Robert Borsak: "Farming is not Cruel"
Farming is a risky business, especially in NSW, where they have to cope with drought, bush fires, floods, mouse and locust plagues, intrusive government regulation of their land and uncertain local and overseas markets.
Now, the NSW Liberal National Government is proposing "animal welfare reforms" that will add a whole heap of new legal uncertainty for farmers. The reforms are better characterised as Animal Rights laws; what is being proposed isn't about cruelty and animal welfare, it is about giving farm animals legally enforceable Rights.
These changes are being recommended because there is an underlying assumption that Farmers are cruel. That farming practices are inherently cruel because animals are bred for food and fibre and that farmers cannot be trusted to keep their animals free from hunger, thirst, disease, injury, pain, or suffering. That current prevention of cruelty to animals laws are inadequate, and the abuse of farm animals is so heinous and so frequent that a massive intervention is required.
Further, that farmers discourage normal animal behaviour and deliberately inflict fear and distress on their animals. This is, of course, not true; farmers can only get the best results on their farms when their stock is well looked after, adequately cared for and kept healthy and happy.
Avoiding cruelty and adverse outcomes for farm animals is in the best interests of all farmers and their livestock. The definition of what is "cruel", taken out of the farming context, is often abused by Animal Rights organisations because they want no animal husbandry, no meat or animal-based fibre products.
The oft used example is mulesing and tailing of sheep grown for wool and meat. The process, in context, is not painful when done professionally and properly, yet to not mules or remove tails in young sheep will condemn them to flystrike, maggot infestation and putrefying sores, pain, and disease.
To not mules and tail is the proper definition of cruelty.
Under the new laws, the farmer will have an absolute obligation not to allow any breach of the Five Freedoms of animals. Yet this farming kindness to his sheep under the proposed new Animal Rights-based POCTAA laws will be defined as cruel and punishable by heavy fines and even gaol.
The case for rewriting the POCTAA laws as Animal Rights laws has not been made. The current laws are more than adequate and deal appropriately with cruelty offences when detected.
There was no consultation with farmers at large, no consultation at all with the many facets of farming and agriculture involving animals, their husbandry, breeding, and growth.
Without healthy and happy farm animals, there cannot be healthy farming communities. Without those farm communities, there cannot be healthy city and suburban communities. It's really just that simple.
Farmers love their animals too.