Happy New Year everyone
Happy New Year everyone, I hope all the Weekender Herald staff and readers enjoy a 2019 filled with purpose and joy. Living in the beautiful Adelaide Hills is a great start!
I personally hope this is the year we start taking our impact on the environment seriously, and see some real action from our political leaders. I was initially thrilled on learning that the Minister for the Environment and Water, the Honourable David Speirs, announced a proposal to ban the use of single use plastic in SA; for which a discussion paper has been made available for public comment until 22 February. I thought, this is a great start, our politicians are doing something! A focus on the reduction of single use plastics will see less ending up in our waterways and oceans, reducing the suffering of our precious and vulnerable sea-life, which is one of the key motivations behind this proposal.
It’s a good start, but is it the best we can do? For example, if we are so concerned about our aquatic life and ecosystems, why has the government just approved seismic testing in order to identify the oil and gas deposits in the Great Australian Bight? The last time seismic testing was undertaken, it was linked to the deaths of up to 6 whales and had a painful and debilitating impact on the marine life that rely on sound to communicate (i.e. most of them). Why we are even contemplating extracting fossil fuels when we need to be reducing our carbon emissions doesn’t make sense.
In addition, Australia’s waste management – by global standards – is better and more sophisticated than most other countries. Per person, our litter and mismanaged plastic is about 1/3rd of that of a person in the United States, and the United States is 1/14th of that (on a per person basis) of someone in China!
Compare this with our energy management and carbon pollution. Australia, at around 22.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person each year, is still one of the top polluters on a per capita basis out of all the countries in the world. So while a ban on single use plastics is something I support and applaud, it is in my view a distraction from other, larger issues that are of concern in our country. Excellent at waste management already yet sadly punching above our weight in contributing to climate change, significantly more needs to be done to become an environmentally sensitive, sustainable country.
Louise Pfeiffer, Stirling
Year of many highlights. (Weekend Herald Dec 20th)
December 2018 (Weekend Herald)
It has been a big year for me with many highlights. Running as a candidate for the Animal Justice Party in the SA state election held in March, I learned more about the issues facing residents in and around the hills, meeting many thoughtful and motivated people along the way. I feel grateful that our country has such an organised system of voting and democracy, throughout all tiers of government. Importantly, I’ve learned more about how to influence and advocate issues that I care about namely: animal rights and sustainable eating choices.
Over the course of this year I have written in this very newspaper about duck shooting, bow hunting, jumps racing, greyhound racing, factory farming and the live export trade. Activities that each lead to unnecessary suffering for animals. I am thankful for the opportunity to shine a light on these industries, to be a voice for those who have no say in how they are treated.
Highlighting the environmental damage that animal agriculture causes is a topic I wrote about in June. The University of Oxford revealed this year that we can reduce our carbon footprint by up to 73% through adopting a plant-based diet. As a community we need to be encouraging dietary practices which are sustainable: the impact we can have collectively is huge yet still mostly untapped. I encourage readers to learn more and take environmental matters into their own hands through their food choices – we can all be leaders in this space.
Excitingly, 2018 was the year that vegan food came to life. Earlier this year Hungry Jacks introduced a vegan cheeseburger, selling out in the first week. Sports stars such as Peter Siddle, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams – among many others – attribute their improved performance, their kinder and lighter environmental footprint, to plant-based eating.
2019 is shaping up to be an even better year for animal advocates. The Live Export trade is firmly on the agenda for the upcoming Federal Election. Plant-based foods such as meat-free burgers, sausages, dairy-free cheeses abound in our local supermarkets. Social media continues to be an effective platform to spread important messages on big issues. And if you too are interested in trying out plant-based or vegan eating in the new year for yourself, join the expected 300,000+ individuals signed up for Veganuary (Veganuary.com) … what a terrific way to start the year! Thank you for reading and best wishes in 2019 to all.
Louise Pfeiffer, Stirling
Duck Hunting: A sport whose day has come
South Australia’s lakes and waterways are some of the most beautiful and serene places around our state. Earlier this year between February and June this peace was disrupted, smashed by gunfire, carnage and cruelty of the annual duck hunting season.
