Considering the comments posted on previous articles on The Punch, it’s safe to say that the issue of animal experimentation for medical research is a controversial topic, often generating strong views from largely polarised positions.
When it comes to the specific testing of cosmetics on animals however, clearly the jury is in. The vast majority of us consider it cruel and unnecessary to subject animals to painful tests merely for the sake of our own vanity.
In fact, in late 2008 Humane Research Australia commissioned a public opinion poll to gauge the public’s understanding and view of animal experimentation. As expected, 87 per cent of respondents were opposed to the use of animals in testing cosmetics.
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They say that sheep aren’t very bright. Some of their supporters aren’t that sharp either.
They don’t seem to get politics. They don’t get that the only logical result of their campaign to unseat this apparently heartless Federal Government would be the installation of another Federal Government which cares even less about how animals are treated once they are exported overseas. I can understand people being angry, but the loss of perspective and absence of thought on this issue is quite remarkable.
Talkback and the letters pages are jammed, and Government MPs are being bombarded by thousands of emails and form letters denouncing them as callous and complicit through their negligence in the brutal slaughter of several thousand sheep in Pakistan. Just 18 months after footage emerged showing Australian cattle being hacked to death in Indonesia, the call to end live exports is louder than it was last year. It was pretty loud the first time around. Much of it is understandable but a lot of it is just ludicrously over the top.
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The title of ABC’s Four Corners program ‘Another bloody business…’ really said it all. For the second year running viewers were shocked and appalled by vision of horrific treatment of Australian exported animals – this time sheep – and this time in Pakistan.
Many Australians are today outraged that the ALP, Coalition and rural lobby groups continue to defend an indefensible trade where the cost of ‘mistakes’ and ‘isolated incidents’ is not determined in dollars and cents, but in mass animal cruelty and suffering.
For years, Animals Australia and RSPCA Australia have spoken about the unacceptable risks involved in live animal export. The factors outside of our control once animals leave Australian shores are numerous. ‘Pakistan’ provided another chapter in an ongoing story few Australians will be proud to recount to our grandchildren.
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My childhood dog, Neddy, had manky bald bits and he’d scoot across the lawn on his bum whenever we had company. He was partial to trying to have sex with inappropriate things. But we could dress him up and he’d sigh with martyred forbearance and let us photograph him.
Our cats were called Soft and Stupid, and Hard and Hairy.
Later there was Sophie, and Fergus, and Sam. And of course long-forgotten goldfish who always got flushed. And rats called Romeo and Juliet. Juliet ate Romeo. I think it may have been my fault for forgetting to feed them.
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There has been recent public uproar over an experiment conducted at University of Adelaide. Researchers have shaken anaesthetised lambs to death in an attempt to prove whether shaking alone is sufficient to produce brain injury and mortality, or whether additional head impact is required.
To quote from the research paper itself, “Nine anaesthetised lambs were manually grasped under the axilla and vigorously shaken with sufficient force to snap the head back and forth onto the chest…”
During the experiment, three of the lambs died unexpectedly (to the researchers at least). The remaining lambs were killed after six hours and left overnight. The next day, brains, spinal cord and eyes were collected for examination.
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Lying on a cold table in an unfamiliar place and undergoing a core biopsy was probably one of the most traumatic events of my life. I was frightened, confused, hurting and, yes, I cried - but not just for myself.
As I lay there, experiencing a needle digging around inside me and having small pieces of flesh cut from my body, I thought about the animals in laboratories who are subjected to similar experiences.
Of course, I had been given some analgesic, the process was explained to me and ultimately it was for my own benefit… not so the case for lab animals.
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Australia is a proud and beautiful country. The people are warm, progressive, well-educated and known across the globe for their outstanding hospitality. It is no wonder that Australia ranks No 2 on the global human development index.
This is why the world watched in shock last year when we became aware of the horrific circumstances that Australia’s live export industry was willing to supply animals to Indonesia.
While Animals Australia’s investigation and the subsequent award-winning ABC Four Corners program generated outrage across Australia, the images of Australian cattle being eye-gouged, kicked, whipped and tortured created a similar outpouring of rage across the globe. The vision that we had of Australia as an ethical and forward-thinking nation changed in that moment.
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“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” So goes a rather weary old dog of a proverb attributed to Paul McCartney.
Admittedly, his sentiment makes me as misty-eyed as the next idealist softie. But in light of the latest abattoir cruelty scandal, I need to have a quiet word with Paul.
“Glass walls” don’t come much clearer than the hidden footage uncovered by the ABC and subsequently splattered across our news last week. You don’t exactly need Windex to see inside the pure barbarism of NSW’s Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors.
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Who would work in an abattoir?
