Humane Research Australia Member's Statement

Forced to inhale cigarette smoke. Starved. Exposed to harsh chemicals. Frightened, isolated, and held captive. This is the life of the estimated 11 million animals used for scientific research in Australia.  I recently read about an experiment at Monash University where researchers repeatedly induced stress and fear in a group of marmosets held captive in their laboratory, before killing them and studying their brains, with the apparent purpose of studying primate survival instincts.

This abject cruelty and neglect is widespread in scientific research, but there is an organisation that’s fighting to change the status quo: Humane Research Australia. Founded in 1979, the HRA has worked for over four decades to expose the cruel treatment of animals in medical experimentation, and to support scientists to find alternative research methods.

Despite the length and breadth of HRA’s work against animal experimentation, troublingly, little progress has been made towards normalising non-animal methods in most Australian scientific research. A Senate Committee recommended that the Federal Government fund research into alternatives to animal research in 1989, a recommendation which the government has never acted on.

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Brumbies at Kosciusko Adjournment Speech

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.

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Monika's DoggieRescue Members Statement

Every animal deserves a loving home, and ending up in the wrong pound or shelter should not be a death sentence. Tens of thousands of animals die in New South Wales pounds each year, making the work of animal rescuers like Monika Biernacki, owner of Monika's DoggieRescue, so vitally important. An animal rescued by Monika is saved for life. At her shelter here in Sydney, Monika and her team often care for hundreds of rescue dogs at any one time, helped by loving foster homes and carers. Together they provide a safe haven for hundreds of homeless animals, many of whom are sick, old, pregnant or abused and were once sitting on death row in council pounds. They include dogs like Coco, who was on death row because he was anxious and scared of children, and cats like Ariel, who was rescued just moments before she would have been put down despite her medical issues being treatable.

Those fur babies and many others are now happy, healthy and ready to find their forever homes thanks to Monika's tireless work. While "convenience" killing in New South Wales pounds still exists, we are lucky to have people like Monika who know that all animals, regardless of their start to life, deserve another chance. People like her are willing to put in the work to make sure the animals' needs are met regardless of how challenging they might be and willing to give their time, energy, money and heart to save a life. But Monika and her team can do only so much. With no Government funding and the huge number of abandoned animals in this State, the animals they save are the lucky ones. Many others are killed and given no chance for a better life. I am sure Monika would agree that this urgently needs to change. As we work towards those changes through the Parliamentary Friends of Animals Pound Reform Working Group, I thank Monika and her staff and volunteers for the lifesaving work they are doing and have done over the past 20 years. I thank them for saving the lives of 13,000 dogs and 800 cats. Monika and her team are genuine lifesavers.

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A Dog Is For Life Not Just For Christmas Adjournment Speech

An animal is for life, not just for Christmas. In reality, gifting an animal for Christmas is an absolute nightmare. Let me tell you why. Animals are not objects; they are living, sentient beings, who rely on their human companions 24/7 for their care. Unlike a video game, we cannot turn a puppy off when we are making dinner or put him on a shelf when the kids go to bed. Every companion animal needs ongoing attention, play, feeding, training and care. Adopting a new member of the family should never be an impulsive decision. Whether it is due to the time and energy commitment, the budget required to provide veterinary care or even that their new dog is no longer a cute puppy, each year pounds, shelters and rescues report an influx of animals after Christmas as people realise they are not capable of raising their new furry family member. While it is easy to return or exchange an unwanted toy, game or even a bicycle that was received for Christmas, animals are not toys; they are a lifetime commitment. Their lives are not refundable or disposable. Put simply, surrendering or even dumping an animal at a pound or shelter can mean that an animal could die.

Each year tens of thousands of healthy, homeless animals capable of being rehomed are euthanised, often killed due to a lack of resourcing, space or willingness to care for them by the council pounds. This horrific practice is known as "convenience killing", and it is exacerbated by the abandonment of animals after the Christmas period. Overseas, pounds, shelters and responsible breeders have been trying to combat the impulsive buying of Christmas puppies by refusing to adopt animals over the Christmas period, instead providing gift certificates so that people can put much-needed consideration into whether an animal is right for them. While it is a step in the right direction, adoption restrictions do not solve the problem.