Duck hunting is, for some, a recreational activity to simply pass the time. Presumably, some macabre enjoyment is felt through the thrilling metaphorical chase of the innocent, shotgun in hand. The powerful against the powerless, the odds are stacked against these poor birds. Yet that they can legally be shot at all as a recreational activity, no less, remains curiously protected by law.
More than 40,000 ducks each year are estimated to be killed in South Australia each year. Around the same number are wounded, shot by a shotgun while in flight, the spray of pellets missing vital organs. These wounded birds await a slow, painful death; unable to find food if their beaks are damaged or left without the ability to escape from other predators.
For duck hunting to be banned, our government needs to step up. The Animal Welfare Act 1985 states that ill-treatment of animals occurs if they are killed in a manner which ‘does not cause death to occur as rapidly as possible’. The multitude of eyewitness reports and duck-rescuers from animal groups cannot be ignored, there is little doubt that immense and unnecessary suffering occurs during each duck hunting season.
SA Premier Steven Marshall is more than aware of the brutality that transpires each year. In 2011 he is on record calling for a parliamentary inquiry into duck hunting, citing the likely breach of the Animal Welfare Act. As someone who now has the political power to establish the inquiry, will he achieve what he sought as an MP many years ago?
The majority of South Australians, on learning about the suffering of wounded ducks, support a ban on duck hunting. Nobody likes cruelty to animals. The number of duck hunters is few, the sport outdated and senseless.
In Queensland, when banning duck hunting more than a decade ago the then-premier Peter Beatty said, “it was not an appropriate activity in contemporary life”. I remain optimistic that Premier Steven Marshall achieves what he set out to do in 2011, bans this barbaric activity which has no place in civilised society and is quoted saying similarly progressive words soon.
Louise Pfeiffer, Stirling
SA Vegan Festival #1 in the World
Last weekend the City of Adelaide sponsored the Vegan Festival held in Victoria Square (Tartanyangga), a growing annual event said to be the best in the world. Organisers were expecting over 18,000 people to stream through the gates to enjoy food, entertainment and stalls that celebrate a vegan lifestyle; embracing better health, a lower environmental footprint, and compassion toward animals.
“If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others… why wouldn’t we?” This is the simplest argument for veganism that I’ve heard, and it was said by Pam Ahern, founder of Edgar’s Mission in Victoria. Edgar’s Mission is a sanctuary for animals saved from a squalid life followed by a brutal death at a factory farm. I visited the sanctuary in 2011 and seeing animals such as dairy cows and chickens for the first time not as commodities, but as living, breathing creatures with their own personalities and interests, was a humbling experience.
The first vegan festival I attended 7 years ago was held in the Melbourne suburbs with around 1,000 people attending. No gates, a handful of stalls, a little haphazard. Move forward to 2018 and Adelaide’s very own world-class festival is right in the centre of town, covered by mainstream press, teeming with people from all walks of life.
People are embracing a plant-based, or vegan lifestyle, for several reasons: for their ethics – there is no humane way to kill an animal who doesn’t want to die; for their health – a whole food plant-based diet has been shown to prevent or even reverse many chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers; or out of concern for the environment – animal agriculture contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
Earlier this year the Canadian Government announced a $150 million investment into plant-based protein production. This in turn has stimulated private investment into this industry. With billionaires like Richard Branson and Bill Gates also investing into plant-based protein start-ups, the time is ripe for our policy makers to incentivise more agriculturalists and businesses to transition into this industry. Our own government has not yet noticed the opportunity, and I and the growing numbers of tax-payers embracing a plant-based way of eating think that they should.
The plant-based movement – the vegan movement – is growing. South Australians should be proud of our grassroots Vegan Festival being ranked #1 in the world and its role in promoting local SA produce and entrepreneurs.
Louise Pfeiffer, Stirling.
Strathalbyn Abattoir Protest
In September, 23 activists occupied the rooftop of the Strathalbyn abattoir for 17 hours, forcing the business to close its operations for the day. Adelaide Animal Save and Aussie Farms were the two groups behind the protest, held to raise awareness of how some animals were slaughtered following footage released weeks earlier showing horrifying cruelty being inflicted on animals being slaughtered at this very location. Local and national media covered the protest, and vitriol was hurled against the activists on social media for the disruption.
