Com­pas­sion miss­ing for sen­tience in wildlife

Sunday Tasmanian - - World -

WHAT a dif­fer­ence an ‘s’ makes – pet or pest.

Last week’s col­umn con­grat­u­lated New Zealand on its new An­i­mal Wel­fare Amend­ment Bill, de­signed to im­prove the treat­ment of farm an­i­mals and an­i­mals kept as pets.

The Bill recog­nises an­i­mal sen­tience – that, like hu­mans, an­i­mals feel suf­fer­ing and pain.

But there’s a less pub­li­cised side to this story where an­i­mal sen­tience counts for nought.

All is not well re­gard­ing the treat­ment of wild sen­tient an­i­mals who im­pact on hu­man eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties, be it in New Zealand or Tas­ma­nia.

Wildlife, both na­tive and in­tro­duced species who have nowhere else to go be­cause we are tak­ing their wild places, are not af­forded sen­tience.

The NZ leg­is­la­tion ex­empts wild an­i­mals from be­ing treated as sen­tient. In­stead, lethal poi­sons such as 1080 are big busi­ness in that coun­try, with mil­lions of baits spread aeri­ally by he­li­copter tar­get­ing deer and pos­sums.

These same poi­sons im­pact on other an­i­mals and birds such as na­tive Kea moun­tain par­rots who eat rats and mice poi­soned by the 1080.

Against a back­drop of counter-claims and tainted de­bate in­volv­ing gov­ern­ment, agri­cul­tural in­ter­ests, sci­en­tists, con­ser­va­tion­ists, tourism stake­hold­ers and poi­son in­dus­try play­ers, so­cial me­dia has be- come the voice of con­cerned peo­ple.

Pages such as 1080 Eye­wit­ness with 18,000 mem­bers pro­vide a fo­rum for NZ res­i­dents to show how poi­sons are af­fect­ing their com­mu­ni­ties through eye­wit­ness ac­counts.

In Tas­ma­nia in 2014, a planned ban on the use of 1080 by the pre­vi­ous La­bor gov­ern­ment was scrapped by the cur­rent Lib­eral Gov­ern­ment, de­spite the ag­o­nis­ing cru­elty and col­lat­eral dam­age in­her­ent in 1080 use.

NZ sci­en­tist Dr Jamie Steer is ad­dress­ing such is­sues at the Com­pas­sion­ate Con­ser­va­tion Con­fer­ence in Syd­ney next month.

All is not well re­gard­ing the treat­ment of wild sen­tient an­i­mals who im­pact on hu­man eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties, be it in New Zealand or Tas­ma­nia.

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