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National Press Club -

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Today at the National Press Club,

the President of the RSPCA, Hugh

Wirth. Dr Wirth has led the

for the past 34 years and is its Wirth. Dr Wirth has led the society

representative on many government

advisory boards. His speech today

canvases the future of animal

welfare. Live from the National

Press Club in Canberra, Dr Hugh Wirth.

(Bell gongs) Ladies and gentlemen,

welcome to the National Press Club

and today's National Australia Bank

Address. And welcome to Hugh Wirth.

Dr Wirth, as you've just heard,

for t pree vention been President of the Royal Society Dr Wirth, as you've just heard, has

for the Prevention of Cruelty to

Animals for just about as long as

most people in this room can

probably remember. He was just

telling me that last night in

Melbourne, they celebrated the

anniversary of the organisation, Melbourne, they celebrated the 135th

which is a krl achievement, given

the history of Australia and -- a

considerable achievement, given the

history of Australia and the

relative lack of attention to

such as these before. Of course, relative lack of attention to issues

these days, the whole compass of

issues canvassed by the RSPCA has

broadened considerably and so has

the involvement of Hugh Wirth. He

is already very well-known in

Melbourne for his radio appear

rarnss as well as his official

capacity with the RSPCA. He has

been a vet since 1964 and been

involved in the organisation since

'69, so he has a wealth of

experience to call on in discussing

these issues today, and I call on

you to welcome him today, Dr Hugh

Wirth. Thank you, Mr Chairman and

thank you to the National Press

for the opportunity to talk to you thank you to the National Press Club

today about the passion of the

for animal welfare and my today about the passion of the RSPCA

passion as well. Yesterday 4 July, for animal welfare and my particular

was 135th anniversary of the

founding of the RSPCA movement in

Australia. In terms of Australia,

that's quite an age. In Britain,

the RSPCA was established in 1824,

so this year, just this month, they

have become 1 82 years old. So in

actual fact, Australia , although a

bunch of squabbling colonies at the

time, we led the way for the

world in picking up the issue of time, we led the way for the Western

kindness to animals. Yesterday I

spent a considerable amount of the

day talking to the media and some

my constituency and to do that, I day talking to the media and some of

had to think about where the RSPCA

was at after 135 years of activity,

advocating for animals in Australia,

their welfare. And the things that

I thought about were, first of all,

where we, as a community, have come

from in the terms of animal welfare,

where we are actually at now, and

what we have to do to make a secure

and better future for companion

animals, farm animals, our wildlife,

animals used for what some consider

to be entertainment, such as rodeos

and animals in our zoos and, of

course, animals used for

experimental purposes. At the end

of my codutation, I could put it

very simply to the media yesterday,

that Australia has come a very long

way, and as I've just finished my

term as international President of

the world society for the

of animals, I think I can say quite the world society for the protection

safely that Australia may not be

quite leading the way in every

aspect of animal welfare, but we

so close to it. That doesn't mean aspect of animal welfare, but we are

to say that I will sit back and

become complacent, and nor will my

association, the RSPCA. Animal

welfare in Australia has finally

featured on the national political

agenda. But these gains are recent

and they can easily come under

threat and be disbanded. We've got

political grandstanding,

particularly in the states, and

of accountability. We've got still particularly in the states, and lack

great pockets of community

indifference and, therefore,

complacency. And we've got

differences in focus, differences

philosophy, sometimes quite extreme, differences in focus, differences in

and differences in conduct of the

various advocacy groups for animal

welfare. Well, let's put this in

perspective. Where have we come

from? Put simply, animal welfare

never part of the Christian-Judaic from? Put simply, animal welfare was

tradition. The great eastern

religions certainly preached the

value of the kinship of humans and

animals, and they still do today

where those religions survive. But

in the Christian-Judaic tradition,

there is nothing in the Old

Testament, and there is nothing in

the New Testament that actually

a religious groundwork for what our the New Testament that actually lays

relationship should be to animals.

Francis attempted to do something

about this when he was alive, and

probably did more than any other about this when he was alive, and he

person in the Christian

to try and get some semblance of person in the Christian denomination

religious basis for our

relationship. What drove animal

welfare to the forefront, of course,

was the humanist revolution that

occurred in the United Kingdom at

the end of the 18th Century, early

19th Century. Simply put, the

humanist tradition said that the

downtrod den, those humans who had

no hope of representing themselves,

deserved justice, deserved a

fulfilling life, deserved not to be

exploited, deserved not to suffer.