Sharing a meal is a great thing to do with family and friends. I challenge you to sit down with your family and watch the footage that led to this protest which you can view online at www.strathmeats.com. The footage is just under 6 minutes long. How much do you think you can watch? Pigs being boiled alive, cows hanging by one leg from the ceiling while still alive, sheep and pigs being electrically stunned, pigs being drowned to death in front of other pigs. Keep in mind this isn’t happening in the Middle East, in some poverty-stricken slaughter yard, but in our very own Adelaide Hills. This footage is not one of the great things happening in our state that make SA Great.
Animals have always had their suffering hidden from us, and animals like sheep, cows and pigs raised for food are not protected by cruelty laws in the way that the family dog or cat are. The activists in this protest were trying to shine light on what is happening under our noses, to show to the world the institutionally condoned practices causing others pain. While the protestors were lambasted for their behavior, I feel their frustration and it’s worth considering how we would want others to act if we were the victim.
Despite what we have been taught to believe, we do not need meat for brain health, or for protein. All the proteins needed can be found in plants, as is evidenced by the many meat-free multi-generational families around the world. Further, there is no such thing as ‘food’ animals, and these animals are just as terrified, powerless and scared as the family pet would be if they were sent to slaughter.
Sir Paul McCartney said in the 1970s that if slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be vegetarian. These activists are trying to show us what really goes on so that we can make informed choices as to whether this is the kind of world we want.
Louise Pfeiffer, Stirling
NSW and half of QLD is in drought
Currently all of NSW and half of QLD is in drought. This is devastating for farmers who are having their livelihoods challenged, and for the animals who are bred into these farms who suffer from hunger and thirst during extended periods of no rain. We can and should help those who are in need, and it’s heartwarming to see local schools and community groups in the Hills band together to raise funds to send to those affected. Yet, fundraising and bailouts are currently estimated to occur 7 out of every 10 years – and our collective helping hands have amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade. It’s time to prevent this from happening, and one way to do this is to closely look at whether the farms repeatedly impacted are viable at all.
Animal agriculture is taking its toll on our environment. It takes 3,000 litres of water to produce one beef hamburger – which is the equivalent of one person’s showers for 2 months. Livestock and their bi-products are responsible for over 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock are also responsible for 65% of nitrous oxide emissions – a greenhouse gas which is 296x more destructive than carbon dioxide. Droughts are predicted to increase in their frequency and intensity, and perhaps this is nature’s way of telling us to do something else, to farm something else: to think carefully about our choices and their impact on our planet. Why the National Party is not talking about packages to transition farmer’s to more sustainable, drought resistant agriculture is bewildering. Why animal agriculture’s impact on climate change is not being discussed by the major political parties – not even the Greens – is simply wrong.
The Animal Justice Party cares deeply about our country’s food security and the welfare of rural Australians. We also care about animals and the environment. While the country suffers from drought, the Federal Government is again considering bailing out those working in animal agriculture only to allow for the problem to continue. The AJP, on the other hand, has policies to give these farmers a long-term solution by investing in sustainable plant-based products that are drought resistant. This will lead to jobs being created through R&D, manufacturing, processing and growing. It’s time to stop gambling on the lives of animals, the environment, and the livelihoods of farmers: it’s time for sustainable solutions.
Louise Pfeiffer, Animal Justice Party State Committee Member
Cow's Milk unnecessary for human health
In 2018 ideas are spread quickly and easily through social media. 20 years ago, only the staunchest animal activists and those who had studied animal rights were aware of what goes on in the Australian dairy industry. Today – influencers such as Erin Janus whose YouTube video “Dairy is Scary”, with nearly 5 million views, are growing awareness that we don’t need to drink cow’s milk at all.
At school we were taught as our bones contain calcium, foods with lots of calcium should be good for our bones. But scientists are slowly unravelling the secrets of bone health and food is only a small part of the story. They are beginning to understand why a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, found that those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk. And why countries with the lowest rates of dairy consumption have the lowest rates of hip fractures.
We have been fed a myth that cows are happy to be milked due to uncomfortably full udders and brainwashed with images of cows in green fields waiting for the bell to ring to be milked by the farmer. Yet this is not the reality that many cow’s face. The truth is that, just like human mothers, cows only produce milk if they are pregnant or breastfeeding. For the industry to make money, cows need to be producing milk constantly, which means that after giving birth they are impregnated again and again. Their male calves are taken away from them within days after birth and sent to a slaughterhouse, with over 400,000 being killed each year in Australia, so that humans can drink breastmilk from their poor mothers. Cows are distraught and bellow for days when their calves are taken – one of the most distressing sounds I’ve ever heard. The artificial cycle of birth and death leaves these dairy cows depleted, at which point they themselves are slaughtered at an unnaturally young age.
