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Challenging Speciesism

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A presentation by Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre (Australia) to the NSW CLC's state Conference, May 2012

A presentation by Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre (Australia) to the NSW CLC's state Conference, May 2012


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  • Animals are commodities, not clientsUnder Australian law, animals are things not beings, domesticated animals are property and have neither legal capacity nor standing as legal persons. This is a significant impediment for animal law advocates who cannot, as a consequence, undertake direct representation for animals, but must rely on those empowered under the relevant animal welfare laws to challenge acts of animal cruelty. In other words, animals cannot be clients,- well not yet anyway.Animals suffer from speciesism, whereby human interests are prioritised above animal welfare. This is no more obvious than in the complicity between the state, and agri-business to ensure that animal protection legislation, regulations and codes of practice entrench and sanction animal cruelty where it is "necessary, reasonable and justifiable" in the pursuit of profit. We humans exploit domesticated animals for our own benefit; we decide the how, what and where they eat and live as well as controlling their reproductive cycle and the removal of their young. We choose the quality and length of their life and manner of their death.
  • In this country, right now, as we meet here today, there are hundreds of millions of animals experiencing suffering as a direct consequence of the extreme commodification of animals. Most of those hundreds of millions of suffering animals are those bred and butchered in intensive farming systems. The reality for intensively “farmed” animals recalls the Blakesian “dark satanic mills” of the early industrial revolution where factory workers were subjected to horrific conditions, with injury and premature death the price paid for the wealth of the few and cheap goods for the masses. The battle for workers’ rights continues but much has been achieved in the last two hundred years. For animals, it has got much worse. Trade Unions fought for humane industrial conditions under the banner of human rights and these rights are now entrenched in our laws and international treaty obligations. As a union activist, I know that eternal vigilance is necessary to ensure that workers are treated fairly. I know that corporate interests exist to maximise profits and the challenge is to ensure this does not come at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and in regards to agri-business, those unfortunate animals trapped in intensive farming systems.
  • Government Sanctioned Animal Exploitation and Cruelty CLCs exist to challenge systemic injustice. We know that the prevention of exploitation of the powerless by the powerful is a core social justice value. Animal suffering caused by gross commercial exploitation, aided and abetted by ineffective or non-existent animal welfare laws, is a legitimate concern for social justice advocates. Due to many years of lobbying, governments have eventually come to recognise the responsibility that humans have for the ethical treatment of animals, given our complete dominance over their lives. Early animal welfare activists were treated as objects of derision for their campaigns against the beating to death of carriage horses that failed to pull their loads or cows driven to exhaustion on their way to the brutal slaughter. Today we are horrified by the hidden camera images of pigs bludgeoned to death at the Hawkesbury Nepean Abattoir but what about the lawful cruelty that allows a daily existence eked out in barren, concrete and steel enclosures where even the simple act of turning around can be an impossibility? So what is the legal framework that facilitates this systemic cruelty? Most animal welfare laws are state-based due to constitutional considerations, but in 2004 the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy was jointly developed by Federal, State and Territory Governments as part of a COAG (Council of Australian Governments) initiative to improve consistency between jurisdictions and to harmonise the various Animal Welfare Codes of Practice.The Strategy has this to say; “the ethics of animal welfare come from recognising that animals are sentient—that is, they have feelings and are able to experience suffering and pleasure” However, it goes on to state that “Australia’s approach to developing and promoting sound animal welfare standards is to ensure that proper consideration is given to factors such as science, practicability, culture, economics, community values and ethics.” So by the time science, practicability and economics have been factored in, there’s precious little left for welfare considerations.http://www.daff.gov.au/animal-plant-Federalhealth/welfare/animal_welfare_in_australia/achievements_of_the_australian_animal_welfare_strategy
