ANIMAL Justice Party MLC Mark Pearson is quietly confident an Upper House inquiry into his amendment to animal welfare rules in NSW will recommend the mandatory use of pain relief for production animals during husbandry practices.
This would include practices such as castration, dehorning and tail docking from January 1 next year. The Bill also would end the use of mulesing by January 1, 2022.
He introduced his amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Restrictions on Stock Animals Procedures) Bill in September 2019, and it went to an inquiry in June this year after the Upper House vote was split 17:17.
Despite the delays, Mr Pearson said the introduction of mandatory pain relief, and the removal of mulesing of sheep, were only a matter of time.
The parliamentary committee is now awaiting the draft report before it formulates the final draft at a deliberate meeting of the committee on Monday, September 21.
The State Government will then have six months to respond, but Mr Pearson said he was quietly confident both sides of the Upper House would finally support his private member's Bill amendments.
Mr Pearson admits the government and opposition, and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers are "pretty much" against mandatory mulesing, however, he said from evidence extracted from a whole spectrum of stakeholders, including wool industry representatives and farmer representative bodies, there was lots of support for mandatory pain relief.
"What's important to note, the government has to look after woolgrowers who are doing the right thing and using pain relief, and moving away from wrinkles (on sheep) and don't have to mules," he said.
"But what's also to be considered is we have PETA, Humane Society International and Four Paws, international organisations with a great deal of wealth and support.
"They are watching this very closely."
While Mr Pearson feels support for his ban on mulesing within the next 18 months would probably not be supported, he believes the practice would become illegal at some stage in the future.
"Whether it be 18 months, three years or five years, the writing has been on the wall for 30 years and woolgrowers have to get out of this so-called necessity to mules," he said.
He said while he may not get the required number of votes to support the mulesing deadline, he felt mandatory pain relief would get the approval.
"I got this amendment to the (inquiry) committee, so that's a measure of how serious the parliament is taking this issue," he said.
"What must be considered is what the world is going to say about a decision by the NSW Government because it's been highly controversial for many years.
"It caused a boycott of Australian wool which had a very damaging impact at the time.
"It's something the government has to seriously think about because whatever it decides may have an impact not only on the woolgrowers who are doing the wrong thing and still mulesing without pain relief, but for all the woolgrowers who are doing the right thing."
Among the 32 submissions received by the inquiry, woolgrower representative bodies spoke out strongly for mulesing not to be banned.
Dealing effectively with fly strike was the primary issue.
Sheep Producers Australia, which opposed the ban, said in its submission the proposed ban was a misguided and blunt response which would inadvertently result in an increased incidence of fly strike.
NSW Farmers stated mulesing must be retained as a critical practice in minimising the risk of flystrike, and a timeline for the phasing-out of mulesing must not be adopted.
"Despite Australian Wool Innovation investing over $35 million in mulesing alternatives over the past 10 years, mulesing remained recognised as one of the most effective tools at farmer's disposal to reduce flystrike.
"Mulesing provides lifetime protection against flystrike and none of the other tools alone could replace mulesing and they must be used to complement mulesing in a multifaceted approach to fighting flystrike."
WoolProducers Australia said in its submission that the long-term goal of the Australian wool industry was to find a viable alternative to surgical mulesing, but until a suitable alternative was developed, the organisation firmly believed the right to retain mulesing was essential.
"In many circumstances mulesing with analgesic/anaesthetic (AA) is the highest standard of animal welfare that can be provided to sheep during the course of the animal's life," it said in its submission.
"To maintain the longevity of the legal ability of producers to mules, WoolProducers is calling for the mandatory application of analgesic/anaesthetic for this procedure."
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) said the principles of integrated pest management for fly strike and blowfly control should be used and further developed.
"Until mulesing is ceased, all lambs being mulesed should be treated with approved analgesics to minimise the pain associated with the procedure and operators carrying out the mulesing procedure should be appropriately trained.
"While the AVA is strongly supportive of the industry phasing out mulesing as alternatives are further developed, it does not support a legislative ban on mulesing until the alternatives are in place."