LAST week we were finally able to see the much-delayed stomach churning footage of what happens during a Japanese whaling hunt in an Australian whale sanctuary, evidence that the federal government did not want us to see. After a five-year freedom-of-information battle, marine conservation group Sea Shepherd has obtained unreleased footage, shot by Australian customs officials, which reveals in distressing detail the killing of a minke whale by a so-called Japanese "research" ship.
The federal government fought to have the footage kept secret, arguing that it would harm relations with Japan, prompting accusations it prioritised diplomatic interests over protecting the whales and representing the views of Australians who want the annual killing spree stopped. Now the footage has finally been released Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen has demanded the government honour a pre-election pledge to send a customs ship to Antarctica to police the hunt, which takes place in Australian waters in contravention of international laws.
Unfortunately, many of us are not surprised to find that since coming to power the Coalition has not dispatched any such vessels. Sea Shepherd announced last August that it no longer had the resources to send its boats to prevent the hunt.
Sadly, our federal government only seems capable of mounting platitudes rather than sending ships to do the policing. Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, for example, could only manage to say that Australia had moved two successful motions at the last meeting of the International Whaling Commission to increase the international scrutiny of "scientific" whaling.
Thankfully not all politicians are as ineffective as Mr Frydenberg. Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, welcomed the release of the Australian Government footage obtained under Freedom of Information request by Sea Shepherd.
He added “This footage lays bare the brutality that is whaling. These whales are being killed and die slowly and in pain, sometimes drowning in their own blood. This slaughter happens for no legitimate reason and should be condemned.”
Whales weren’t the only animals to feature in the news last week. Chooks got a mention too, though unfortunately minus the visuals that might make people sit up and take notice, though perhaps some will remember footage of a couple of weeks ago that showed a Victorian factory chook farm boiling its fowls alive.
I’m referring to the draft national Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Poultry that were released for public consultation last week, guidelines quite rightly condemned by Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon.
“It is inexcusable that the draft guidelines and standards have simply continued the cruel conditions that over 700 million chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and other poultry are currently subjected to,” Senator Rhiannon said.
“For example, there is no effort to end the use of battery cages and limit stocking densities for chickens. The pain caused by trimming sensitive beaks is ignored, and the standards for housing and slaughter are completely inadequate.”
These draft standards ignore the science that confirms the cruelty of existing poultry enterprises. As Senator Rhiannon has rightly said, and more than once, “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.