Animal Justice opposes the cheap, loose netting commonly used by farmers to keep flying foxes away from orchards.Two days out from the election, the Baird government signed a deal with NSW Farmers for more flying fox netting, non-mandatory animal welfare standards, and the taxpayer-funded shooting or trapping of pest animals.
Those policies will sit rather uncomfortably in some quarters of the new-look upper house.
“Government should not be getting into bed with agri-business,” says Animal Justice’s Mark Pearson, who won the final upper house seat on Friday.
He says the deal on non-mandatory animal welfare standards is “absolutely outrageous and unacceptable”, because it is a way for farmers to keep animals in conditions that are unacceptable to the community just because it is common farming practice.
Animal Justice opposes the cheap, loose netting commonly used by farmers to keep bats away from orchards. “They should not be allowed because flying foxes often become trapped and strangulate,” he says.
The Animal Justice bat policy instead promotes the use of sound or vibration to protect fruit trees, or canopy or tunnel netting.
The party also has strong views on pest animal management. “We brought these animals here and they have a right to be looked after, in the same way we look after fluffy dogs,” says Pearson.
He argues that shooting, trapping and poisoning “feral” animals has been used in Australia for 100 years, and has failed.
“What has worked around the world is immuno-sterility programs, not sending Rambos up in helicopters with guns,” he says, citing the control of possums in New Zealand, and wild horses in the Rocky Mountains.
When deputy premier and Nationals leader Troy Grant trumpeted the memorandum of understanding between the NSW government and NSW Farmers, he likely anticipated a very different political landscape.
Barry O’Farrell’s Liberals and Nationals government had been forced to horse-trade with the Shooters and Fishers and Christian Democrats to get legislation passed.
This farcically led to O’Farrell promising to allow shooting in national parks, and then overturning the policy after a public outcry.
The Shooters and Fishers punished the government, blocking key legislation. Worse, in the Nationals eyes, the minor party began courting the Nationals core constituency of farmers.
NSW Farmers was mad with the Nationals for failing to act on land clearing laws. The Baird government’s election eve deal with NSW Farmers was designed to smooth things over.
The Shooters and Fishers had run a big campaign in the bush, in a bid to lift its vote and win the final seat in the upper house. Instead, voters also elected a party that had campaigned on opposing hunting in national parks.
Neither the Shooters and Fishers (two seats) or Animal Justice (one seat) hold the balance of power, but each is expected to use the platform of Parliament to make a lot of noise.
NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson says farmers expect the Baird government to honour its deal. “Mr Pearson will just be one voice,” she said.
She described him as “fervently anti-agriculture”, and accused Pearson of “having taken part in illegal farm raids”.
The Greens MP John Kaye welcomed Pearson to the upper house, and said he was “a high energy animal activist who will add focus to our work”.
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