  • Under the aegis of the COAG, the Primary Industries Ministerial Council comprised of various state and territory departments, has spent the better part of a decade attempting and so far failing to create uniform animal welfare standards, with input from a bewilderingly complex system of review comprising multiple agencies, industry groups and science research organisations. Animal welfare groups have extremely limited representation and the 2009 Gemmell Review of the Strategy, p18 http://www.daff.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/1935591/review-aaws.pdfnoted that there was “concern expressed that AAWS has not attempted to address key issues related to animal protection in Australia by not challenging the status quo - for example whether various activities related to animals are inherently cruel and should be stopped. This was associated with a concern that the process was weighted in favour of industry and that it was inappropriate to have an industry department responsible for animal welfare (as it will tend to favour the views of the industry). An independent government body was preferred.” As a result of this recommendation the new AAWS Advisory Committee was formed;http://www.australiananimalwelfare.com.au/content/advisory-committeeof the 15 members, only two are directly involved in animal welfare advocacy, the majority again, originate from industry and research backgrounds.One could be cynical that the eye-brow raising time delays in establishing uniform animal welfare standards causes no hardship to commercial or research interests. In the meantime, state-based codes of practice, where they exist, remain the main guide for agri-businesses.Animal Health AustraliaIf that wasn’t confusing enough, there is also a strange hybrid body, Animal Health Australia (AHA) that also has significant input into animal welfare standards.http://www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au/about-us/Animal Health Australia (AHA) is a not-for-profit public company established by the Australian Government, state and territory governments and major national livestock industry organisations.According to its website, AHA manages more than 50 national programs on behalf of its members that improve animal and human health, biosecurity, market access, livestock welfare, productivity, and food safety and quality.AHA Board members are appointed by the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Directors have combined expertise in major live export markets, industry processing and marketing, intensive livestock production, government networks, legislation and policy development processes, animal health services, agricultural and medical biotechnology, quality systems in animal health and strategic, economic and financial management skills.The Board of Directors are drawn from livestock industries, Department of Primary Industries bureaucrats and vet science researchers.Members of this company include state, territory and federal departments of primary industry representatives, and livestock industries such as the Australian Alpaca Association, Australian Chicken Meat Federation, Australian Dairy Farmers, Australian Duck Meat Association, Australian Egg Corporation, Australian Lot Feeders’ Association, Australian Pork, Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia. So nothing to worry about then… With no representation from animal welfare advocates at all, animal welfare clearly comes a distant second and presumably only if it coincides with improving profits. In establishing and participating in this framework, all levels of government are complicit in legitimising industry practices that entrench cruelty to animals under the 1984 doublespeak of “animal welfare”. So let us move onto
  • The NSW Framework – POCTAAIn NSW, animal cruelty laws are found in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 NSW. The Act and its regulations define what is lawful and unlawful cruelty. Whilst POCTAA does cover basic welfare in relation to the unlawful infliction of pain, the provision of adequate food, water, shelter, exercise and the provision of veterinary treatment, there are significant exemptions, particularly in relation to animals known as “stock”. S. 4. 1 (d) defines “Stock animal" as an animal which belongs to the class of animals comprising cattle, horses, sheep, goats, deer, pigs and poultry. That is, those we eat. There’s a surprise.All factory-farmed “stock” are excluded from protections that mandate periodic release from confinement, allowing for exercise. This of course makes a life spent confined in battery cages and sow stalls completely lawful. Animals living in such confined conditions experience stress and much greater risk of disease. The stress manifests itself in a variety of physical acts that then results in further lawfully cruel activities such as de-beaking, tail docking and teeth removal. Such lawful confinement and mutilation maximises profits, a clear case of corporate greed going hand in hand with state-sanctioned cruelty. And just in case that wasn’t enough to ensure that agri-business profits aren’t threatened, there is the coverall contained in S.4(2)(d) whereby if a defendant is able to establish that they were not acting in a manner in which the animal is unreasonably, unnecessarily or unjustifiably inflicted with pain, then no unlawful cruelty occurred. This phrase provides cover for most agricultural practices that involve the inflicting of pain and stress such as mulesing, castration, withholding of feed to spur egg production, periods of little or no lighting to manipulate natural cycles and behaviours.DPI Administers the ActPOCTAA is administered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries but enforcement is left to the RSPCA and their small number of inspectors and limited budget. DPI is a huge department with responsibilities for agriculture, fisheries, forests, mining, food and biosecurity and water catchments.When