is a long time coming for this concealed messy business of covert animal slaughter to come face to face with the tribunal of our society.

    This ‘tribunal’ must not only consist of the reasonable person in our community but extend to our institutions of education from the most revered academic sciences through to animal and agriculture studies but also to the most worthy and innocent tribunal – our mature children.

    Eating meat is a pervasion in our society and ‘culture’ for most Australians. Our children partake of this with complete innocence. Rarely, if ever, is their repeated inquiry -“Mummy, Daddy where does that come from?” – receive the true answer it begs. It is time to unveil that menacing secret that even our school curricula have dodged so dishonestly for many decades – the story behind the acquisition of the flesh and blood of animals.

    Now before the gnashing of teeth begins and the trumpeting objections resound – let us prepare the slate upon which the debate is to commence as pristine. This call for a new chapter in the education of our senior children at school has nothing to do with arguments about vegetarian, vegan or meat based diets. It has to do with a truthful and robust education (in the true meaning of this word) to which our children have a fundamental right. “Veritas”, meaning Truth is so often on the Coat of Arms of our schools; Sydney Boys High School Coat of Arms-Veritate et Virtute (with truth and courage), CABRA, Dominican College for Girls in South Australia also has “VERITAS” embedded in their Coat of Arms, Cumberland Park in Adelaide, Sienna College, Camberwell in Victoria has “VERITAS” as well but also “Justice is Truth in Action”.

    It is clear then that within our education Charter and Principles in Australia there is the fundamental crux or nucleus of upholding the Truth and all what that means. It should never mean shunning away from very critical elements of our life and living and how some of those elements do bring death to so many beings. This formidable, by mass and mores, subject deserves the piercing light of day – not fettered dusk.

    Education is defined in various texts as: “give intellectual, moral and social instruction to someone, especially a child”; “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

    The Social Science Faculty of Sydney Boys High School “strives to become a faculty of excellence in teaching and learning by encouraging independent thinking and creativity in an intellectually stimulating environment”.
    Our objectives (Sydney Boys High)

    • To implement teaching strategies for the development of independent and critical thinking;
    • To develop a stimulating and cooperative learning environment for both staff and students;
    • To prepare students for active involvement within our contemporary society.

    Even if you look at the Legal Studies’ policies of Sydney boys High School one can identify where the subject of animals being sent to slaughter as being very appropriate:

    “Legal Studies develops students’ knowledge, understanding and skills in relation to the legal system and its effectiveness in promoting a just and fair society, with a view to empowering students to participate effectively as citizens at the local, national and international level. Studied themes include Justice, law and society, Culture, values and ethics, Legal processes and institutions, Conflict and cooperation and the Effectiveness of  the legal system. In the preliminary course, students study two broad topics of the basics of the legal system and the Individual and the State. They then perform a focus study of two marginalised groups and their position the law. In the HSC course, students engage in the topics of Law and Society and a number of focus studies on crime (compulsory) and two other general themes in law.

    The issue of animals being lawfully destined to slaughter by our society raises some very important questions and notions to be grappled with which both the Social Science and Legal Studies faculties at this school would seek to address though “Independent and critical thinking; culture, values and ethics; marginalised ‘groups’. “

    Very significantly and importantly the children would be asked to critically analyse why one group of animals, those we eat, are not afforded the same protection in law as other animals such as those we pet. It is here we would explore the law as it is simply set out (in NSW) and study the obvious anomaly:

    An “act of cruelty” in Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 NSW includes “any act …as a consequence of which the animal is …killed, wounded.” (my emphasis). However Section 24(1)(b)(ii) states “the person accused of the offence is not guilty of the offence if the act… is done in the course of and for the purpose of destroying it for producing food for human consumption in a manner that inflicted no unnecessary pain upon the animal.

    It can not be argued that this subject of animal slaughter is too insignificant to be given the light of day when reviewing the education curricula. Meat is a part of two out of every three meals eaten by our children and our society so is therefore very much a part of the mechanization of our society – both in our kitchens right through to the farm gate.

    The number of animals affected by meat consumption is staggering


  • 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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