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I recently posted an article containing the text of a letter I had sent to Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford.

My key point was that the website of Agriculture Victoria claims that exemptions to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act do not permit cruelty to occur.

That claim seems to ignore the fact that the relevant exemptions, relating to practices permitted under “other legislation, codes of practice . . . and the Livestock Management Act Standards”, allow practices that cause certain animals to experience extreme pain and suffering.

How can it not be considered cruel to deliberately inflict pain and suffering on another being?

Yet that is what our state government is claiming.

Their comments remind me of Don Watson’s book Death Sentence: the decay of public language“, which has been summarised by the publishers (in part) this way:

“Today’s corporations, government departments, news media, and, perhaps most dangerously, politicians, speak to each other and to us in cliched, impenetrable, lifeless sludge.”

Much of the so-called communication emanating from governments, corporations and increasingly the broader community, to the extent it can be comprehended at all, does not reflect reality.

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that Ms Pulford has responded to my letter, for which I’m grateful.

On the other hand, I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that her letter suffers from the same “decay of public language” highlighted by Watson, along with certain omissions.

Firstly, she did not respond to my suggestions:

  • Agriculture Victoria amend its website by noting that cruelty is permitted when it involves animals bred for food and other purposes.
  • Alternatively, simply remove the exemptions.

Secondly, she stated that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act “applies equally to all species and use of animal”, when the exemptions dictate otherwise.

Thirdly, she told me what I had already stated in my letter, which is that standards for the treatment of animals are specified in codes of practice for the “welfare” of animals.

Something that’s a little frightening, which highlights some of the horror the poor animals experience, is the fact that she notes (with my underlines) the codes of practice have been developed “to ensure that the appropriate levels of animal welfare are detailed in each code for the particular species or use”.

So for some animals, it seems it is “appropriate” that we inflict pain and suffering.

Imagine you are an animal for whom such an approach has been decreed by those in power. Those with the ability and desire to abuse you are fully within their rights to do so.

She mentioned that the livestock codes of practice are being reviewed at the national level, and are being replaced with Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. I had referred to an example of those arrangements in my letter, noting that they allow (in respect of cattle at certain ages or under particular circumstances) castration, dehorning, disbudding (prior to horns growing) and hot iron branding, all without anaesthetic.

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Unsurprisingly, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was mentioned. Ms Pulford said they should only be contacted in relation to matters involving non-commercial or domestic animals, and that the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (what a mouthful) should be contacted in relation to livestock issues.

So the government department that is responsible for “economic development and job creation across Victoria” is also responsible for the well being of animals who are regarded as products to be slaughtered and exploited in other ways. What hope do the animals have when there is no one officially responsible for protecting their true interests?

In any event, the RSPCA earns royalties from the livestock sector in exchange for its “paw of approval” product endorsements. Is it just me, or does that also seem an “inappropriate” arrangement to you?

Perhaps the most extraordinary claim in the letter was that “animal welfare is a high priority for the Andrews Labor Government”.

Why do I consider that claim extraordinary?

Well, the Andrews Labor government is one of two in Australia that permit jumps racing for horses.

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Also, the Andrews Labor government is one of three in Australia that permit duck shooting on public lands.

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Conclusion

As governments, elected representatives, and the public sector in general have established a legal framework that permits and condones the mental and physical abuse of animals, they must acknowledge that such standards exist, and stop pretending that we live in a civilised society.

We are quick to condemn other nations and cultures for what we consider to be heinous acts of cruelty, when we need look no further than our own backyard to see equally reprehensible acts that are enshrined in the laws that govern our way of life.

It’s time to either wake up and change, or stop pretending.

I feel that the march toward the former is gaining momentum, and am hopeful it will soon become the norm.

Author

Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Scribd, Slideshare, New Matilda, Rabble and Viva la Vegan)

Update

10th July, 2016: Additional comments on the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Sources

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, http://economicdevelopment.vic.gov.au/about-us

Reports on RSPCA commissions:

“RSPCA stamp ‘dupes buyers'”, Alexandra Smith, Sydney Morning Herald, 9th January 2012, smh.com.au/business/rspca-stamp-dupes-buyers-20120108-1pq6z.html

“Consumers duped by RSPCA, farmers claim” Alexandra Smith, Sydney Morning Herald, 9th January 2012, smh.com.au/environment/animals/consumers-duped-by-rspca-farmers-claim-20120108-1pq77.html

Images

“Aubrey”, Pete Crosbie, Willowite Animal Sanctuary

Branding a calf | © anrodphoto | iStock

Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

Coalition Against Duck Shooting