you click on their “about DPI” webpage, you find the statement;“The Department of Primary Industries works to develop and sustain diverse, profitable food and fibre industries, and ensures best practice management of our natural resources” http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/aboutusSo animal welfare comes under best practice management for profitable food. The animal welfare branch sits within Agriculture, under “livestock”. Please spend a few seconds contemplating this word live stock - a collective term for sentient beings that are defined as walking food. (use cow protest hamburger image) http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/animal-welfareWithout wanting to labour the point, here is just one random sample of the animal health focus;Factsheet 1154 “Biting insects … can cause major economic loss to pig farmers” and …skin lesions can downgrade the value of (carcasses).” The value of the corpse is worthy of more concern than the suffering of the live animal. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/pigs/health/biting-insects
  • The DPI is also charged with developing Animal Welfare Codes of Practice for the commercial use of animals. These Codes of Practice are only enforceable when scheduled in the Act, otherwise they are merely “best practice” industry standards. Prosecutions are rare even where codes are not scheduled due to the reluctance to challenge industry standards.  The codes are primarily developed with a view to maximizing profit, not animal welfare. For example the Animal Welfare Code of Practice- Commercial Pig Production is listed in Schedule 2 of the Act, and therefore has legal force and sanction. Under cl 16(2) of this Code, a pregnant sow is allowed a mere .6m x 2.2m; so little space in her stall that she can barely move more than one or two steps.  Other codes and regulations allow a multitude of cruel but legal practices because they are seen to be economically necessary. We cut the flesh off sheep’s backsides, we lop tails, we chop off testicles, burn off beak tips, all without pain relief because that would have an unreasonable impact on profit margins.
  • The broiler (or meat) chicken industry is an excellent case study in what happens when profit-driven corporations have the support of government to create a living hell for the animals in their care.There was a time when chicken meat was a luxury. Roast chicken on a Sunday was a real treat. Chicken was for restaurant meals and the nugget was not yet invented.All this changed with the introduction of industrial methods of mass animal production, gradually changing the face of agriculture in the last century. Animals are densely packed at close quarters in enclosed sheds where exercise such as the stretching of wings or moving freely about is virtually impossible, but of course, this does not constitute a breach of the Act.,Nor can they express natural behaviours such as nesting, roosting, dust bathing is impossible, and where lighting, heating, food and water are closely controlled to optimise growth rather than comfort.With accelerated breeding programs commencing in the 1950’s, producers were able to reduce maturing time from hatchling to plate ready broiler. A backyard chicken has a potential lifespan of http://www.spca.org.nz/AnimalCare/ChickenCare.aspx between 8 to 15 years, depending upon the breed. By a process of intensive genetic selection for larger, earlier maturing birds, broiler chickens are ready for slaughter at an average of 49 days of age. Yes, that’s right, a possible 7 years of life down to 7 weeks.
  • From Animals Australia factsheet: Over 50 years ago it took 98 days for a chicken to grow to 1.6kg. By 1986, due to selective breeding, it only took 37 days. Baby birds, who still chirp and have soft feathers, have the bodies of adult birds. This unnatural growth rate puts enormous pressure on the heart and immature skeleton and is the cause of many health problems.Extreme selection pressure for large breast muscles has further distorted the anatomy of these animals and puts great pressure on their developing legs. They often therefore crouch down with their large breast on the floor of the shed. This frequent contact with the floor of the shed may lead to painful ulceration of the skin known as breast blister.http://www.animalsaustralia.org/factsheets/broiler_chickens.phpBroiler chicken breeding stock produce fertile eggs at 24 weeks of age with a maximum lifespan of 64 weeks, http://www.baiada.com.au/although I am not sure how the animal can survive for that long with its accelerated growth rates. Well, it appears that the solution is for hens to be kept permanently hungry on low protein diets. To quote Maximising Productivity in Broiler Breeders http://sydney.edu.au/vetscience/apss/documents/2003/APSS2003-hocking-pp34-41.pdf (Hocking, Australian Poultry Science Symposium 2003)concerns have been expressed that the degree of feed restriction is sufficiently severe to represent a welfare problem. So quite cruel but apparently not in breach of PoCtAA s.8 requirement that animals are to be provided with sufficient food; S8. (1) A person in charge of an animal shall not fail to provide the animal with food, drink or shelter, or any of them, which, in each case, is proper and sufficient and which it is reasonably practicable in the circumstances for the person to provide. Maximum penalty: 250 penalty units in the case of a corporation and 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both, in the case of an individual.
