6th June 2018
During a heated debate, Mark Pearson delivers a powerful and thought provoking speech that clearly differentiates the Animal Justice Party from the Greens. The Greens may care about species, but the Animal Justice Party cares about individual animals as ALL life is precious.
Greens animal welfare spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi opposed the Animal Justice Party’s amendments that would have protected the brumbies from lethal control methods and instead utilise fertility control.
The Greens MP’s Justin Field and Jeremey Buckingham supported a mass slaughter and in Buckingham’s case even advocated for the aerial culling of brumbies. An idea not even supported by the Shooter’s, Fishers and Farmers Party!
The Animal Justice Party is the ONLY political party speaking up for ALL animals and proposing non lethal solutions.
Read the FULL DEBATE where NSW Greens MP’s advocate for aerial killing and lethal control.
The Hon. MARK PEARSON:
I speak for the Animal Justice Party in debate on the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Bill 2018. Although the Animal Justice Party supports the spirit of this bill and commends the Government for taking action to seek to protect the wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park, I have some very serious concerns about what the bill fails to address and about the necessary reassurances for animal wellbeing that must be secured in the bill. To that point, the Animal Justice Party proposes two amendments, but if those amendments are not agreed to we will certainly not support the treatment of the horses in luring, capturing, trapping and transporting them to so-called riding schools and abattoirs.
In history, the brumby holds a special place in the Australian psyche, personifying the Australian courage and spirit of freedom. They hold a special and unique place in our history and have been immortalised in literature, film and songs. Today, just like many other introduced animals, and even our native kangaroo, they are considered by some to be feral pests—a deliberately loaded term that denotes these animals are below others and therefore can be treated in often cruel and inhumane ways.
The brumby has gallantly served humans, toiling on farms as stock animals, building the roads and railways we relied upon, even serving as police horses for officers enforcing the law in the bush. They accompanied men to war, with over 70,000 horses losing their lives in World War I alone, and none returned. We brought the horse here not out of love but out of the notion that they would be useful to us. We exploited them and when not needed we disposed of them and sent them on their way into the bush: wanted yesterday, unwanted today. They survived and adapted like any other being on this planet and yet some continue to persecute them and advocate for the destruction of their existence.
An often overlooked part of Australian history is the bond forged between the local Indigenous people and brumbies. It has been stated that the Ngarigo and the Djiringanj peoples developed such an affinity with the animals they became known as “horse whisperers”. Ngarigo Elder Ellen Mundy recently stated, “Even though horses were an introduced species we still learnt how to communicate with them”. The bill will, in effect, reset the whole approach to wild horse management. Some say this is unnecessary and detrimental to the ongoing preservation of Kosciusko National Park. I am not of that belief. If they had taken the time to analyse the previous draft plan and associated reports, they would see that animal welfare was nothing more than a feel‑good term utilised to endorse a mass slaughter of thousands of individual beings.
On further analysis, one can see the real dangers that were presented in that previous draft plan. The Animal Justice Party is of the opinion that the science and methodology behind that plan was either inadequate or overestimated. However, one thing is certain, that plan would undoubtedly have caused great suffering to animals. The previous plan proposed a mass reduction by way of slaughter of an estimated population of 6,000 horses down to 600 within 20 years. Irrespective of any proposed humaneness one must ask, would the wider community accept the needless killing of up to 6,000 healthy wild horses? In general terms, the process of killing any animal, in this case wild animals, without any justifiable reasoning, such as to euthanise a sick or injured dying animal, is not humane. In the view of the Animal Justice Party, killing healthy sentient beings, even if it can be done without wounding, terror or distress, is inherently ethically and morally wrong.
In October 2000, the slaughter of over 600 brumbies in the Guy Fawkes River National Park sparked widespread public outcry and national media attention. In response to this atrocity an inquiry was conducted which revealed numerous failings by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in its role in the mass slaughter. Let us look at population estimates. In line with what the Hon. Mick Veitch has said, there has been much debate about the actual numbers of brumbies in the park. The estimate of 6,000 is generally supported. However, given the significance of the population estimate as one of the justifiable reasons for the slaughter, it seems that the National Parks and Wildlife Service should be able to demonstrate confidence in these numbers, and yet it cannot.
The very first key finding of the Independent Technical Reference Group [ITRG] report was that they, “had not been able to reach a conclusion on trends over time in horse numbers or densities in Kosciusko National Park because of problems of comparability between successive horse surveys”. Most concerning is the final resolution from the report regarding the question of whether horse numbers are on the increase. Section 2.2 of the report states, “In general, while there are indications from the various sources that populations are increasing, the ITRG cannot at this stage draw rigorous scientific conclusions about how densities and rates of change vary across the park”.
These statements within the ITRG report reveal serious flaws and a lack of confidence in both population numbers and population increases year on year. How the Government can confidently release a draft plan that has as its main objective to reduce wild horse numbers from 6,000 to 600 within 20 years without drawing rigorous scientific conclusions is startling. This shows serious failings of research, analysis and any proper review. It implies a predetermined motivation of mass slaughter regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof, and the objectives of that plan are unjustifiable and unnecessary.