Most of us have done jobs we didn’t want to do because we needed the cash. There are plenty of dirty, smelly, difficult, revolting jobs out there that usually get left to immigrants, to the uneducated, to the desperate.
Slaughtering animals is something most people would turn their noses up at, but someone has to do it.
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Once at an NRL match, Wests Tigers fullback Tim Brasher hurled a small novelty footy my way. Pretty sure the thing was intended for his nephew or cousin, but I snatched it, I took it home and that was that.
Leaving aside the fact that a Sydney rugby league fan actually got off his backside and went to a game, there is nothing remarkable about this anecdote. Finders, keepers. Especially at sporting venues.
Yet public sympathy today appears to be leaning heavily towards 14 year old obsessive Novak Djokovic fan Melissa Cook, who missed out on a shirt thrown her way. And public fury is being unleashed on the fan who snatched the shirt.
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Watch this. Now, do you have a dog? Did you get it from a pet store? Or online?
If you did get your dog from a petshop or ordered it online, there’s a strong chance you have unwittingly bought a dog from a puppy factory.
A puppy factory – like the dark satanic mills which ruthlessly exploited children of the Industrial Revolution – churns out cute designer crossbreeds which we all go goo and gah over. While the puppies mostly go on to have good lives with owners, walkies, grass, toys, food and vet care, the breeding animals do not. They exist for the sole purpose of breeding, and live in appalling conditions, in tiny cages, sometimes with barely enough food and water to sustain their horrible lives.
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Animal rights activists get a bad rap. Reactions to those who dare to speak out against animal abuse reveal a level of vitriol rarely aimed at any other group of social justice campaigners.
They are assumed to be a bunch of unwashed, dope-smoking, dole-bludging criminals.
‘Extremist’, ‘terrorist’ and ‘militant’ are the stock standard descriptors churned out whenever animal advocates engage in various forms of activism that challenge us to shake up our thinking.
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Sometimes, you wonder who the real animals are, and what kind of condition they keep themselves in.
On the weekend, I dropped my daughter at a friend’s birthday party at Lennon Brothers Circus. Lennon Brothers is one of the few remaining Australian circuses with animals, and a group of protestors had set up shop out the front.
Never in my life have I encountered such an unruly, rude rabble of misfits, thugs and foaming-at-the-mouth ideologues. Not content to peacefully pursue their aims, they actively victimised the poor helpless children attending the circus with some of the most vile slurs imaginable.
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We’re told that there are few things more enjoyable than a day at the races. Associated with the kind of devil-may-care japery that allows one to don a fine hat and drink bubbly before midday, racedays support that fine Australian tradition of shirking work in order to yell loudly at something somewhat sporty.
We frock up, we have a tipple and we take a punt. No one wears thongs.
On the surface, it all appears quite lovely and so terribly, terribly civilised.
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When Prime Minister Gillard defended the resumption of live exports to Indonesia, she was questioned by Greens MP Adam Bandt in Parliament about the use of stunning.
Bandt preceded his question with a claim: “In Australia, animals cannot be slaughtered unless they are stunned first because it is the humane thing to do.”
Gillard replied that [stunning] is widely used by not compulsory.
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It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the general public finds itself dismayed and outraged about our live export industry, which transports our happy, healthy cows to deepest darkest Asia to meet a cruel and violent death, at the same time as our government is preparing to transport our refugees to the very same region and it’s only the Greens and the usual bleeding-heart refo activists that are arcing up.
This week, we heard Senator Sarah Hanson-Young hopes to thwart the Government’s plan to send refugees to Malaysia – where refugee treatment includes the occasional caning – by introducing an amendment to the Migration Act that will oblige Julia Gillard to seek the Parliament’s permission before sending refugees to a third country.
The opposition will support Hanson-Young out of sheer contrarianism rather than concern for human rights. But she’ll take her support where she can get it, since the tens of thousands who signed online petitions and wrote to their local members begging them to save our cows don’t seem to have much compassion left over for the human cargo.
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After a maelstrom of mainstream media coverage and social media activism, the federal government has temporarily suspended the export of live cattle to Indonesia. The move follows the ABC’s documentary program Four Corners’ recent exposé of the live export trade in which shocking video footage obtained by Lyn White, director of Animals Australia, revealed cows being tortured to death in a slow and agonising manner.
The distressing images, which depicted barbaric practices that included whipping the cattle, gouging their eyes and slashing their tendons, raised the ire of so many people across the country that Animals Australia’s website collapsed from the sheer volume of traffic on the night the program screened.
