State of the Environment Report 2006
Summary by Glenys Oogjes
The State of the Environment 2006 Report has highlighted the devastating toll caused to wildlife by agricultural production, commercial industries, and habitat clearing. "The data on which this report is based is damning. It reveals that there is a systematic eradication of Australian animals underway through human intervention," commented Executive Director of Animals Australia, Glenys Oogjes. The report reveals the shocking effect of land-clearing on native wildlife. It suggests that for every hectare cleared 2,200 native vertebrate mammals, birds and reptiles die. In 2004 alone, the Report data shows that 424,700 hectares were cleared across Australia.
"If you take away an animal’s home, his food, his water – he dies. The toll on Australian animals through land-clearing is shameful and potentially catastrophic for wildlife." The Report notes that significant attempts have been made, through revegetation, to make up for the damage caused by land clearing. Unfortunately, it does not discuss the further damage inflicted on browsing animals as they face the cruellest of deaths - through 1080 poison when that re-vegetation involves plantations for timber or other commercial use. The Report includes data that should have direct repercussions for the commercial kangaroo industry. In 2006 under the Commonwealth government kangaroo management plan 4 million kangaroos were permitted to be shot. Yet a section of the report concludes:
"No data that would give an indication as to whether 'harvesting' is sustainable; for example, data on population trends, population structure or distribution of harvested species, appear to be available."
Glenys Oogjes commented "How can governments permit the annual killing of millions of kangaroos when there is no data to suggest that it is a sustainable industry." The welfare implications for kangaroos and joeys provide reasons in themselves to stop this industry, but now there is evidence that it is completely irresponsible from a conservation perspective. The data also dismisses kangaroos as having any substantial impact as competitors for grazing land. The relevant indicator in the report concludes that the grazing pressure of kangaroos across the continent is no more than 8%, and may be as low as 1%, of the total grazing pressure on Australian pastures. Cattle are responsible for between 63% and 68% of total grazing pressure and sheep for between 28% and 31%.
A close examination of the State of the Environment 2006 Report, and particularly its supporting "indicator" documents, reveals government decisions relating to wildlife are being made devoid of any substantive data and are having a dire impact on the welfare and numbers of Australian wildlife. "Whilst animal welfare issues in urban areas regularly come under the spotlight, this report makes it clear that urgent attention needs to be given to the tragic impact that human intervention is having on the welfare of Australian animals beyond our backyards," concluded Glenys Oogjes.
Minister Ian Campbell released the "Australia State of the Environment 2006 Report" in December 2006. It is the third such report (previous reports in 1996 and 2001). The full report, including the data files ("indicators"), is available at: http://www.deh.gov.au/soe/index.html
Other support data from the report related to animals:
- Indicator LD-40 [Current research into pressures and contributions of naturalised introduced species] compiles research and confirms that blaming these animals (i.e. foxes, cats - often called "feral" animals) for significant impacts or pressures on the environment cannot be justified.
- Indicator CO-62 provides that an estimated 136 million fish are "harvested" by recreational fishers each year, and an even greater number of fish and other aquatic animals are caught but "returned or discarded" - increasing the number of individual animals that are disturbed, killed or left to die from the coastal and inland waters of Australia, to around 300 million each year.
- A full paper summarizing the "indicators" which affect the welfare and survival of animals is available from Animals Australia and via their website.
* Media Release, Animals Australia