Many Christmas puppies come from backyard breeders and puppy farms, meaning that impulsive buying is not only putting animals' lives at risk but supporting cruel breeding practices. Dogs on puppy farms face a lifetime of suffering, with mother dogs forced to pump out litter after litter until their bodies no longer cope. Their puppies can also suffer from a range of behavioural and medical issues, caused by the unsanitary conditions, a lack of appropriate veterinary treatment, lack of socialisation or as a result of the common practice of inbreeding.

Just this year we have heard horror stories of puppies, purchased from puppy farms, that have debilitating lifelong illnesses. They are unable to breathe or walk properly and require thousands of dollars of veterinary care. Each year animal rescue charities warn of puppy farmers cashing in on demand during the Christmas season, hiking up prices and selling unhealthy puppies. I have repeatedly called on the agriculture Minister and the local government Minister to introduce legislation to protect dogs in New South Wales, but they have failed to take action. Now puppy farming is running rampant in our State, and the risk of buying a dog from an unscrupulous breeder this Christmas is only getting higher. Christmas should be a time of celebration, not a dog's death sentence. Dogs do not belong in puppy farms. They do not belong underneath a Christmas tree. Dogs are not toys that can be discarded after the Christmas sparkle has worn off. They are lifelong companions that deserve a loving home. This festive season I urge all members to remember that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas. I ask Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall to give dogs something they really want for Christmas: a ban on puppy farming.

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Crocodile Farms Adjournment Speech

No animal is exempt from cruelty in Australia—not even crocodiles, with French fashion brand Hermès planning to open a new industrial-scale crocodile farm that will farm and slaughter up to 50,000 animals. Saltwater crocodiles are a national icon and native predator. But these highly intelligent reptiles are also protective, attentive parents, they have complex methods of communication, and amuse themselves by playing with objects and even blowing bubbles. Crocodiles are wild animals who belong in the wild. They also feel pain and fear, and deserve to be protected from suffering and exploitation. Yet footage released earlier this year by the Kindness Project showed the horrors that hundreds of thousands of crocodiles are forced to endure on Hermès farms already operating in Australia. Crocodiles in this industry are exploited even before they are born. Hatched from eggs stolen from wild nests, they are deliberately incubated to produce fast‑growing males to reduce the time between birth and slaughter. Once hatched, they spend the majority of their lives isolated in grow‑out buildings, being held in tiny wire cages and barren plastic‑lined pens filled with fetid water. Despite being known to travel distances of up to 900 kilometres in the wild, these pens give crocodiles little more room than the length of their body to ensure no scratches or damage is done to their profitable skin.

After enduring two to three years of confinement, these animals will be electrocuted, dragged from their pens as their bodies convulse and shot with a bolt gun. Their spinal cords will be severed and a screwdriver forced into their heads to scramble their brains. Their deaths are slow and brutal, with some crocodiles continuing to breathe rapidly and attempting to stand after the ordeal. Because these animals are predominantly slaughtered for their smooth belly skin, up to four crocodiles must endure this suffering just to make one Hermès handbag. That company relies on extreme animal cruelty to sell its handbags to the thoughtless, wealthy minority for thousands of dollars.

We cannot forget that just 50 years ago that saltwater and freshwater crocodiles were threatened with extinction due to commercial hunting. While this led to their protection in 1971 and a recovery in their numbers in the wild, habitat loss and pollution continue to be a threat. Sickeningly, the intensive crocodile farming industry is attempting to capitalise on this by falsely claiming that its intensive farming and slaughter of wild‑born crocodiles is supporting ongoing conservation efforts. Even more shocking is that it is doing this with the support of one of the world's biggest conservation bodies, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which falsely suggests that the intensive farming of animals is a useful conservation tool. Let me be clear, it is an absurd idea that to protect animals they must be killed for handbags. We would never accept an argument that elephants should be farmed for their tusks to save the species, so why would we accept it for crocodiles?

Confining and killing animals for their skin is not conservation; it is simply slaughter. This newest farm is operating at a time when many high‑end fashion brands and their consumers are turning their backs on animal skins. Chanel, Mulberry and the owners of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger recently adopted policies against using exotic animal skins, including those from crocodiles. A life is worth more than any bloody handbag or accessory. With so many sustainable and animal‑friendly alternatives available, there is no need to slaughter any animal for fashion. It is time for the Australian Government to recognise that animal skins are firmly out of fashion. The Government needs to ban this cruel industry. The Australian public hates animal cruelty. It does not want to see wild animals brutally killed en masse. It is time to listen to our communities, take action for hundreds of thousands of suffering animals and put an end to Australia's cruel crocodile farming industry.