The leader in that group, of course,

was William will burrforce. He was

appalled that human slaifr ri still

existed in the British Empire and

was justified on the basis of the

Bible, and secondly, the appalling

cruelty meted out to children who

then were factory fodder in the

emerging industrial situation. He

took on the might of the British

Empire and won. How he did this is

a matter of history, but having

this, and having abolished slavery a matter of history, but having said

and brought about some measure of

control about cruelty to children,

it was a simple and logical thing

move to animals,

move to animals. Animals were it was a simple and logical thing to

simply property and under the law

and under cultural tradition, you

can do anything you like to

property, and if that means

thrashing a horse in the main

streets of London or Melbourne in

71, you did so and nothing would be streets of London or Melbourne in 18

supporter done about it. He had a number of

supporters, one of whom was Richard

Martin. Richard Martin was a

flamboyant Irishman, Member of the

House of Commons. He even put up

his Martin's Folly, a particular

keep on his property, where he in

fact intered people he considered

were cruel to animals. He had no

right to do so, but he did it. But

he understood that in order to get

social change accepted by the

political establishment, by the

governments of the day, when the

community had already accepted a

change, you had to passage law and

underpin social change with law.

That's precisely what Richard

was able to do. But, of course, in That's precisely what Richard Martin

order to get social change, the

truth is you have to engage people order to get social change, the real

power. And people power only

if you have the ability to engage power. And people power only occurs

ordinary members of the community

because you're one of them, and

you're saying what they think and

what they've come to understand.

Arthur Broome, an Anglican cleric,

understood all of this, and it was

he who spearheaded the foundation

he who spearheaded the foundation of the RSPCA of the United Kingdom.

Taking up very valuable issues, value

Taking up very valuable issues, core values that our friend Wilburforce

put before them, that all living

creatures were entitled to a

fulfilling life and free of cruelty

and suffering inflicted by humans,

that all living creatures have feeling

feelings. They may not be human

feelings and they may differ from

species to species, but they have

feelings, and if you have feelings,

you can suffer. Today, we call

you can suffer. Today, we call that sentance, and he looked at, of

course, Genesis that says humans

course, Genesis that says humans can have dominion over the animals and

all creation and he looked at the

New Testament that said absolutely

nothing and Wilburforce said yes,

humans may in fact use animals

provided that use is legitimate, is

humane and is done with compassion.

It is an interesting thing that

It is an interesting thing that that was one of his core values, because

it is the centre of problems even

today. Lastly, he said one other

thing, and it's something that I

think that Australians have yet to

even swallow, let alone anyone else

in the Western world, that the

health and welfare of humans and

animals is intertwined and insep

prabl. I have no doubt the RSPCA

will continue to have arguments

about that for a very long time to

come. Well, we're looking still at

the issue of where we are. The positive

positives: Animal welfare has

become a mainstream political issue,

not just in Australia but worldwide,

and from my observation, again as

President of the international

society, over the last two years, I

would say it's the last two or

would say it's the last two or three years that certainly in the Western

world animal welfare has become a

mainstream political issue,

differing from conservation and

differing from environmentalism.

Here in Australia, we've done

something unique, something that

something unique, something that has gobsmacked all of my international

colleagues. We have, with a lot of

work and a lot of time and a lot of

negotiation, and a lot of

cooperation, last October brought

forward the Australian Animal

Welfare Strategy, a Commonwealth

document which all the ministers in

the states have put their hands up

to. Whether, of course, that

follows that the Australian Animal

Welfare Strategy will be properly

implemented, I will have some

comments on, but it's something

comments on, but it's something that is unique to us, shows that we are

world leaders, it shows that we are

determined to get commonality about

animal welfare in this federation

animal welfare in this federation of ours. It's not only the Treasurer

of this country who is saying that

federation in Australia needs

review. It does to achieve the

welfare of animals. But the other

positives, of course, are that

animal welfare is impacting on what

you and I would call developing

countries, and some very surprising

countries. The world society for

the protection of animals has been

pleaded with over and over again by

the government of China to

the government of China to establish a regional office in Beijing. It

a regional office in Beijing. It is an opportunity we are not going to reject.

reject, even though the battle

reject, even though the battle there is almost the battle of the RSPCA

over the last 1 82 years. But

nothing ventured and nothing won.

Eastern Europe has thrown off the

commune nis voek and is interested.

India has always been interested,

but the other countries in Asia, of

course, are interested as well.

course, are interested as well. But finally - and this goes back to W i,

lburforce - something is going to

occur in the next two or three that wi.

