In January this year, I visited Kosciuszko National Park with the Snowy Mountains Sustainable Management Group. I travelled throughout two-thirds of Northern end of Kosciuszko, where the NSW Government claims there are over 12,511 brumbies. After a full day of searching, we found just 24 brumbies. If the Government’s claims about the number of brumbies were correct, I should have seen thousands.
Here’s the truth: the methodology used by the NSW Government to estimate populations of wild animals is seriously flawed, as demonstrated in the recent Inquiry into the Health and Wellbeing of Kangaroo and other Macropods in NSW. We have no idea how many brumbies there are in Kosciusko, and the numbers pushed by the Government are likely to be grossly exaggerated in the same way that the number of kangaroos we have are grossly exaggerated. Right now, the Government continue to cause stress and controversy by sending horses at Kosciusko national park to knackeries, rather than using scientifically sound methods to understand the true number of horses in in the national park and by failing to use other humane solutions.
And there are other solutions. We could be using humane methods like fertility control to reduce the number of horses in sensitive areas of the park, and we could be investing in genuine animal sanctuaries who will provide whole of life care for these animals. While the Government reject humane avenues and continue to take advantage of animal carers in the local community, horses continue to suffer horrific deaths, native animals remain at threat, and communities are stressed about animal cruelty.
It gets worse: the Government have recently updated the rehoming requirements while starting a new killing season. Previously approved rehomers are rushing to be approved, knowing the process will likely take weeks, at the same time that the government has started trapping brumbies. Further, the Government’s original agreement not to trap heavily pregnant mares has been thrown out the window, with the Government now trapping and transporting pregnant animals despite the added risk and stress this causes the brumbies.
I am focused on finding the best outcome for all animals in Kosciuszko, native and non-native. Those who want horses in Kosciuszko ruthlessly shot from the sky in a cruel, barbaric massacre are ignoring the latest scientific developments and demonising horses. To those who continue to vilify these animals, I say this: I’ll never vote to open up a bloodbath on any animal – ever.
Let’s be clear. No species of animal is planning an invasion. They have no ‘evil intent’. The wild horses currently residing in Kosciuszko did not ask to be brought here. The ancestors of these horses were brought here on ships over 200 years ago, against their will. A wild horse has the same capacity to feel pain and fear as a native animal, and their lives deserve the same level of dignity and respect. We must protect both native animals and the horses residing in the park- in fact we have a duty to do so.
Aerial shooting, ground shooting and trapping and taking horses to slaughterhouses are shockingly cold-hearted courses of action that should never have been considered or carried out by this government. In addition to sanctioning these cruel, barbaric methods, the government has continued to demonise these innocent wild horses, while completely ignoring other causes of damage to the Park. Brumby groups recently wrote to the new Minister for the Environment calling on him to visit Kosciusko and to see for himself the number of brumbies that are in the park, while meeting with the locals and hearing their concerns. I echo the calls from the community for the Minister to visit Kosciusko himself, and I encourage him to take up the offer by local community groups.
In the meantime, the Animal Justice Party will continue to campaign for a halt on all lethal action towards brumbies, and an urgent review on the methodology used to estimate the population of brumbies and other wild animals in NSW. It is time to stop the killing of brumbies and invest in humane, non-lethal solutions.