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Captive Elephants Adjournment Speech

There have been reports that, later this year, the UK Government will ban the captivity of elephants in zoos, and save future generations from suffering in cruel, unnatural conditions.

Here in Australia - it’s time we did the same. Let me tell you why.

Size isn’t everything: but it’s a big deal to elephants. In the wild, elephants walk up to 9km each day. For nomadic animals that are constantly on the move, zoos can never replicate a natural environment or provide for an elephants most basic space and exercise needs. 

In fact, because the lack of exercise in captivity, many elephants in zoos suffer from obesity, as well as joint and foot problems, leaving them struggling to walk and in significant, lifelong pain. 

But it’s not just elephants’ physical health that deteriorates in captivity - their mental health suffers too. As intelligent, social animals, elephants naturally live in close, family units, sometimes made up of over 50 family members including mothers, calves, aunts and cousins. 

They develop strong, lifelong bonds with the members of their herd, and deeply grieve their dead. Yet elephants in zoos have no access to these complex social structures needed to thrive. Moved and separated from their families, captive elephants show signs of severe psychological distress. They often exhibit stereotypic behaviours including weaving, pacing, and head bobbing, with some studies showing captive elephants performing these behaviours for up to 60% of the day.

The combination of the extreme mental and physical stress elephants suffer in captivity not only leads to a lifetime of suffering, but it significantly shortens their lifespan. While their brothers and sisters in the wild often live until they’re 50, the average lifespan of a captive elephant is just 17 years. Quite simply, captivity is killing them. 

That is not to say elephants don’t face many threats in the wild. They do. Poaching, hunting, and habitat destruction are all pushing these animals to the brink of extinction. Some argue that having elephants in zoos is needed for conservation efforts. But this is simply not true. Both the World Wide Fund for Nature and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources have recognised that captive elephant breeding does not make any significant contribution to elephant conservation. 

RSPCA Australia also recognises that zoos have made very little contribution to the conservation of African or Asian elephants. The use of artificial insemination is not supported by evidence, as captive elephants have high infant mortality rates, and a large number of stillbirths. 

Only last year, we subjected another two elephants to a pitiful captive existence here in NSW. Kavi and Ashoka arrived at Sydney Zoo in December. They joined Saigon, a 62 year old ex-circus elephant who had previously lived alone with only three water buffalo for company. Each of these animals has already spent their whole lives being used by humans - and they will die never experiencing life in wild.

Wild animals belong in the wild. It’s as simple as that. Elephants do not belong in captivity, and if we truly want to help them we need to stop the attacks on their natural environment – not keep them in zoos for human entertainment. 

It’s time for Australia to join the international movement to protect these gentle, intelligent animals: not by imprisoning them, but by ensuring they can live their lives free and safe in their own habitat. The Australian public do not want to see wild animals in captivity. Zoos will soon be a thing of the past in Australia too.

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Cosmetic Testing Adjournment Speech

The beauty industry is hiding an ugly secret: Animals are still being used for cosmetic testing. Right now rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice are all having chemicals forced down their throats, dripped into their eyes and smeared into their bare skin. Pushed to their bodies' limits, they will be denied pain relief as they endure archaic chemical poisoning tests devised more than half a century ago. Then they will be killed callously once testing is complete. There is simply no excuse for that cruelty, yet it is estimated that around the world approximately 200,000 animals suffer and die from cosmetic testing each year. In Australia, while we may have taken steps to stop that abuse, our laws do not go far enough. Legislation banning the testing of cosmetics on animals came into effect in July of last year. The Federal Government recently announced a new voluntary code of practice to support the ban. However, disappointingly, Australia's ban on animal testing extends only to ingredients used exclusively for cosmetics, despite very few cosmetics being made with sole‑purpose cosmetic ingredients. Essentially, the Australian legislation came in when no sole focus cosmetic ingredient testing was occurring in Australia and had not for some time. Therefore, the Federal legislation makes no real change to animal testing in this country but rather creates confusion while we still test some cosmetic ingredients, and continue to import and sell cosmetics tested on animals overseas.