occur in the next two or three years that Wilburforce will be immensely

proud of. The WSPA has led its

society in a battle to see the

United Nations, that parliament of

nations will come and agree to a

declaration for the welfare of

animals, and that declaration will

be modelled on the Amsterdam

protocol. What's the Amsterdam

protocol? Something very simply but

very powerful. All living

very powerful. All living creatures - and we're talking of animals in

this case - all living creatures

this case - all living creatures are sent i, ent. In other words, they

have feelings and can suffer. And

if that is agreed to by the United

Nations, it will mean that

governments that sign onto this

declaration will have to take that

into account when they are dealing

with developments and changes that

impact on animals. Well, what

impact on animals. Well, what about the negatives of today? The World

Health Organisation this year has

simply stated that the worst animal

welfare problem in the world is

stray dogs. That may surprise you

all, coming from the RSPCA, but

all, coming from the RSPCA, but they have estimated there are, at any

have estimated there are, at any one moment, 400 million stray dogs in

the world. We've got a battle on

our hands to do something about

our hands to do something about this because what they do with those 400

million stray dogs is just

indescribable. There are those who

clean them up by simply poisoning

them. Horrific cruelty. There are

thoughs who throw them down old

thoughs who throw them down old mine pits and let them battle it out on

the bottom and starve to death.

There are others who chuck them

There are others who chuck them onto rubbish tips and again let them

battle it out or starve to death,

and there are others who mass

electrocute them and it takes

usually 40 to 60 minutes for every

one to die. They are cruel

management issues, but they are

welfare issues. There is the issue

that I referred to before - the

battle to decide whether in fact

battle to decide whether in fact Wil bu, urforce's core value that

bu, urforce's core value that humans can use animals for any purpose is

in fact correct. Does that entitle

us to put massive numbers of

us to put massive numbers of animals in capables so that they can't turn

around, so they can't walk, so they

can't flap their wings, so they

can't do the normal behaviours of

animals and go into all sorts of

ridiculous activities simply

ridiculous activities simply because they are so frustrated? The

fragmented responses from

governments in Australia is

something that we are all used to

over a whole range of social

over a whole range of social welfare issues, but it is also a problem

issues, but it is also a problem for animal welfare. There is no won

consistent ministry in Australia

that deals with welfare, except in

the State of Victoria. You've got

the wildlife people doing the

wildlife thing, and they don't

wildlife thing, and they don't worry about welfare. They're only

interested in survival of the

species, so conservation is their

go, nothing to do with welfare.

You've got companion animals in

Local Government and Local

Government is only interested in

managing the situation. They don't

care about welfare. They do care

about how many dogs you've got on

your property and whether they fly

out and bite people. That's

managing, that's not welfare.

And, of course, you've got farm

animals which is dealt with a very

traditional agricultural ministry,

and that's a core problem that

and that's a core problem that we've got eight legal jurisdictions doing

animal welfare in eight entirely

different ways, and we've got

sitting on top, the Commonwealth

Government now that has recognised,

through its Australian Animal

Welfare Strategy that it has got

more to do than just been an honest

broker, it has a lot more to do.

But, of course, under our federal

system, we won't be here to see

system, we won't be here to see that achieved. Lastly, we've got deep

divisions in the animal welfare

movement. Why have we got that?

Simply because there are

Simply because there is now a new

philosophy that says that animals

cannot be used by humans for any

purpose,s that in fact the use of

animals comes down to exploitation.

It's what William Wil bu, urforce

got rid of at the beginning of the

19th Century. He got rid of human

exploitations on humans, but now we

are turning the tables and we are

exploiting animals. There are deep

divisions that need to be healed

divisions that need to be healed and the trouble is that the deep division

divisions have caused mistrust in

all of the stakeholders that are

dealing with animal welfare. So

cooperation is thrown out the door.

The baby is thrown out the door

The baby is thrown out the door with the bath water, and animal welfare

is the poorer for it. When we are

referring, of course, to farm

animals, we talk indeed about the

issue of intensive farming. And

issue of intensive farming. And one has to qualify intensive farming.

Where I come from in Victoria, the

way they milk dairy cows is

intensive farming, if you compare

that with the dairy industry in

Queensland, but they are still

all-grazing animals, but what I'm

talking about is intensive farming

where animals are housed. Now, I'm

not, as President of the RSPCA

fussed about animals being in a

house. I'm an animal and I'm in a

house, often. My animals live in a

house with me, very frequently.

