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Australia increasingly uncomfortable with animal cruelty

I may be wrong, but recent indicators suggest animal suffering is going out of fashion. I have been tracking the ebb and flow of the animal protection movement as a first-hand observer since the late 1990s…

Are puppy farm protesters part of a growing wave of interest in animal rights? forced rhubarb

I may be wrong, but recent indicators suggest animal suffering is going out of fashion.

I have been tracking the ebb and flow of the animal protection movement as a first-hand observer since the late 1990s. I have also conducted historical research into the contemporary animal protection movement which emerged in the 1970s; and the early-modern animal protection movement of the Victorian era.

Unless I am mistaken, the community seems increasingly unimpressed by animal suffering.

On September 18, around 5,000 people rallied on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House. Speaker after speaker took to the microphone to condemn puppy mills.

Also know as puppy factories, these mills are often backyard operations, located on city fringes, where breeding adults dogs live in crowded, anti-social, squalid conditions.

It is the dogs’ job to produce puppies; puppies that are then sold through pet stores, often to impulse buyers.

The system has a number of problems:

  • the breeding animals live in poor conditions;
  • once the thrill of the impulse purchase wears off, many young dogs find themselves at the local pound;
  • regulation is poor, as authorities aren’t easily able to keep breeders in check.

On September 18, protesters came in their thousands, many with dogs in tow. They called for an end to puppy farms and did so under the banner of “Oscar’s Law”.

The “law” is named in honour of Oscar who survived five years as a stud dog, and was rescued twice by Debra Tranter, the driving force behind Oscar’s Law.

All kinds of people were gathered on the steps of Parliament House: this wasn’t a fringe group of animal liberationists. They cheered for Debra and booed the Baillieu Government’s representative who spoke of greater regulation to stop rogue operators.

Legislation to get tough on puppy factories is consistent with the Baillieu Government’s pre-election promise. But it is not consistent with Oscar’s Law, which calls for an end to all puppy mills and a prohibition on the sale of dogs through pet stores.

But while the Oscar’s Law crowd was impressive, it could not out-do the show of support Animals Australia and the RSPCA received when they asked people to rally around Australia in opposition to live animal exports.

On August 14 an estimated 20,000 people rallied around Australia and it was standing room only on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House.

The crowds, the letters, the emails and the petitions all suggest one thing: the community is not impressed by animal suffering.

Meanwhile, hen producers and chicken meat sellers feel they must spend time and money communicating a “free to roam” or “no cages here” message to the community. And the speed with which an apparently small army of animal lawyers challenged the legitimacy of those advertising campaigns, seems very telling.

Likewise, community support for jumps racing and duck shooting does not appear to be growing. Rather, those who have always opposed those practices still oppose them, and their numbers continue to swell as others decide they too must speak out.

Of course, legislative change is slow, if it occurs at all. Animal advocates know this, and at the rally for Oscar’s Law many speakers made reference to the need for community-level change. Given the number of community members apparently concerned enough to take to the streets, that change may be afoot.

It does seem as though the tide is turning against animal suffering. I will be very interested to see whether the trend continues and where it takes us.

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5 Comments sorted by

  1. Paul Richards

    Great article taken along with the offshore slaughter house issue it was well timed.

    I find one of the cruelest comonly accepted practices was dog tail docking, I have owned both weimaraner with doclked and undocked tails. Was given no choice with either. When introduced, no docking laws my third dog was undocked, the physical difference was dramatic. The dog was more agile, he seemed happier and so did we.

    This is a clear example of people changing laws and mindset.
    It can be applied across all areas of animal welfare.
    Once laws change, we won't even be able to imagine the previous behaviour was acceptable.

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  2. Chantal Teague

    logged in via Facebook

    Thank you for writing this article. It's very poignant, and I hope a telling sign of the future of animal welfare.
    I completely agree that their is a swelling of public indignation and rage surrounding animal welfare and animal rights. Having always been an avid animal lover, I do not consider myself 'fringe' or radical animal activist. I just love animals. I've always had a pet whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, fish or budgie, and many at the same time. However, of recent times, and…

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  3. Regan Forrest

    logged in via Twitter

    I do not wish to belittle the sentiment of the anti puppy-mill protesters, with whom I happen to agree. But I am curious about what wider social trends this may be coincident with (or indicative of).

    It appears that an increasing concern for animal welfare is coinciding with a decreasing level of trust and empathy towards other people. Witness the marked difference in sentiment regarding the live animal trafficking debate and the human trafficking (asylum) one. And it's not just asylum - in all walks of life we are warned that other people are 'not to be trusted' (cowboy tradies, stranger danger, etc, etc.).

    Now it is possible that these are completely unrelated phenomena. However, maybe these two trends are opposite sides of the same coin?

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  4. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Since when has one- sided 'reporting' by a campaigner who also happens to be a research fellow qualified as a contribution to any sort of research-related debate? This does not meet the proclaimed standard of The Conversation , surely.

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    1. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to wilma western

      @ Wilma Western: “Since when has one- sided 'reporting' by a campaigner who also happens to be a research fellow qualified as a contribution to any sort of research-related debate? This does not meet the proclaimed standard of The Conversation , surely.”

      Wilma Western – Your jibes at authors and commenters who may not share your point of view are becoming repetitive. The author is well-researched in the topic despite your innuendo to the contrary and your selective dig at the author as being a “campaigner" is vacuous. Indeed one could attribute that description to all well-researched authors who publish in the Conversation and who write with conviction.

      Once can only conclude that you are a member of the “one-sided” minority of humans who are indifferent to or endorse cruelty to non-humans. Perhaps from vested interests or a callousness of character, devoid of mercy?

      Think occasionally of the suffering of animals of which you spare yourself the agony.

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