Social media networks Facebook and Twitter quickly became campaign tools utilised by meat-eaters and vegans alike who united in protesting the horrendous cruelty inflicted on Australian cattle: within a week, more than 200,000 people had signed lobby group GetUp’s petition calling on the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to ban the export of live cattle to Indonesia and phase out the live export trade all together within three years, and independent MPs and the Greens introduced private members bills to ban all live exports to the country.
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I’m in a chopper flying low over the cattle yards of one of the biggest live exporters in the country. This cattle station is almost the size of a small European country. We’ve spent the day constructing new cattle yards about an hour’s dusty drive from the homestead - in one of the ‘near paddocks’.
It’s a long way from somewhere in the Top End, Northern Territory. The cattle here are tough. Brahman cross shorthorn. Their sweet faces and floppy ears belie their true grit; surviving on red-brown grass in 45 degree heat and semi-wild conditions.
These are the same breed of cattle shown in the vision aired on Four Corners on Monday night. Intelligent beasts being flayed and tortured - sickening images. Now we’ve all been whipped into a frenzy over it. We want to lash out. Like an animal running blindly with emotion we are bound to trip over. Banning the live meat exports to Indonesia makes as much sense as Chicago’s Prohibition laws: good intentions but disastrous results.
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Clover Moo here, reporting from the shady corner of the paddock. It’s been tough times for us cows. Yep, a real cattle dog of a week.
As if this year hasn’t been distressing enough with the supermarkets flogging my precious milk for $1 a litre, along come these revelations of brutality at Indonesian slaughterhouses.
I’ve known about this for years, of course. The rumours have been on the bovine grapevine for ages. Now the rumours are confirmed. We are being slaughtered like…like… like animals!
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It’s hard to know what the live animal export industry is more concerned about.
The fact that Australian animals are being tortured in Indonesia, or the fact that Australians now know that Australian animals are being tortured in Indonesia.
I have long been opposed to the live animal export industry.
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This story was written before I had seen the Four Corners special ‘A bloody business’. I had the intention of opening with a description of some of the footage shown in that program. Footage showing scenes of horrific cruelty in Indonesian slaughter houses. But I can’t do that. It was simply too horrible.
All I could think of was my student days studying the history of Germany during the 1930s and the rise of Nazism. The acquiescence that allowed the Holocaust to happen was on display during interviews with Australian cattle producers who were appalled by the slaughter conditions while perfectly happy to bank the money. These human scum, and in particular Meat and Livestock Corporation CEO Cameron Hall, rank among the worst excuses for human beings on the planet.
Rest assured, the remainder of this story will perhaps shock but there will be no graphic descriptions of cruelty.
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“Barbaric”, “cruel” and “blood sport”. Three of the typically sensationalist slogans that anti-jumps racing protest groups are likely to bandy about over the next few days of Warrnambool’s May Racing Carnival.
Why? Because Warrnambool’s famous annual event features jumps racing.
Jumps racing’s reputation has taken a pounding in recent years. Every incident represents an easy target for protest groups and a similarly easy headline for the mainstream media.
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Yesterday, I woke up, dynamited a few fish down the river and shone my magnifying glass on some ants. But the critter toll wasn’t high enough for my sadistic needs, so I tuned into Sky Racing and watched the jumps racing at Warrnambool.
And wouldn’t you know it, a horse was killed in the very first race. Its name was Shine the Armour. It should have been called Polish the Turd, because that’s what racing authorities have done with this sick, brutal so-called sport.
In 2009, after a comprehensive review, it was announced that jumps racing was to be banned in Victoria from 2010 onwards. What happened next quite simply defies all of the logic which normally prevails in public debate in Australia.
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It’s been a weird year for weather. Irrigators who haven’t been careful with what they wished for have had their biggest watery dreams overflow. “We need the rain” quickly morphed into “... but not that f..king much!”.
Still, there is one tiny group of Australians that has risked drowning not in floodwaters but in its own salivations as each new wave of rain fuels mounting excitement: the nation’s duck shooters.
Ducks love water and rain acts like an aphrodisiac to shooters. They are probably hard at it right now on a small patch of water near you. For people with a modicum of compassion, this brings the joy of ducklings, but duck shooters have other plans.
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The Spring Racing Carnival is well under way and the racing industry is doing its best to put on a brave face and pretend all is chipper.
But deep down in the racing industry, hidden behind the glamorous façade filled with celebrities, celebrations, fashion and booze, there looms a very dark secret that the industry is working hard to quell.
Racing lost its first line of defence when it negligently allowed jumps racing to continue in 2008 despite opposition dating back more than twenty years.
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There’s something uniquely sickening about cases of animal abuse that outrages the community more than most crimes. To hear of a defenceless creature being brutalised by a cowardly attacker can get the blood of even the gentlest soul boiling.