house with me, very frequently. But it's what happens in that house and

how those animals are confined and

what happens to them that is of

great moment. The Bram bell

committee set up in the 1980s by

committee set up in the 1980s by the United Kingdom Government produced

United Kingdom Government produced a volume luminous report on the issue

of intensive farm

of intensive farming. The heard

of intensive farming. The herding

together of large numbers of

together of large numbers of animals to produce large quantities of food

to sustain us, but production was

the goal at the cost of animal

welfare. The Bram bell Committee's

report, as I said, was voluminous

with very large numbers of

recommendations. It was put to bed

for 50 years and is only coming

forward now, not necessarily coming

forward because of animal welfare

interest in 2006, but rather the

community interest has changed to

saying, "I don't like eating meat

from chooks that have been housed

25,000 chooks to a pen - into a

house,. I think my health might

suffer." If you've got 25,000

suffer." If you've got 25,000 chooks in a shed, it must be bad for the

environment. That's got nothing to

do with welfare, but the Bram bell

Committee's report is being brushed

off and looked at again. So, Mr

Chairman, what do we need to do to

correct some of these faults? Well,

as a community, we have to, as an

Australian community, accept

responsibility for the welfare of

all of our animal

all of our animals. Secondly, we

have to do something about

have to do something about educating people about the correct

relationship between us and our

animals, whether they are wild or

domestic. It's not good enough to

say, "Leave it to the RSPCA, a

charity that survives purely on the

goodwill of people to fund us." And

to leave us legacies. We have

followed from Wil bu, urforce and

said education is the key. Richard

Martin, the flamboyant Irishman

said, "I want this society that you

have invented to prosecute only

have invented to prosecute only when you must." Education is the key for

future generations. But government

has got to come together with the

community on this score. And

obviously if we are to believe

Arthur Broome, if we are to

understand that community change

comes from a community-based

organisation, then we have to make

up our minds about support. And I

put it to you, obviously as

President, that the RSPCA is worthy

of support. With government,

government has got to accept

responsibility and allocate it to

dedicated ministers. We can't have

this farcical situation continue.

The Commonwealth Government, for

The Commonwealth Government, for its part, must negotiate a shared

national approach, a cooperative

federal approach. That might not

please people in the states, but

that's what we've got to do. We

must grasp this Australian Animal

Welfare Strategy by the horns and

Welfare Strategy by the horns and we must see that it is implemented.

The government, for its part, I

understand, has given us the money

to do it, but there has got to be

generated goodwill and cooperation

to see that it happens. The

Commonwealth Government also needs

to lift its game diplomatically.

to lift its game diplomatically. On the whole vexed question that

the whole vexed question that upsets Australians about inhumane

of its animals oversea

Australians about inhumane slaughter of its animals overseas can't be

handled by private enterprise.

handled by private enterprise. It's got to be handled at a

government-to-government,

government-to-government, diplomatic level, so that the changes we

expect, the changes we tolerate for

our animals, is also imparted to

our animals, is also imparted to our trading partners. Finally, Mr

Chairman, and the reason I'm here

today is to simply state that there

must be a peak ministerial council

established by our government on

animal welfare. We will never get

cooperative federalism. We will

never ever get the Australian

never ever get the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy in place unless

there is one peak ministerial

council here in Canberra involving

the eight states and Territories

and, of course, the Commonwealth

Government. At the moment you've

got peak ministerial councils on

wildlife who don't look at welfare.

You've got no peak ministerial

council on companion animals, and

you've got a peak ministerial

council on production animals or

farm animals. Finally, the

farm animals. Finally, the advocacy groups have got to open dialogue

with each other and find a common

language. It's no good warring.

language. It's no good warring. It doesn't help what we're dedicated

doesn't help what we're dedicated to do. We've got to share research

do. We've got to share research and we've got to share knowledge. At

the moment, it's easy to do because

the world is a global village.

We've got to think more about

animals as sentient beings, not a

spes Ces just simply to be

conserved. If we bothered to do

that, then the recent example over

the controversy of the import of

Thai elephants would never have

happened. Lastly, the animal

welfare groups have got to become

more professional in their

commitment, their internal

commitment, their internal processes and their community outreach. Mr

Chairman , I'm passionate about

animal welfare. I think

animal welfare. I think Australians have done a marvellous job so far,

but we've got plenty to do yet.

Thank you. Cy

Thank you. C APPLAUSE Thank you, Dr

Wirth. As usual, we have a period

of questions from our media members.

The first one today is from

The first one today is from Michael Thompson. Dr Wirth, Michael

Thompson. Dr Wirth, Michael Thompson from Rural Press. You mentioned

animal welfare now being on the

mainstream political agenda and

mainstream political agenda and also the philosophical rift, if you will,

within the animal welfare movement.

Arguably the reason animal welfare

is on the political agenda is due

is on the political agenda is due to the extremist tactics of some of

those groups often violent and

illegal in their methods in arguing

that animals should have the same

rights as humans. Given your

statements that animals are also

sentient beings, how do you

rationise that difference in

philosophy and how does the RSPCA

protect itself from being hijacked

from within by members with more

extreme attitudes than yourself?

Well , the first thing I need to

Well , the first thing I need to say to you is that the extremist groups

who take illegal action to get

who take illegal action to get their point across are in fact a minority,

and whilst all of the stakeholders,

whether it is the RSPCA,

organisations like the various

national animal production group

national animal production groups,

whilst they allow these people to

whilst they allow these people to be extreme, they will get away with it.