  • The Model Code of Practice for Domestic Poultry Under cl 26 of PoCtAA General Regulations (2006), the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry has been adopted as a guideline for the purposes of section 34A (1) of the Act. This allows any failure of compliance of the Code to be submitted as evidence of a breach of the Act in regards to animal welfare. 34A Guidelines relating to welfare of farm or companion animals (1) The regulations may prescribe guidelines, or may adopt a document in the nature of guidelines or a code of practice as guidelines, relating to the welfare of species of farm or companion animals.(2) Before any regulations are made as referred to in subsection (1), the Animal Welfare Advisory Council, and representatives of any relevant livestock industry, are to be given an opportunity to review and comment on the provisions of the proposed regulation relating to the welfare of species of farm or companion animals.(3) Compliance, or failure to comply, with any guidelines prescribed or adopted by the regulations for the purposes of subsection (1) is admissible in evidence in proceedings under this Act of compliance, or failure to comply, with this Act or the regulations.Industry is given significant input into the guidelines. When you look at the Code, it becomes quite clear that animal welfare concerns are very much subject to commercial interests.In order to protect the poultry industry for prosecution under the s.8 POCTAA, “proper and sufficient” food requirements, Cl 9 of the Code states that:Poultry other than newly hatched birds must have access to food at least once in each 24 hour period. The complete withholding of food for longer periods is not acceptable except in the case of broiler breeder birds or layer pullets, where skip-a-day feeding is an acceptable industry practice for maintaining bird health and productivity,So, this provides a defence to any allegations of unlawful cruelty despite the fact that the direct consequences of the breeding program requires the breeding birds to be kept on a severely restricted food intake that would ordinarily attract the attention of animal welfare authorities.The current Model Code of Practice was developed in 2002 and is currently under review. There is no information forthcoming about when this review is likely to commence. One of the frustrations in animal law activism is actually getting information from the bureaucracies.In one example cited by Glenys Oogjes, an animal welfare advocate and member of Reference Group for Land Transport of Livestock Standards and Guidelines, Australian Land Transport Standards and Guidelines: Is the new review process providing protection for transported farm animals? By Glenys Oogjes Executive Director, Animals Australia and member of the Reference Group for the Land Transport of Livestock Standards and Guidelines. p9Oogjes raises concerns that even as an expert member of the group reference group she was not given access to the design of scientific research into the animal welfare aspects of transporting “spent broilers’ to slaughter. The commissioned research was not revealed nor published and it appears that there will be no change to standards such as allowing birds to be deprived of water for a period of up to 24 hours prior to slaughter.In her words (p9)” this new review process is not about science informing and guiding needed improvements to animal welfare. Rather in my view, science has been commissioned to shore up a preferred industry practice and thus to provide a veneer of respectability to the blocking of logical humane reform. “
  • The two main players in this industry are Ingham Enterprises Pty Ltd and Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd. Between them they control 70% of the meat chicken market. Both are private, family-owned companies. They both engage in what is known as “vertical integration” meaning that they have commercial interest in all aspects of the industry’; feedmilling, broiler and breeder farms, hatcheries, processing plants and protein recovery (I love that term) for fertilisers, stock and pet food.All figures/details sourced from http:www.baiada.com.au/ and www.Inghams.com.auThese two family companies have spent the last thirty years buying up the industry, taking over smaller operators and creating in effect, a duopoly. Baiada recently succeeded in taking over a large competitor Bartter owner of Steggles Chicken despite an initial refusal by the ACCC, due to concerns about market dominance.http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2009/07/01/accc-approval-for-baiada-bartter-deal-sees-new-chicken-leader-created.html\\Profits look good with Australians now eating more chicken than any other meat and this trend is expected to continue with consumption forecast to increase by 10% to 2014/15. Almost half a billion chickens are slaughtered for food each year.Inghams has an annual turnover of $1.9 Billion and has long standing relationships with Woolworths, Coles, KFC, McDonald’s and Red Rooster. The annual turnover of chicken meat industry in Australia is $3.6 billion. The industry’s estimated retail value of chicken meat is $4.5 billion. The industry also generates 40,000 jobs. This is serious money and it is predicated on maximising profits by developing the largest chickens in the shortest possible time, eating the cheapest food and living in the most cramped conditions possible to sustain life. As we have seen, the entire Australian animal welfare regulatory framework supports and encourages practices that elevate profit margins at the expense of our fellow sentient beings.