The sales of almond, coconut, and oat milk growing each year, hitting $212m in 2017 sales in Australia alone. Social media is raising awareness of the cruelty involved in producing cow’s milk. Dairy farms in other countries are closing down and the Australian $4 billion-dollar dairy industry will also face decline. I feel for the farmers who have invested heavily in their dairy farms and call on the government to start exploring ways to help them transition to more viable trades.
Louise Pfeiffer, Animal Justice Party State Committee Member, Stirling
The Mayo bi-election
The Mayo bi-election is two short weeks away, and while some of us groan at the thought of going to the polls on a citizenship technicality, I’m excited about what we can do on voting day.
I often reflect on how lucky we are being able to vote at all and the dignity that comes from living in a democratic country which happens to be second wealthiest country on this planet (as measured by wealth per adult), second only to Switzerland. This gives us tremendous freedom in our choices, leads to our extraordinary quality of life, and provides us with a safe place to live and raise our families. We have ‘made it’ as a country, and this should give us the confidence to help those in need, give a fair go to those less fortunate than ourselves, those who may be suffering through no fault of their own.
In their capacity to suffer, farmed animals are just like the family dog. Yet ‘companion animals’ (dogs, cats and the like) have been given rights to be protected from harm and cruelty. Farmed animals, however, are not given the same rights if acts of cruelty occur in the ordinary course of business. This arbitrary awarding of “rights” to some animals and not others means that the live export industry is legal and is endorsed by the very political party who holds power in this country today – the Liberal Party. Profits are given a higher weight than kindness, compassion, and decency.
3 million live animals are shipped each year from our shores to other countries and suffer in ways that could only be dreamt up by the devil. Sheep, cows and goats are exported in distressing conditions which lead to suffering for all, illness and death for thousands. Impacted farmers can and will make money in other ways, and a good government would ban this trade on moral grounds while buffering any economic fallout. The Mayo bi-election is your opportunity for to say ‘not in my name’ to live animal export by voting for Rebekha Sharkie of the Centre Alliance, Major Sumner of the Greens, or Prof Reg Coutts of the Labor Party, whose parties are all against live export. If you, too, want to see live export banned please put them first on your voting ticket and Georgina Downer last.
On 28 July 2018, let’s demonstrate kindness and benevolence befitting of a wealthy nation by preferencing those parties who want to ban live export.
Louise Pfeiffer, Adelaide Hills, Animal Justice Party Committee Member
Sustainability, Climate Change & The Environment
Buzz words of the millennia, and for good reason. The planet is warming at a frightening rate and some scientists have very dire predictions for its future. Climate change is alarming, and for good reasons. The actions of our Government are slow and frustrating, and because of this lots of people are taking matters into our own hands and doing what we can to reduce our individual carbon footprints.
Many of us unaware of the impact that animal agriculture has on our environment. A massive study by researchers at Oxford University was published in the journal Science on 1 June 2018. The researchers collected data from nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries on 40 major foods covering 90% of agricultural products produced globally and looked at how each of these impacted the environment by analysing climate change emissions, water pollution, and air pollution.
The analysis shows that meat and dairy production provides just 18% of calories and 37% of protein yet uses 83% of all farmland globally and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. The new research shows that by going meat and dairy-free our individual carbon footprint could be reduced by up to 73%. This news is exciting and – importantly – empowering for environmentally conscious individuals.
The lead author of the study Joseph Poore said “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” which only reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy,” he added.
What about farmers? I think that the average voter would approve of any measure that helps impacted farmers transition to more sustainable crops. I also think that our savvy farmers will adapt to supply and demand and will soon learn to farm something else.
Take note, there are already whole sections in local supermarkets dedicated to vegan food, recipe books abound, and the internet is flourishing with recipes. The time to take action and choose something else to eat is now as there is no Planet B. And for those of us who can’t completely give up meat, cutting back goes a long way toward helping the environment.