We've got to find the proper

formula to bring balance back into

the debate. And what I've been

trying to say is that people who

believe in animal right

believe in animal rights, the

majority of those people are not

extreme in their attitudes, and so

we shouldn't attack all of the

we shouldn't attack all of the group and all of their views simply by

and all of their views simply by the behaviour of one. Now, pif' been

through this myself at a social

function in Melbourne in front of a

whole 300 people. I had acrylic

paint chucked over me, my dinner

suit and everything else. It's

interesting, the hotel staff said I

should change. I said, "What do I

change to?" And I had to continue

the night while paint dried. It is

an interesting experience to have

paint drying. But I took action

paint drying. But I took action and I wouldn't allow the Chief

Commissioner of Police, nor would I

allow the Government to ignore what

had occurred, and I raised the

had occurred, and I raised the issue in the media and said, "This is not

helping animals. This is not

getting the point across." There is

opportunity for the animal rights

movement to persuade the RSPCA that

our traditional view that humans

our traditional view that humans can use animals is incorrect, or to

reach some other point. Now,

unfortunately, they haven't done

that. Within the RSPCA, we review

our policies, our written,

our policies, our written, published policies every year. At the moment,

we can see no reason to change, but

that doesn't mean to say we aren't

abreast of development. In

knowledge and development in

science. What I'm saying is that

the open warfare has got to stop

the open warfare has got to stop and we have to isolate the people who

act illegally.

act illegally, and come to a mutual

understanding, a cooperative

understanding for the RSPCA and the

various animal producer groups, and

I include companion animals in that.

Next question is from Laurie Wilson.

Laurie Wilson, freelance journalist

and director of the National Press

Club, Dr Wirth. Ive just want to

pick up on that and say how do you

expect to drive a national strategy

on animal welfare. You alluded to

stakeholders and in a sense you

stakeholders and in a sense you were alluding to the various groups you

talked about, but in a sense we are

all stakeholders and you were

probably talking about that broader

group, the community. I think you

also said there was a significant

level of indifference out there in

the community. So how do you

the community. So how do you expect that governments, who you seem to

that governments, who you seem to be suggesting have abrogated their

responsibility, should in fact take

this forward? Well, I'm trying to

this forward? Well, I'm trying to be positive about the Australian

positive about the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and the role of

Welfare Strategy and the role of the Commonwealth Government, but I've

outlined why I think it's going to

fail, because in all of the

fail, because in all of the sectoral group meetings, these are the

various meetings based on what we

use animals for, the divisions are

there to be seen and we've got to

there to be seen and we've got to do something about that and a peak

ministerial council is the first

way, because you've got to to get

cooperation with the states, but

there is some cultural issues. For

instance, in talking to the dog

fraternity, the dog fraternity

fraternity, the dog fraternity claim that I have led this great

revolution to stop tail-docking of

dogs. Therefore, they won't

dogs. Therefore, they won't discuss anything to do with compulsory

desexing of dogs, re-housing of

desexing of dogs, re-housing of dogs out of our shell ders - you know we

deal with 133,000 animals in the

RSPCA shelter system a year,

unwanted animals. So there are a

whole lot of issues, cultural whole lot of issues, cultural issues tha,

whole lot of issues, cultural issues, that have got to be

issues, that have got to be overcome to make this work. I'm sure if the

Commonwealth Government can get the

state governments on side and

state governments on side and united behind SWSE we will win. It's not

impossible. Glenn Milne from Sunday

impossible. Glenn Milne from Sunday Publications and 'The Australian'.

I don't know about you, but my

moment of truth in the supermarket

alls comes from onto of the egg

counter where my daughters

absolutely refuse me to buy

absolutely refuse me to buy anything that's cruel to hens. What I find

is that the labelling is misleading.

There seems to be a genuine

There seems to be a genuine attempt by some producers to give the

impression they are producing these

eggs humanely when they are clearly

not . I wonder what we can do

not . I wonder what we can do about that and you as an organisation can

do about it. A second question, if

I may: You talked about a taek

strategy for animal welfare. Would

this include a ministry for animal

welfare at a federal level and if

that's the case, how did you get

around the National Party? Very

well. Well, the first question

first. The issue of product

labelling, in other words, where

labelling, in other words, where was this produce - animal produce

obtained from and under what method

of production, has been around in

the debate for a long time. The

RSPCA has been continually advising

both national and state governments

that product labelling is essential

from a pure consumerism point of

view. We've got to the point where

caged eggs is stamped on the

cartons, and also "Free range" and

also - oh, dear, it has escaped me

also - oh, dear, it has escaped me - "Barn laid" is stamped on the label

and you're quite right because I'm

and you're quite right because I'm a consumer and whenever I go to buy

consumer and whenever I go to buy my eggs, there is always a queue in

front of me running their hands

front of me running their hands down over the various things. But you

are still right that the general

are still right that the general box is prettied up with old McDonald

farm sort of images which is

misleading. We can only continue

the battle. But the trouble is

the battle. But the trouble is that it's a negotiation between the

Government and the egg producer

groups over this issue, and often

the Government says, "Well, they

won't go any further. We've got to

accept this incremental progress.

accept this incremental progress." It's going to come, of course, over

a whole range of other reason

a whole range of other reasons. In

the United Kingdom, at the recent

annual meeting of the WSPA, we

learnt that last year in the United

Kingdom 50% of all eggs sold in

supermarkets came from a credited,

free-range farms. Now, some of

free-range farms. Now, some of that purchasing was done because of

animal welfare, but most of it was

done about fear of health issues.

