QUESTIONS around how the welfare of feral animals stacks up in importance against that of production animals have been sparked by parliamentary debate on a call to ban 1080, the major control tool for foxes and wild dogs.
Senator Derryn Hinch’s motion to phase out the use of sodium fluoroacetate, which he described as “a cruel alternative to other known methods of pest control” was supported by the Greens but passionately criticised by senators hailing from primary production regions.
Senator Hinch said despite most other countries adopting alternative, more humane, pest-management strategies, Australia and New Zealand accounted for the vast majority of 1080 use worldwide.
It’s use left other species and domesticated animals “susceptible to agonising deaths that can last as long as five days”, according to Senator Hinch.
Victorian Greens senator Janet Rice said her party supported the motion because it called for the “orderly phase out” of 1080.
“Where there are other alternatives, 1080 should be immediately phased out,” she said.
“There is no doubt that 1080 is currently used in circumstances where it's not justified and where it should not be used.
“But where those alternatives don't yet exist, the government must massively scale up research and innovation to develop those alternatives.”
Western Australia Liberal senator Slade Brockman and NSW Nationals senator John Williams slammed the reasoning behind the motion.
“I'm happy to accept the outcome of 1080 bait ingestion on a wild dog is dramatic, but even more dramatic is the impact of even one wild dog on a sheep herd or on millions of native Australian animals every year,” Senator Brockman said.
“Feral animals have a devastating effect on agricultural production. There are whole areas in Western Australia, in particular the eastern rangelands around Kalgoorlie and parts of the southern Pilbara, where traditional sheep areas now cannot produce sheep. They have moved into goats and/or cattle. Some have gone out of production altogether because of the presence of wild dogs.”
Senator Brockman said farming industries would prefer not to have to use any chemicals or poisons.
“Nobody uses these things on a farm with any joy,” he said.
“But they are a part of the reality of farming and, at the moment, in the suite of tools we have available to us, the use of 1080 is a vital part of our armoury, particularly against wild dogs.”
Senator Williams urged the Greens to “have a look at sheep when they have been mauled, when they've had the wool pulled from out of their sides and out of their shoulders, by wild dogs.”
“Then the flystrike hits the sheep. Is that a good death, is it?” he said.
He described the Greens’ argument that the life of an animal was equal to that of a human as “outrageously ridiculous”.
Senator Williams referred to previous experience in parliament where “they were saying if you're driving down the road in a B-double and a kangaroo comes out on one side of the road and a three-year-old boy runs out on the other side of the road, you should contemplate hitting the boy and saving the kangaroo.”
“That is out of tune - that animals are as equally important as human life. I have seen it with the Greens; this is how they behave,” he said.
In reaction to the motion, experts in pest predator management have since said it amounts to placing the welfare of ferals over that of native animals and livestock, not to mention the environment and the financial well-being of farmers and the Australian economy.
Those running the National Wild Dog Action Plan, who come from state farming organisations, peak livestock councils, national research and development corporations and conservation agencies, have written to the senator with scientifically-supported evidence demonstrating 1080 was biodegradable and posed no risk to humans and native species at the recommended dose rates for predator control.
The Plan’s co-ordination committee chair Geoff Power said 1080 baiting programs were highly regulated, monitored and recorded and the result of extensive community planning and engagement.
Debate on the motion was adjourned for a later date.
The story Welfare of ferals versus production animals under spotlight first appeared on Farm Online.