Animal agriculture reaching crisis point

8th August 2019


The Hon. MARK PEARSON (22:31): Animal agriculture is reaching a crisis point in Australia. There are multiple challenges ahead for Australia’s farmers from the impacts of the climate emergency, overexploitation of land and water and how farmed, wild and introduced animals are treated. Farmers cannot continue to do what they have always done because it no longer works; in fact, it never did. The environment and animals have always suffered as a consequence of farming. The consequences of that harm are now unavoidable. The leaked report on land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] makes it clear that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land. The IPCC proposes a major shift to plant-based diets in order to reduce agricultural land use, freeing land to be returned to habitat and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government needs to speak honestly with our farmers and help them with funding to adjust to a new world, including changes in social attitudes about who and how we farm. I say “who” we farm because animal activists are making it clear that the recognition of individual animal sentience demands change. The very raison d’être of farming animals for food is in question. These concerns can no longer be brushed aside as the rantings of a few individuals given that two million Australians are now following a predominately plant-based diet. Barely a week goes by without yet another expose of animal cruelty. Last fortnight has seen reports of eye gouging and breaking the tales of cows at a large Tasmanian dairy, cruelty charges finally laid against Emanuel Exports for its horrific treatment of sheep frying to death on the Awassi Express, and the illegal Victorian abattoir where sheep suffered agonising and prolonged deaths. The findings of a report commissioned by the Federal Government entitledAustralia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare should be a wake-up call to all animal farmers. Some 95 per cent of people want to see improvements in animal welfare. The report states:

… the major driver of this shift is an increased focus on animals’ level of sentience and related capabilities …

This report indicates:

… a fundamental community belief that animals are entitled to the protection of relevant rights and freedoms, closely aligning with activist sentiment.

These beliefs are spread across States and Territories and between capital cities, regional towns and rural areas. You would expect that New South Wales industry leaders and the Berejiklian Government would be chastened by these existential threats to animal agriculture. Sadly, they have only paid attention to the spin doctors and pandered to the fearmongers. As one example of spin without substance, the NSW Farmers delegates at its annual conference last week passed a motion that animal industries use the term “processing” in lieu of, and to the complete exclusion of, the term “slaughter”. Do they think that the public will not notice that animals are still transported to slaughter?

We have seen the Berejiklian Government’s response to animal activism and community concerns about farmed animal cruelty. Instead of overhauling the investigation and enforcement of animal welfare laws or funding research into the emerging industries of alternative proteins, we have the “right to farm” dogma and the draconian penalties for farm trespass under the fig leaf of biosecurity. We need to re-imagine the Australian landscape with farms that grow plant proteins, integrate into the environment and take less water from our rivers—where our wild animals are once again able to share in our boundless landscape.