Too many antibiotics in

cage-produced eggs, too many

vaccines, too many this, too many

that, not good for me, Joe bloe,

that, not good for me, Joe bloe, the citizen who is buying it and there

are the environmental issues as

well. Turning to the other

business, of course, our old

constitution of 1901 didn't

recognise animal welfare, and it is

not in the Australian Constable

stution. Mind you, -- Kons truth.

Mind you, that hasn't stopped

successive Commonwealth Governments

and successive party ministers to

use other powers, such as power

use other powers, such as power over quarantine, import, export, to

quarantine, import, export, to start to impose animal welfare matters

oned states, and others, of course,

have come about through negotiation.

I have to tell you that things are

changing politically. Even the

National Party real lieses

National Party realises now that

animal welfare is in everyone's

mind, despite what I've said about

pockets of resistance, that animal

welfare has become a mainstream

political issue, and so they have

political issue, and so they have to shift. That doesn't mean there

shift. That doesn't mean there will be resistance. Peter McGauran

be resistance. Peter McGauran keeps telling me that I went to school

with him and I'm his buddy. But

that doesn't stop me. Welcome to

that doesn't stop me. Welcome to the National Press Club, Dr Wirth, and

thanks for coming. I'm interested

in how federalism works or doesn't

work, as the case may be. That

issue is put in through a whole

issue is put in through a whole raft of issues from people who stand up

in this forum. I wonder whether

in this forum. I wonder whether you would care to point out - and

presumably most of us presume it is

a State responsibility about animal

welfare. Well, that's where it is.

In constitutional terms that's

In constitutional terms that's where it is. That's why the recent bill

was looked at by the Senate and

rejected to make it a national

issue. I wonder whether you would

issue. I wonder whether you would be able to give us a report card

commont tri-on the various states

who might be the most progressive

who might be the most progressive in this area and who might be the

this area and who might be the least progressive and who might need a

push-along in making this a better

outcome for the community? Oh, dear!

(Laughs) now it's State rights

versus... I have to say - and this

is my own view, not the society's

view - if you look at the conduct

view - if you look at the conduct of Victoria over the time since 18 71,

it has led the debate. There have

been some times when the society

been some times when the society has gone through complacency and

stupidity, but it's led the debate,

and we do have a single ministry

responsible for animal welfare in

that State which I fought to get

established and I had a lot of my

colleagues in my profession who

within the department colleagues in my profession who were within the Department of

within the Department of Agriculture to achieve that. The Department of

Agriculture fought bitterly to stop

that happening, but it happened and

now its commonplace, and so all

welfare issues, even dogs and cat

welfare issues, even dogs and cats

welfare issues, even dogs and cats p is dealt with in that area simply

because they are animals and the

people who are in the Department of

Agriculture use their hand

Agriculture use their hands, like

me. They know animals. They know

the rather end of a cow or the

rather end of a Great Dane and what

to do about it, which Local

Government certainly doesn't. So

you've got this farcical situation,

say, in Western Australia, where

there is a State producing 86% of

all live animal exports from that

State - from Australia, I mean. We

have new regulations, standards for

the export of live animals. The

RSPCA has put its hand up to those

standards, even though we are

opposed to the actual export of

opposed to the actual export of live animals for slaughter, but we put

our hand up to those standards.

our hand up to those standards.. Three of the stab dards have got to

be implemented by the states - in

this case, Western Australia. Two

have to be implemented by the

Commonwealth. The standards aren't

being implemented by the West

Australian Government. And why?

Because animal welfare is not

Because animal welfare is not within the Department of Agriculture, it's

within the Department of Local

Government whose philosophy is, "We

will manage animal issues." So they

don't get a big tick from me.

Queensland used to be like that, so

did the Northern Territory, but

they've changed their legislation.

They've caught the flavour, even

though they are agricultural states,

they've caught the flavour that

Australians are interested in the

welfare of animals. In terms of

welfare of animals. In terms of New South Wales, they have its

troublesome Upper House and a lot

troublesome Upper House and a lot of the reforms that I know the New

South Wales Government wants to put

through can't get through the

Legislative Council. That's a good

reason to abolish it, in my book.

