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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 27091

Mr LLOYD (10:45 AM) —Today I wish to raise an issue that is of concern to many people in my electorate—an issue that should be of concern to all Australians. I refer to the treatment of caged bears in countries such as Cambodia and China. I want to highlight a group that has been established which has collected petitions, hoping to change the plight of many of these bears which have spent their entire lives being treated in a cruel and inhumane fashion. I refer to Free the Bears Inc. The New South Wales representative of that group is Mrs Lorraine Van Epen of Umina in my electorate. She has written to me seeking to table 8,000 signatures on 4,100 petitions to the government of Cambodia and almost 2,000 petitions to the governments of Cambodia and China, appealing to the governments of those countries to end the cruel practice of having caged bears and using them for research, and even using them on menus and that sort of thing. It is quite disgusting.

Unfortunately, the petitions that she offered to provide to me are petitions which are addressed to the governments of those countries. The wording, of course, would not suit the requirements of this House to be able to be tabled as an official petition. I wanted to talk today about the work that these people from all over Australia are doing in order to try to highlight the plight of some of these animals that are being caged for their entire lives. I have examples here of some of the issues. The petition which people have signed reads:

We, the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully request that the Cambodian Government takes urgent steps to protect Cambodian Bear species from poaching, exploitation, suffering & cruelty. We urge you to take note that these bears are an endangered species and are at an extremely critical and vulnerable stage.

As I have said, the organisation have collected some 4,000 signatures from Australian citizens. I commend them on the work they are doing in highlighting this terrible practice through a number of countries. I know that they are being successful in highlighting the issue. They are being successful in raising money to establish sanctuaries for some of the bears that have been released from cages. I also know that they have been successful in arranging for medical treatment for some of the bears that have been severely mistreated to the stage where many of them do not survive. With special medical and veterinary treatment, some have been able to survive. Most have been so badly mistreated that, even when they do survive, they cannot be returned to the wild and have to be cared for for the rest of their lives. I was given an article on this by the Free the Bears Inc. of New South Wales, and it shows a bear that has spent 10 years in a small cage without ever being allowed to roam free. It is a disgraceful practice. I will do anything I can to highlight this practice, my concerns, the concerns of some 8,000 people who have signed the petition and the concerns of the many people that have joined the Free the Bears Inc. Fund. I commend their efforts. I will continue to highlight their efforts, and the plight of these bears, throughout the world.