This week we learnt of the shocking case of Snowy, a much loved family pet suffering horrific injuries at the hands of a torturer. The 18-month-old cat’s ears were mutilated and he had been set alight. Also this week charges against the man believed to have tortured Buckley, a puppy who had his ears and tail hacked off, were dropped amid fears that the case would not stand up in court.
In recent months there have been multiple cases of animals being tortured and killed in a trend that appears to be Australia wide. It seems no animal is immune from such callous attacks; pets, wildlife, even dolphins have been targeted by individuals who derive some sort of thrill from inflicting pain on an innocent creature. Despite the increasingly violent and sadistic nature of these attacks and the public’s growing disgust, offenders if caught can expect little more than a slap on the wrist.
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An event the size of a World Cup will always have surprises but a few weeks ago it must have been impossible odds that at the end of the tournament it would be a cephalopod, not a player, that everyone would be talking about.
Paul the octopus is a bigger global star than Andres Iniesta, the man who scored the winning goal deep in extra time to win Spain their first World Cup.
And Paul should now be allowed to stay in his tank. Since his predictions started making headlines last month the world’s most media-savvy animal rights campaigners PETA have been arguing Paul should be set free. What a bunch of killjoys.
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There’s something about being in the presence of puppies that can make grown adults a bit soft in the head. You know the sort. The ones who let out cries of “Hurro puppeee! Aren’t you adowable?! Yesh you are! Yesh you are!” as soon as they enter the vicinity of any small, wet-nosed creatures.
Most dog lovers would agree: puppies are adorable, and they’re everywhere. Our parks are full of them. Suburban cafes put out water bowls for their furry guests.
We have doggie day care, puppy primping, specialist clothing, gourmet pet food. There’s a whole, thriving industry tied to our love of four-legged friends.
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Whenever I tell British friends, old and new, that I’m from Murwillumbah, the closest town to the jungle that is I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, I get the sort of response that I imagine Rolf Harris received when he introduced the wobbleboard to the Poms.
For the past three years I’ve been in the Old Dart, I’ve been bombarded with questions such as “so… have you eaten kangaroo testicles?” whenever the latest instalment of the annual reality show rolls around.
It’s my second draw card, my first one being my ocker twang. I have used them both to get a story, a drink, even a date in the Motherland. Last year I used the I’m a Celebrity factor to impress a potential Brummie suitor.
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The arrogance, the sheer bloody arrogance and pig-headedness of Australian Racing Board chief Andrew Harding and his cronies.
Harding turfed the concerns of jockeys out the window yesterday after they formally approached the board seeking minor amendments to new whipping rules.
Under the new laws which were brought in on August 1, jockeys have numerous restrictions on the number of times they can “whip” their mounts with the soft, padded whips in mandatory use nowadays.
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If you’re like me - and hopefully you’re not, since that would make you a lazy couch potato with a strong dislike for exercise - then you’ll no doubt be heartily cheered by the efforts of a bunch of amphibious rats somewhere in Japan.
Apparently two groups of these rats were set different tasks. The unlucky ones got to paddle in a pool for six hours, with a brief break halfway through. The ‘lucky’ ones got to carry a load of weight and struggle hard for twenty seconds before being lifted from the water for ten seconds, and then thrown back in.
Clearly, some people have a strange idea of fun. But for the rats, there were some interesting changes. The ones that exercised for six hours got fitter.
But, and this is the good news bit, so did the rats which did twenty seconds hard work, followed by ten seconds break – repeated over just four and a half minutes of swimming.
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When the extreme animal rights group PETA complained about President Barack Obama swatting a fly, the penny finally dropped for me.
For a long time I’ve read comments from PETA and thought these people can’t be for real. Vets and sensible animal welfare organisations regularly work with my office and Department to deliver better labeling for free range eggs, or improving the safety of animals being transported.
But PETA runs a completely different set of campaigns that can only be described as bizarre. They oppose kids being allowed to keep goldfish. They oppose horse riding. And they even oppose guide dogs for the vision impaired.
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I have never seen as many dead animals on screen as I have in the past two weeks. From grasshoppers roasted over an open flame in to kangaroos mercilessly slaughtered in the night, I have been witness to a macabre cinematic menagerie of dead and dying fauna.
The Sydney Film Festival ended on the weekend, over for another year. And while there may not have been a programming strand dedicated to films with dead animals in them, the sheer number of those that did will remain with me as one of the most striking and unexpected things about those twelve days.
Obviously, it is the sort of observation that can only be made when one has attended a lot of films at the festival, an observation supported, as it is, by sheer weight of numbers. When more than one third of over forty-five features contains either a dead or dying animal, one begins to take notice of the trend.
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