Animal protection laws have been set up to fail - the only way to fix this is with a complete overhaul of the oversight and enforcement of animal protection.
Current animal protection laws are woefully out of touch with community expectations. Across NSW, the majority of eggs still come from battery caged farming systems, many pigs are confined in crates and sow stalls, and we still cut off large chunks of flesh from sheep without even providing pain relief.
It’s legal in NSW to run a large scale puppy farm, it’s legal to run cruel experiments such as ‘forced drowning tests, and there are major exemptions to acts of animal cruelty for industries that use animals to make a profit.
There’s a reason the laws are so weak - the Minister for Agriculture, who holds the portfolio for animal protection, also represents and is in charge of promoting animal use industries. Imagine having a Minister for Mining in charge of environmental protection. There is a major conflict of interest here that needs to change.
The weak laws that do exist aren’t upheld
The weak animal protection laws that do exist in NSW are woefully under-enforced. Animal protection issues are primarily investigated and prosecuted by private charities who have to fundraise from the public to uphold the law. This means the Government is essentially free-loading from animal lovers in the public to pay for criminal legislation to be upheld. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is the only piece of legislation in NSW that requires fundraising from the public to be enforced.
The New South Wales government covers only about 6% of the RSPCA's costs for law enforcement. This limited funding is reflected in the actual prosecutions that take place: in the 2018-19 financial year, RSPCA NSW received more than 16,500 complaints of animal cruelty but initiated only 77 prosecutions. In the same year they conducted proactive inspections on three of the tens of thousands of animal agribusiness operations in NSW.
The 6% funding given by the Government doesn’t even cover the staff wages for the RSPCA inspectorate. These inspectors are expected to oversee more than 70 million animals in the NSW agribusiness industry, and the many millions of native, wild, and companion animals, as well as animals used for entertainment and in medical experimentation.
The Minister’s conflict of interest
Animal protection laws are failing because they fall under the power of the Minister for Agriculture. This Minister has a major conflict of interest - they must simultaneously promote animal protection, and promote the interests of the industries that use and abuse animals for profit - like animal agribusinesses, recreational hunters, petting zoos and animal experimenters. It is a hopeless situation for animals, made worse by the powerful influence of wealthy industry lobby groups who make major donations to political parties to maintain strong influence over decisions.
This same Minister who represents the animal agribusiness industry also decides which charities will retain or lose their prosecution powers, making it difficult for the charities tasked with inspectorate roles to remain properly independent of Government. If enforcement is under the thumb of the Agriculture Minister, and the Agriculture Minister is under the thumb of animal use industries - animals have no real chance of genuine protection under our laws.