  • As animal lawyers we must challenge this state-sanctioned cruelty. Without standing, our options are limited. The recent “Free to Roam” consumer rights case was a great example of innovative thinking. In Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Turi Foods Pty Ltd (No 2) [2012] FCA 19 it was agreed that Turi Foods has engaged in misleading and deceptive advertising under s.52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) by claiming that their chickens were free to roam, whereas in fact they were stocked to the maximum allowed in the code, which precluded anything resembling freedom to roam… Challenging Speciesism, ideas for law reform: And now I would like to introduce Mark Pearson, Executive Director (not CEO) Animal Liberation and Vice President of the recently established political Party: the Animal Justice Party who will speak about when Statute attracts internal and external scrutiny through grass roots activities.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Animals as clients?Challenging Speciesism, state-sanctioned cruelty and corporategreed
    • 2. DisclaimerThis presentation is provided for the purposes ofgeneral information and education, and is notintended as specific legal advice on any matter. Ifyou or your client’s have a legal problem youshould consult a lawyer.To the extent permissible by law, the NorthernRivers Community Legal Centre disclaims allliability for any detriment arising from relianceupon this publication.
    • 3. Animals are commodities, not clients• Animals are property• They have no legal capacity and no standing as legal persons• Animals suffer from speciesism• human interests are prioritised above animal welfare. Source: http://wigglypups.typepad.com/wiggly_pups/2008/03/animals-are-jus.html
    • 4. Intensive farming systemsSource: http://maggieblanck.com/Land/WE.html
    • 5. 75 cent chicken bred to live for no more than 7weeks, allotted less than an A4 paper sized spaceby slaughter, standing in excrement, with cardio-vascular and skeletal strain caused by breeding forquick maturing large breasts and thighs rather thanthe ability to walk
    • 6. Government Sanctioned Animal Exploitation and Cruelty• Animal welfare laws are state-based• Australian Animal Welfare Strategy:“the ethics of animal welfare come from recognising that animals are sentient—that is, they have feelings and are able to experience suffering and pleasure” v“Australia’s approach to developing and promoting sound animal welfare standards is to ensure that proper consideration is given to factors such as science, practicability, culture, economics, community values and ethics.”
    • 7. The Australian Animal Welfare Strategy explained.Sort of…
    • 8. The NSW Framework• Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 NSW• “Stock animal" as an animal which belongs to the class of animals comprising cattle, horses, sheep, goats, deer, pigs and poultry.• All factory-farmed “stock” are excluded from protections that mandate periodic release from confinement, allowing for exercise
    • 9. Animal Welfare Codes of Practice• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Animals at Saleyards• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Cattle• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Farmed Buffalo• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Farming of Ostriches• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Feral Livestock Animals• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Husbandry of Captive-Bred Emus• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Intensive Husbandry of Rabbits• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Land Transport of Cattle• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Land Transport of Horses• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Land Transport of Pigs• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Land Transport of Poultry• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Livestock at Slaughtering Establishment• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pigs• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: The Camel• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: The Farming of Deer• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: The Goat• Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: The Sheep
    • 10. Broiler Chickens; A case study in lawful cruelty and corporate greedSource: www.animalsaustralia.org/media/photos.php?photo=Broiler+Chickens
    • 11. • Over 50 years ago it took 98 days for a chicken to grow to 1.6kg• By 1986, due to selective breeding, it took only 37 days• This unnatural growth rate puts enormous pressure on the heart and immature skeleton and is the cause of many health problems.• cruel but apparently not in breach of PoCtAA s.8
    • 12. The Model Code of Practice for Domestic Poultry• Industry is given significant input into the guidelines.• Poultry other than newly hatched birds must have access to food at least once in each 24 hour period. The complete withholding of food for longer periods is not acceptable except in the case of broiler breeder birds or layer pullets, where skip-a-day feeding is an acceptable industry practice for maintaining bird health and productivity
    • 13. The Broiler (Meat) Chicken Industry
    • 14. Challenging Speciesism- Grass roots activism against animal cruelty Source:https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo. php?fbid=448203018768&set=a.4482022087 68.216445.101225828768&type=3&theater