Let us look at environmental impacts. Conventional conservation thinking is largely centred on invasive biology and threats to native species. This paradigm of thinking is changing around the world. Current invasive species biology disregards any benefits that introduced species bring to the environment. The research is more often than not designed to reach negative conclusions regarding introduced species and preserve native fauna at all costs. In so doing, inhumane consequences often result as well as a failure to understand and recognise the positive effects that introduced species have on global biodiversity.
Amongst the research threads in compassionate conservation is growing evidence that in fact much native flora and fauna does adapt to the introduction of other species and in some instances helps other species survive. This happens across the spectrum of flora and fauna. Horses have been present in the mountains for over 200 years. Over this time the horse has adapted to the mountain environment and the environment has adapted to the horse. This process is known as ecological succession, which is the gradual process by which ecosystems change and develop over time. As tough and uncomfortable as the current state of play is, we need to now grapple with the notion that some species are declining because they are simply not adaptive to change. Yet we punish successful species, inhumanely shoot horses and kill our top predators, disrupting social networks and thwarting natural population controls.
What have we achieved thus far? Where has all the bloodshed got us? We have been trapping, shooting and capturing and where has it got us? We have the same problem, if not worse—if it is a problem—that we had 100 years ago. The answer is that this approach has got us nowhere. We will be in the same, if not a worse situation if we continue to turn to killing as the answer. When animals are introduced into a new ecosystem one of two things occur: they die without issue or they breed and become naturalised. As soon as an ecosystem begins to support an introduced animal the ecosystem also starts utilising the changes brought about by that animal.
Nature is not set in stone and is not meant to remain as it was in 1769. With the introduction of the horses other species begin to find niches in the disturbed soil and collapsed stream beds created by heavy exotic herbivores. Plants begin utilising the nutrients in the large piles of manure. Plants and insects use the big bodies of horses for transportation to new niches around the landscape, maximising opportunities for the survival of their own species. There is a new biodiversity. Therefore, once a species is naturalised, once a species has found a niche in an ecosystem, it becomes impossible to remove them in large numbers without actually doing harm to that ecosystem—sometimes more harm than good. In a rapidly changing environment, as Australia has been for the last 200 years, the harm of removing a naturalised species is very likely to exceed any good.
Now I come to fertility control as a solution. Fertility control has been successfully applied to wild horses, deer and zoo populations for more than two decades. It began in 1996 with the application to elephants in Kruger National Park and it is considered to be a more humane and often more effective form of wild animal management compared to lethal methods. Despite a wealth of authoritative evidence on the efficacy of such methods, I am still concerned that Government members in debating this bill have not committed or are not committing to a well‑funded program of immuno-sterility and completely ruling out lethal control. Unlike killing, which provides niches for younger more fertile animals to fill, fertility control buys time. Older infertile animals continue to hold their territory while every other animal in the population can be rendered infertile.
Unlike killing, fertility control—as long as it is carried out using gentle and humane techniques—will involve no cruelty. It works. It reduces the population over time and it is controlled so that other animals will not move into the same area. A number of prerequisites must apply for a sterilisation method to be considered suitable. Most notably, the vaccine must have an efficacy rate of 80 per cent to 90 per cent. It must require no surgical invasion, have minimal impact on animal behaviour, and must be remotely applicable and not require direct handling of the targeted animal. The porcine zona pellucida vaccine has been used effectively on horses and deer as well as elephants in Africa.
Fertility control is the long-term humane solution. It is the solution to this problem that we have been facing for 250 years. It is for this reason that I will move amendments to the bill that require any future draft plan to explicitly utilise fertility control to manage wild horse numbers. This is a sensible balance. The Animal Justice Party believes in the principle of least harm. In the best way possible, we grapple with all the complexities and external factors of an issue and determine what will cause the least harm to animals, whether introduced or native. When I have asked Indigenous people the question, “When do you believe an animal is native?” an answer from an elder was, “When it is born here. Isn’t that what the word means? Nate, birth.” Unfortunately, there will always be some harm no matter what we do, but we can only try to do our best. The Animal Justice Party does not and will not support any method of lethal control. From an animal welfare standpoint, we do not support practices such as roping, chasing or brumby-running in any way, shape or form. With modern day solutions and a sensible approach, there should be no killing of a healthy brumby, nor should any brumby under any circumstances be transported to any slaughterhouse.
I express my sincere gratitude to the numerous brumby advocacy groups that, like many animal advocacy groups, work tirelessly to protect, defend and rescue individual brumbies. The bill could be a step forward in bringing the issues of animal wellbeing and introduced animal management to a more sensible space for measured and fact-based debate. However, that step will only be supported by the Animal Justice Party if the amendments to strengthen the spirit of the bill are passed.