RSPCA data tells us that 85 per cent of Australians oppose testing cosmetics on animals, but what many consumers searching for non‑animal tested beauty products do not know is that we do not ban or properly regulate the claims made by companies that willingly test on animals overseas. Our current laws allow popular brands such as Bobbi Brown, MAC and Clinique to promote themselves as being cruelty free in Australia despite their items being tested on animals overseas. China is known not only as the world's second biggest cosmetics market but also as the world's biggest proponent of animal testing. It is the only country worldwide where, in many cases, animal testing for cosmetics is a requirement by law. While China is slowly moving away from this extreme cruelty by lifting its mandatory animal testing for domestically manufactured cosmetics in 2014 and announcing an end to similar testing for imported cosmetics in March this year, many cosmetic items are still legally required to undergo animal testing, including hair dyes, whitening products, sunscreens and anti‑hair loss products.

Animals will continue to be tortured for cosmetic testing as long as international brands continue to sell these products in China. If we are serious about stopping cosmetic testing on animals, we cannot allow these same brands to sell their products here, especially under the guise of bring cruelty free. With modern, non‑animal tests that better predict human reactions now available for the majority of cosmetic safety issues, animal testing should be a thing of the past. It is a conscious choice to engage in this cruelty. Our laws should properly reflect the values of the community and protect them from inadvertently supporting animal cruelty.

The precedent has been set. The European Union has already cemented itself as the world's largest animal testing free cosmetic market and is being closely followed by countries including India, Turkey, Switzerland and Chile. We need to do more than pass token legislation in an effort to join the international movement to protect animals. It is time for us to properly catch up. We have the support of the Australian public behind us, and with the right legislation we can create real change for the hundreds of thousands of animals that are still trapped in the cosmetic testing industry.

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Shark Nets Adjournment Speech

Every year across New South Wales hundreds of marine animals including dolphins, turtles, sharks and rays are dying in shark nets. Submerged around beaches from Newcastle to Wollongong, these killer nets are providing a false sense of security. In reality, research shows that nets are ineffective at protecting beachgoers whilst indiscriminately killing countless marine animals. With renewed calls for an end to the use of these killer nets, it is time the New South Wales Government listened to our communities and to science, and banned shark nets in New South Wales. Put simply, it is impossible for lethal shark control measures like shark nets to guarantee public safety.

Floating four or more metres below the surface, these nets do not connect with the shoreline. This allows for sharks and other animals to swim over, under and around the nets, something we know they often do. There is also no statistical evidence proving shark nets prevent shark bites, with recent research from both Deakin and Wollongong universities confirming just how ineffective these nets really are. In fact, CSIRO shark expert Barry Bruce has stated they should not be classed as a barrier but as a fishing device. In 2017 a Federal Senate committee recommended that shark nets be removed from all New South Wales beaches. The damage these lethal nets are doing to marine animals is clear. Shark nets are not species specific. Their holes are not big enough to let through sea turtles, nor are they visible enough to deter dolphins and whales. Because of this, in New South Wales alone shark nets have killed thousands of animals over the past nine years, including 503 hammerhead sharks, 293 rays, 72 turtles and 49 dolphins and whales. Many of these animals would have suffered for hours and slowly drowned. Over 19,000 animals are known to have met this brutal death in New South Wales shark nets. Even animals released alive are not guaranteed survival; the stress and injury of entanglement can cause death soon after.

From climate change to pollution and fishing, marine animals are facing threats from all sides and sharks are at serious risk. In fact, it is estimated that over the past 50 years, shark populations have dropped by 71 per cent, devastating marine ecosystems where they play a critical role as apex predators. We cannot continue adding to shark carnage with these cruel nets. And we do not need to because where shark nets are failing, other new technologies are succeeding. Drone and helicopter surveillance, shark listening stations, eco shark barriers and even personal shark deterrents are all methods that keep swimmers safe without the heavy toll on marine animals.

What is almost always overlooked is the most important shark mitigation strategy of all: beach patrols. Investing in lifeguard patrols and emergency responses have been highlighted by researchers as the most impactful way to keep people safe in the water. All but one of New South Wales' netted beaches are patrolled already, and it would be easy to invest the money and resources being used in shark netting programs in supporting our beach communities to expand the critical surf lifesaving programs already in place. The research makes it clear: Shark nets are not protecting us but they are indiscriminately killing tens of thousands of animals. With community support for shark net removal and so many effective and humane options to protect swimmers, there is no reason to keep netting our beaches. I urge councils across New South Wales and the New South Wales Government to listen to science and our communities. It is time to protect animals and remove these deadly nets from our waters.

