Hansard of the Legislative Council
Thursday 3rd April 2008

Second Reading
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - There are supporters and detractors for this bill amongst my constituents in Rosevears, Mr President, but most see these amendments as one or two more steps towards the inevitable - laws that reflect the rapidly changing view of how animals should be treated. 

It is argued by many people that consumers will eventually demand the elimination of farming practices such as battery hen egg production, mulesing as part of wool production, and some of the procedures in the pig meat industry, among others.  Some people therefore will see this bill as a lost opportunity.  Why cannot Tasmania lead in humane egg production, they ask.  Why cannot this State with its clean green image lead as a producer of animal products which takes into account some form of advanced animal rights? 

Future amendments to animal welfare legislation are up to the lobbyists and the consumers, Mr President, but I do not think that anyone here can fail to support this bill as far as it goes.  However, I do stress there does seem to be a groundswell of opinion around the world and in Tasmania over animal welfare and the type of products that the public will condone, rightly or wrongly.  For example, the city of Chicago in the United States has banned the French duck and goose gourmet product foie gras.  There is a perception that its production involves restraining the birds and force-feeding them through a funnel to enlarge their livers to create the delicacy.  I would suggest that the foie gras industry has stuffed up its public relations campaign, Mr President, and perhaps the current fuss could have been prevented by appropriate laws in France some years ago.  It seems that the public perception about most foie gras production is a bit of an exaggeration and does not really indicate the full picture. 

Animal welfare is becoming more based on consumer perceptions than fact, and the Tasmanian Government and producers need to be aware of this.  I would suggest they should be spending more time predicting the inevitable pressures and legislating early to head off consumer boycotts, but that is an aside.  As I indicated earlier, this bill should be supported because it is a step in what most people see as the right direction. 

I have had opinions from several sides of the argument, Mr President, and I tend to be optimistic about several aspects of this bill.  Firstly, the ability of prosecutions to be brought against the owners and operators or corporate bodies of premises where infringements occur is a significant amendment.  This overcomes the previous situation where an employee was liable for animal welfare breaches when they might not have been in control of resources to prevent an infringement - for example, the purchase of hay and fodder.  This amendment will bring greater protection to animals in the corporate farming sector. 

Another major amendment is that there will be new standards for animal welfare for species, and these standards will include musts for the maintenance of animal welfare.  People will be able to be prosecuted for failing to maintain a standard.  Previously a person could be prosecuted for animal cruelty which would need to be proved in court.  This will clarify the position of standards and codes of practice. 

As we have heard from the member for Rowallan, the rodeo industry has been singled out for mention in the act following two welfare incidents in 2006.  Significantly, provisions for the operations of rodeos are defined and specified in the act rather than regulations and, as we have heard, a veterinarian will be required to be present at all rodeos.  There is a strong argument too, Mr President, for a targeted communications strategy to advise farmers in particular of the changes in animal welfare standards and jurisdictions.  Many of these amendments are significant in the emphasis they place on responsibility but they may not be clearly understood by some in the farming community so there is a definite need for clarification and explanation and education.  Really it is no use this House approving laws that are not clearly understood and which cannot be clearly enforced.

Mr President, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee with its members representing a wide range of groups with an interest in animal welfare has undertaken a comprehensive review of these amendments, as we heard today in our briefings, and has made this wide range of recommendations to the minister.  As I said earlier, these amendments are a timed step towards an inevitable outcome which will be ultimately driven by consumers and what they are prepared to pay for.  I support these changes and anticipate more.