Finally, good old Tassie - well,

good old Tassie. They have little

crises every so often and that

pushes them along, such as the

recent rodeo crisis. Everyone else

has got common guidelines, common

regulations for rodeos. Didn't get

to Tassie, didn't get across Bass

Strait. Got there now. Cost the

death of a cow and the death of a

horse, but we got there. Michael

link, Dr Wirth. You said during

your discussion is 35 years the

RSPCA has relied on the support of

the community and now it is

increasingly a government

responsibility. But there is a

responsibility. But there is a lack of funding goog into the RSPCA.

Perhaps your views on where the

Government should look to

Government should look to increasing or how the Government should look

or how the Government should look to increasing funding into the states'

societies and the shelters across

the country. Well, the real truth

about the issue of the RSPCA is

about the issue of the RSPCA is that it allows the various ministers to

go to bed and sleep soundly at

night. In other words, it's the

RSPCA that takes the community flak.

You know, I have letters that I

open every day: "Dear Dr Wirth, I

have supported you for X number of

years. However, under

years. However, underline, you

years. However, underline, you have dog nothing about A, B, C, D, E.

dog nothing about A, B, C, D, E." Why isn't the minister getting that

because he is responsible, I'm not.

He has the power. So the RSPCA

He has the power. So the RSPCA with its prosecution expect tore rant of

which 75% are not breaches of the

law, the complaints we receive, but

nonetheless, we are doing all that

work on behalf of the community.

work on behalf of the community. We are supported in that work by the

community. Several times in

Victoria a minister of the Crown

Victoria a minister of the Crown has tried to get rid of the RSPCA

tried to get rid of the RSPCA expect tore at and promptly got rid of

himself, such was the community

uproar. We believe that if we are

doing the work for the community,

for and on behalf of the government

which represents the community, we

should be supported financially. I

don't talk about the Government

supporting our political aims, our

policy aims. I don't think about

that. I'm talking about where our

inspect rats deal on behalf of the

Government, where we take the flak

over various issues that should be

paid for by the Government. My

government gives us $350,000 and

they say I will get more, but.

they say I will get more, but.... The total cost of the Victorian inspect

inspectorats is $2.5 million and

people who are kind enough to leave

us their house or their property

us their house or their property are paying for that. I think it's

wrong. Question from Peter Jones.

Peta Jones, chief scientist RSPCA

Australia. Dr Wirth, this follows

on from the previous question, I

suppose, because it relates to

funding. Two parts to it: You

talked briefly about research and

animal welfare. You touched on

that. How important do you think

research and development in animal

welfare science is to progressing

animal welfare in Australia, and

where do you think we stand

internationally in that regard.

internationally in that regard? Secondly, do you think there is

sufficient government funding to

progress animal welfare science,

given that there has been an

allocation of $6 million towards

allocation of $6 million towards the Animal Welfare Strategy, do you

think that should be accompanied

with funding of similar amounts in

animal welfare science? The short

answer to you is yes. It's not

answer to you is yes. It's not good enough to just have the AWS, we

enough to just have the AWS, we need to have animal welfare science

progressed and there is not enough

of it. A lot

of it. A lot of is for a

of it. A lot of is for a particular production unit, in other words to

prove that chooks actually love

being jammed into a cage. Or to

prove that sheep actually feel

excited about a sea cruise to Saudi

Arabia. (Audience member: P & O's!

Arabia. (Audience member: P & O's!) If we are to overcome the

problems that I have alluded to, in

other words, the divisions in the

debate, we need quood quality

debate, we need quood quality animal welfare science, and there are some

interesting people well qualified

interesting people well qualified to do that in Australia, but it does

need further funding and it does

need recognition by everybody, all

stakeholders, including government,

that it is essential. Now, I look

forward to the decision by my

colleagues on the AWS

colleagues on the AWS implementation commit tee here in Canberra to try

and get an animal welfare CRC up in

the next round. I think it's

utterly essential. We've got, of

course, as you know, a university

chair in the University of

Queensland and we've also got an

animal science centre in Melbourne

where I come from, but I think a

where I come from, but I think a CRC is absolutely essential. There is

another issue that troubles me as a

veterinarian in animal science and

that is that a lot of people

nowadays seem to think that the

world literature only started with

the invention of a computer, and

the invention of a computer, and all of the other things that have been

published are put into little

pigeonholes and forgotten about, so

we are in danger sometimes of

re-inventing the wheel, but it is

re-inventing the wheel, but it is an essential ingredient and thank you

for asking. Back to Michael

for asking. Back to Michael Thompson Dr Wirth, luckily we have a small

crowd, I get to have a second swing

today. I want to ask you about the

issue of mulesing with sheep Yes.