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Non-human Rights Project Adjournment Speech

What are the legal rights of a human medical subject? Can we experiment on them against their will? Can we remove their organs without their consent? Can we force them to endure painful medical procedures for the greater good? The answer is, of course, no. But what if instead this subject is a chimpanzee—an animal with incredible cognitive ability that is intelligent, numerate, social, has moral capacity, culture and can engage in language? According to current law, we can easily do all of the above —and more. Currently our laws treat animals as legal things. They do not have rights. In fact, we do not even recognise them as having capacity for rights. No matter their intelligence, self-awareness or autonomy, their bodies—no matter what we inflict on themare owned.

We give animals no more rights than we would a car, a television or a pencil. This is in direct opposition to how humans are treated. Granted legal personhood, they do have rights and their autonomy is recognised under law. They are allowed to make their own choices and exercise control over their own bodies. And just to be clear, legal personhood is not limited to human beings. Corporations, religions, religious artefacts and rivers are just some of the entities that have been granted legal personhood. All have more rights than animals and, because of this, we continue to enslave and imprison autonomous and defenceless beings—but maybe not for much longer.

In 1996 animal rights lawyer Steven Wise launched the Nonhuman Rights Project, with the aim of granting legal personhood to non-human animals. Using a civil rights framework and rigorous scientific evidence, Wise and his team have already launched legal proceedings for eight animals, with courts and legislatures across the world beginning to recognise and act upon the systemic problem of animals being denied legal rights. The ball started rolling with the Nonhuman Rights Project securing the world's first habeas corpus hearings on behalf of chimpanzees and elephants. This centuries-old method of testing the lawfulness of imprisonment has—for the first time in global legal historyallowed arguments supporting the legal personhood and right to bodily liberty for animals to be heard in a court of law. Currently Steven Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project are representing chimpanzees Tommy, Kiko, Hercules and Leo and elephants Beulah, Karen, Minnie and Happy. While their cases are ongoing, the results of this litigation has inspired international legal change:

In 2015 Sandra the Orangutan was released from solitary confinement at Buenos Aires Zoo after a judge ruled that she was legally not an animal but a non-human person who has rights. In 2016 an Argentinian judge released Cecilia the chimpanzee from solitary confinement following legal action based on the Nonhuman Rights Project's petitions. Last year Pakistan's high court used the Nonhuman Rights Project's cases to affirm the rights of non-human animals and release an elephant named Kaavan being held in solitary confinement. It is clear that across the world, the incredible work of the Nonhuman Rights Project is changing the conversation about recognising the rights of other species under law.

This change is critical. Rights are critical, because our laws are failing animals by working to regulate the manner in which they are treated, while exclusively prioritising the interests of humans and human institutions. The interests and experiences of these intelligent, sentient beings should not be secondary. All of human history shows that the only way to truly protect fundamental interests is to recognise rights—rights that protect against wrongs our society has deemed intolerable and unjustifiable, wrongs such as detaining individuals against their will without sufficient cause or subjecting them to mental or physical torture. These wrongs are experienced equally for humans and non-human animals alike. Thanks to the work of the Nonhuman Rights Project and Steven Wise, they are moving toward being treated as such.

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NSW Hen Rescue Members Statement

Since 2010 Catherine and David have been running NSW Hen Rescue, giving farmed hens a second chance. It is more accurate to say a first chance because for many of the hens that NSW Hen Rescue take in, it is their first chance to see sunshine, dust bathe, flap, preen, walk and even turn around. It is the first chance they have had to feel love, respect and safety. This opportunity has been provided to hundreds of hens thanks to the tireless work and dedication of Catherine and David and the supporters of Hen Rescue. In early 2020 they took in a burn victim called Amelia, who survived the bushfires that killed billions of animals. Hen Rescue was one of a small number of charities that saved the lives of farmed animals during the crisis. With the help of Hen Rescue, Amelia received urgent veterinary treatment that saved her life and she was one of the few hen victims of the bushfires to survive.

The pressure on charities that receive no government assistance for the work they do has a mental toll and a financial ceiling. NSW Hen Rescue has been operating from rented homes and has had to move seven times in the past 10 years. It recently had the stress of receiving a notice of eviction and is currently fundraising to set up a permanent rescue centre. Catherine and David do not want to shut down the rescue centre, but without a permanent location their vital work is simply not sustainable. A price cannot be put on the work done and the lives saved by this charity. As Catherine says, "Saving one animal won't change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal." I am pleased to report that Hen Rescue has found a residence, but the Government must do more to support the essential work carried out by similar rescue groups. On behalf of the many hens that have been saved, I thank Catherine and David for their life's work in providing these animals with a vestige of the life that was stolen from them.

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