A proposed overhaul of animal welfare laws is "anti-farming" and will send the industry to the wall, a political party argues.
Goulburn Shooters, Fishers and Farmers president Andy Wood has urged people to have their say on the NSW Animal Welfare Reform discussion paper before legislation is drafted.
He and party leader Robert Borsak have accused NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall of pandering to "fringe" animal rights groups with the proposals. However NSW Farmers, the Australian Veterinary Association and the Veterinary Practitioners Board of NSW were among those consulted.
"It is anti-farming, fishing and hunting," Mr Wood said.
"It will send mum and dad farms to the wall because they won't be able to compete with this level of scrutiny and unfair standards."
Mr Wood, who ran for Goulburn at the 2019 state election, said farmers already treated their animals very well and it would be "financial suicide" to do otherwise.
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But he and Mr Borsak argued the proposed introduction of "psychological suffering" in the cruelty definition was highly subjective.
"It is crazy. There's no way you can introduce that on farms," Mr Wood said.
"...The whole thing needs to be looked at but no one knows about it because it only popped up four weeks ago. It is hard to read, vague and broad."
The discussion paper seeks to roll three Acts into "one single, modern animal care and protection law."
In early August, Mr Marshall said expectations and animal welfare science had changed "drastically" in the 40 years since existing laws were written.
The discussion paper follows the February 2020 release of the NSW Animal Welfare Reform issues paper. It attracted 1100 public submissions and led to steep increases in animal cruelty penalties. The paper is the prelude to a second round of reform.
"We now have Australia's toughest set of animal cruelty penalties, but it is vital our legislation is in line with the best available science and community expectations," Mr Marshall said.
"The NSW Animal Welfare Reform - Discussion Paper outlines a series of proposals about the future of animal welfare legislation and it's important all stakeholders, from farmers to mum and dad pet owners, have the opportunity to provide us their feedback."
The proposals include:
- Setting a minimum care requirement for those responsible for animals;
- Clarifying what constitutes cruelty and who is responsible for the care of an animal;
- Introducing a modern penalties framework with increased penalty amounts and new and enhanced offences; and
- Providing updated powers and tools to protect animals.
Animals must be free of fear and distress at all times and no longer will farmers only have to provide feed, water and shelter, Mr Borsak says.
The proposals are aimed at consistency with the five freedoms and five domains of animal care. These are nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and mental state.
But Mr Borsak said this would threaten the continuation of farming in NSW.
"The term 'harm' is very woolly; interpretation could be endless," he said.
However, the proposals make clear that normal husbandry procedures are permitted provided they don't cause "unnecessary pain to animals." The list of procedures will be reviewed and community feedback is invited.
The discussion paper also flags increased penalties.
An aggravated cruelty offence, where an act has led to the death, deformity or serious disablement of an animal, carries a $110,000 fine and/or two years' imprisonment for an individual, or $550,000 for a corporation.
Failure to comply with a court order incurs a $5500 fine and a maximum six months' prison. Similarly, obstructing an authorised officer, such as an inspector, will attract a $5500 fine.
Mr Wood accused The Nationals' of cosying up to the "lunatic fringe" with the proposed laws.
"Adam Marshall is sponsoring this bill and it is absolute insanity," he said.
"Farmers have gone through drought, mice plagues, lockdown and a spate of suicides in the western region. Now they want to introduce legislation that will destroy them. Whose metal health are they looking after?"
NSW Farmers, the RSPCA, Animal Care Australia and the Greyhound Welfare Integrity Commission were among the key stakeholders consulted.
The discussion paper is available at this link. Submissions close on Friday, September 17.
Feedback will inform the drafting of legislation.
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