If the sheep industry meets its

If the sheep industry meets its goal of having a commercially viable and

widely available alternative to

mulesing by 2010, post-2010 how do

you think that issue should be

policed? Should we see government

agents going on farm to detect

whether farmers are still using

mulesing to prevent flystrike?

Well, there are a couple of things

Well, there are a couple of things I want to say about that using that

want to say about that using that as an example. The first is that I

think the time has come in

think the time has come in Australia where, when we do anything that I

would call a surgical animal

husbandry procedure, whether we're

docking sheep tails, whether we're

mulesing, whether we are spaiing

cattle, you know, the lists -

dehorning - the lists go on and on

dehorning - the lists go on and on - marking of animals - the time has

come to take that intermediate

come to take that intermediate yacht step between what we do now and

step between what we do now and what Europe does an anaesthesia, and

Europe does an anaesthesia, and that is to ensure that only the people

who are well-qualified,

who are well-qualified, well-trained and experienced do such tasks. In

other words, if you are a muleser,

you should be an acredited muleser.

If you are a person who drives long

distances over thousands of

kilometres with cattle on the back

of your truck, your qualifications

should be not only to understand

should be not only to understand the truck and its engine and how to

truck and its engine and how to make it go, but to understand that

it go, but to understand that you've got live sentient creatures at the

back and understand their needs

back and understand their needs over a thousand or 2,000 kilometres. So

that's the first thing I would say,

and it's long since time that the

production groups did that, is to

get it up. Now, if that require

get it up. Now, if that requires

courses, they should be put into

place through the TAFE system or

whatever is necessary. Remember,

that there is not a very big pool

people in rural area

that there is not a very big pool of people in rural areas with a rural

background who are ready to be

animal husbands nowadays. It might

have been fine 50 years ago, but

it's not now. We are mostly all

city-based. After all, I've been

city-based. After all, I've been in veterinary science now as a

practitioner for 43 years, but I

practitioner for 43 years, but I was born and bred 10km from the CBD in

Melbourne. So, it's got to happen.

The second thing is that policing,

of course, shouldn't be necessary

of course, shouldn't be necessary if it's embraced in this cooperative

fashion. The only people who

fashion. The only people who aren't going to obey regulation or laws

going to obey regulation or laws are those small percentage, 25% at the

worst, who are going to fall

worst, who are going to fall through the cracks, and they should be

the cracks, and they should be dealt with in the way everybody is dealt

with now. I see no difference.

Our last question today is over

Our last question today is over here on the right. Thank you. Dye

Johnson, RSPCA volunteer and member.

Dr Wirth, you spoke passionately

about the issue of intensive

about the issue of intensive farming and there is, of course, growing

community support for the RSPCA

campaigns on that. However, the

largest food retailer in the

country, Woolworths, recently put

out corporate social responsibility

report, its very first, which I

report, its very first, which I have to say is an excellent document in

many other rptds, but did not

address the issue of animal welfare

in relation to itself or its

suppliers, which looked to me to be a surprising over

a surprising oversight for a corporate

corporately socially responsible

company. Why do you think that is?

What can the RSPCA do to get

Woolworths and the other big

supermarket chains to directly

address the question of animal

welfare for themselves and their

suppliers? Well, simply put, it's

people power, and we haven't

people power, and we haven't engaged people power sufficiently. We have

started the process pie neared by

the RSPCA in the United Kingdom, of

having a credited, in other words,

high animal welfare standard

production of eggs, and pork. We

have not gone into these other area

have not gone into these other areas and what's the reason? Simply

because of finance. It costs a lot

of money to run an acredittation,

of money to run an acredittation, an RSPCA acredited system, like the

English have run. Remember,

English have run. Remember, they've got 66 million people and they've

got an RSPCA with 300 inspectors

got an RSPCA with 300 inspectors for the size of Victoria - we've only

got 13 - so it is an issue not of

lack of will, but the ability to

service an acredittation scheme.

service an acredittation scheme. If we can service the accreditation

scheme, then we can politically go

out and pester people like

McDonald's, which we have done, but

they haven't actually delivered as

yet, we can go and pester Coles and

Woolworths. Coles, as you know,

have taken up our acredited

barn-laid egg system, but

barn-laid egg system, but Woolworths haven't. Now, I apologise to the

Australian community over that, but

it's a matter of funding. If I had

half a dozen more people in the

national office in Canberra to run

an accreditation system, you would

see a revolution. Thank you very

much. APPLAUSE.

Thank you very much, Hugh Wirth. Thank you very much, Hugh Wirth. It

Thank you very much, Hugh Wirth. Has been a long time since we've

Has been a long time since we've had somebody address this subject in

this forum and you've done it

admirably. Thank you very much.

admirably. Thank you very much. We would like to give you a year's

membership and see you again soon.

I would be delighted, thank you.

Thank you. APPLAUSE Closed Captions provided by

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