Government ignorance sees animal activist campaigns increase

The battles of David and Goliath loom for the animal welfare and environmental movement in 2022.

Omicron and Delta pushed critical issues out of the mainstream media, covering mega-developments with any serious investigation. Major conservation organizations have focused on climate change, with biodiversity taking a sad second place. Animal welfare has practically disappeared.

Animal Liberation is a very long-standing organization that focuses on animal rights. But their remit has expanded significantly as the organization deals with important developments impacting not just domestic animals, conservation issues and wildlife.

Additionally, the organization deals with land clearing, factory farms, puppy farms, greyhound racing tracks, aboriginal issues, koalas, and major state developments involving agricultural intensive industries.

In New South Wales, Animal Liberation has raised major objections to a massive planned poultry farm in Grenfell, an area that is part of a larger “chicken hub” according to regional campaigns manager Lisa Ryan:

The Grenfell Poultry Farm will house up to 570,000 birds, with 40 tunnel-ventilated poultry houses and associated support infrastructure.

The New South Wales government has designated the project as a significant state development, which limits legal action. Gradually, the government established agricultural “zones” across the state for this specific type of thing.

Apart from the serious animal welfare issues, the impacts are huge and will be permanent. Land clearing, pollution, water use and pollution of surface and ground water, soils and biodiversity.

The Ministry of Primary Industries has set up a major project planning portal ‘committed to the protection and growth of agricultural industries.’ During the assessment of this huge poultry facility, the ministry raised concerns that can only be described as minimal.

The nearest farm sheds are 50 meters from the neighboring land boundary. Flooding was highlighted as a risk, with no provisions noted for the impact on bird welfare if residents had to evacuate.

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One megalitre of water will be needed per day for the proposed development, sourced from the water in the central plateaus. This is the equivalent of 1,000,000 liters which would fit a ten meter high, ten meter long, ten meter wide container weighing 1,000 metric tons.

Conditions of consent “should include recommendations to minimize noise impacts”. An estimate of the noise generated by 570,000 birds, including roosters, should show extraordinary levels. The smell of this large number of birds is only recognized as a problem that requires a plan.

One can only imagine the stench and air pollution resulting from the droppings of 570,000 birds.

Any biodiversity issues can be offset with credits or payments to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust.

Animal welfare issues are referenced by the ministry as ‘model code of practice for animal welfare: domestic poultry’a prescribed guideline that is not mandatory and is currently under review.

The promoter of this massive project is the Baiada family, who own one of Australia’s largest poultry empires, supplying Coles, Woolworths, KFC, Subway and McDonalds. The group supplies its chicken products under the Steggles and Lilydale brands.

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According to a media report:

“ATO tax transparency data shows that Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd reported revenue of $10.9 billion between fiscal years 2013/2014 and 2018/2019.”

Given the scale of the proposed Grenfell development, Lisa Ryan says “We will have large industrial areas resembling war zones across NSW years from now”.

Queensland Animal Liberation works on projects to eliminate koalas.

Chay Neal, executive director of the Queensland branch, says land clearing for new developments is a major issue:

‘Large trees are being felled on a small number of acres, but when you add up the number of cuts in 77 council areas each month, approved by the council, the corridors disappear with the habitat.’

The protection of koalas in Queensland can only be described as a huge paper trail leading nowhere. An eight-page fact sheet produced by the Environmental Defenders Office highlights the complexities.

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Mapping, strategies, recommendations, regulations, planning laws, council checks, koala advisory council, koala expert panel, koala roundtables – it all comes together to ensure that the protection of koalas in Queensland is practically non-existent.

With a compensation policy similar to NSW, developments in high quality koala areas can be achieved through financial settlement.

Chai says:

“We are doing our best to combat the clearing of habitat for koalas and other indigenous biodiversity, birds and cultural heritage.

We are also seeing massive land clearing for the cattle industry.

In December, the Palaszczuk government revealed that 680,688 hectares of state forests and woodlands had been destroyed between July 2018 and June 2019. An area five times larger than the Brisbane City Council area.

Queensland Conservation Council director Dave Copeman said:

“These data reveal that deforestation in Queensland is still out of control and poses a serious risk to vulnerable wildlife, carbon release and climate change.

It is disappointing that beef industry groups such as Agforce are falsely claiming that there is no deforestation in Queensland, even before this report was published.

Politicians are ignoring calls, emails and requests from Animal Liberation. Meetings are refused.

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Chay Neal says:

“Without an upper house, just two green MPs and an unsympathetic opposition, it’s very difficult to get change at the political level.”

But community support is growing exponentially for the organization. The New South Wales and Queensland offices report that many of the requests for help are coming from farming communities and grassroots organizations tackling a range of issues.

Lisa Ryan says:

“Corrupt councils are not listening to local communities, I think there is a definite change in attitude with people acknowledging that there are goals we can agree on and those goals are our mutual goal .

In New South Wales, this rapprochement has proven to be very fruitful.

In Queensland, the scale of public bidding directed against contentious council projects, including a puppy farm, led to the project being cancelled.

Lisa Ryan says:

“The noise and the pressure are pushing decision makers to do more in-depth assessments and better terms of consent. It is vitally important that people make formal protests.

Lisa and Chay report growing public concern over the disappearance of koalas. The organization also focuses on kangaroos and works with an international coalition campaigning to stop the mass slaughter of the species.

Sue Arnold is an AI columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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