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Government ignorance sees animal activist campaigns rise

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed that over half a million hectares of woodland had been destroyed between 2018-2019 (Image by Dan Jensen)

David and Goliath battles are looming for the animal welfare and environmental movement in 2022.

Omicron and Delta have pushed critical issues out of mainstream media, giving mega-developments cover from any serious investigation. Major conservation organisations have focused on climate change, with biodiversity taking a dismal second place. Animal welfare has all but disappeared.  

Animal Liberation is a very long-standing organisation with a dedicated focus on animal rights. But their remit has broadened considerably as the organisation deals with significant developments impacting not only domestic animals, conservation issues and wildlife.

As well, the organisation is dealing with land clearing, factory farms, puppy farms, greyhound racing tracks, Indigenous issues, koalas and state significant developments involving intensive farming industries.

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

The Grenfell poultry breeder farm will house up to 570,000 birds, with 40 tunnel ventilated poultry sheds plus associated supporting infrastructure.

 

NSW Government has designated the project a state significant development which limits legal action. Gradually, the Government has been establishing farming “zones” across the state for this exact type of thing.

 

Aside from the serious animal welfare issues, the impacts are huge and will be permanent. Land clearing, pollution, water use and pollution of surface and groundwater, soil and biodiversity.

The Department of Primary Industries has established a major projects planning portal ‘committed to the protection and growth of agricultural industries.’ In assessing this enormous poultry facility, the department raised concerns that can only be described as minimal.

The nearest farm sheds are 50 metres from the boundary of neighbouring lands. Flooding has been highlighted as a risk, with no provision noted for the impact on bird welfare if residents are required to evacuate. 

One megalitre of water will be required per day for the proposed development, sourced from central tablelands water. This is the equivalent of 1,000,000 litres which would fit a container ten metres high, ten metres long, ten metres wide weighing 1,000 metric tonnes. 

Consent requirements ‘should include recommendations to minimise noise impacts’. A guestimate of the noise generated by 570,000 birds, including roosters, would have to demonstrate extraordinary levels. The odour of this huge number of birds is only recognised as an issue that requires a plan.

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

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

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

The proponent of this massive project is the Baiada family, which owns one of the largest poultry empires in Australia, supplying Coles, Woolworths, KFC, Subway and McDonalds. The group supplies its chicken products under the Steggles and Lilydale brands.

According to one media report:

‘ATO tax transparency data shows Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd declared an income of $10.9 billion between financial years 2013/2014 to 2018/2019.’

Given the scale of the proposed Grenfell development, Lisa Ryan says that ‘we will in years have major industrial zones looking like war zones across NSW’.

Queensland Animal Liberation is dealing with projects destined to wipe out koalas.

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

‘Large trees are being taken down in small numbers of hectares, but when you add up the numbers being cleared in 77 council areas every month, rubber-stamped by Council, corridors are disappearing along with habitat.’

Koala protection 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.

Mapping, strategies, recommendations, regulations, planning laws, council controls, koala advisory council, koala expert panel, koala round table meetings — all combine to ensure koala protection in Queensland is virtually non-existent.  

With a similar offset policy to NSW, developments in high-quality koala areas can be made via a financial settlement. 

Chay says:

‘We’re doing our best to address the clearing of koala habitat and other biodiversity, birdlife and Indigenous cultural heritage.

 

We’re also seeing massive land clearing for the beef industry.’

In December, the Palaszczuk Government revealed that 680,688 hectares of the state’s forest and woodland had been destroyed between July 2018 and June 2019. An area five times the size of the Brisbane City Council area. 

Queensland Conservation Council director, Dave Copeman, said:

‘This data reveals that deforestation in Queensland is still out of control and is a serious risk to vulnerable wildlife, turbo-charging carbon release and climate change.

 

It’s disappointing that beef producer industry groups, such as Agforce, have been falsely claiming there is no deforestation in Queensland, even before this report was released.’

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

Chay Neal says:

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

But community support is growing exponentially for the organisation. Both NSW and Queensland offices report that many of the requests for help are coming from the farming communities and grassroots organisations fighting a range of issues.

Lisa Ryan says:

‘Corrupt councils are not listening to local communities, I think there’s a definite change of attitude with people recognising there are goals we can agree on and those goals are our mutual focus.

 

In NSW, this coming together has proved very successful.’

In Queensland, the sheer extent of public submissions directed at objectional council projects including a puppy farm resulted in the cancellation of the project.

Lisa Ryan says:

‘Noise and pressure push decision-makers to do more thorough assessments and better consent conditions. It’s vitally important for people to make formal protests.’

Both Lisa and Chay report a growing public concern that koalas are disappearing. The organisation also has a strong focus on kangaroos and is working with an international coalition campaigning to stop the massive slaughter of the species.

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

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