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Parties scored on welfare performance and you might be surprised at results

ABOVE: The Victorian election is this weekend. Have you done your homework?

THE peak welfare body representing the keepers and breeders of pets and companion animals in Australia has published a score card of how each Victorian political party performed in supporting or opposing sound animal welfare initiatives for companion animals, including horses, in this last term.

Animal Care Australia (ACA) trawled through the last three years of Hansard (the official record of the Minutes of Victoria’s Parliament) to find how often each party spoke in favour of improving animal welfare and supporting companion animals, and those who blocked, or spoke against, those motions. The topics measured were those that directly affect pet owners and companion animals – including horses – and livestock as pets.

“Horses, ponies and donkeys have a unique place in Australian’s hearts, horse owners see their horses as family, they are companion animals, not nameless livestock, as most legislation sees them,” Karri Nadazdy, Animal Care Australia horses and livestock representative said.

“Those of us caring for horses, or keeping them on agistment, know how much time, care, labour and emotional energy goes into meeting the needs of our equines. The current government has introduced policies that have negatively impacted animal owners and set Animal Welfare back by years, despite our pleas for them to improve.”

Regardless of whether a party has written animal policies or not, once elected, they have the opportunity to speak on the record on all the issues that arise, and have the choice to speak positively, negatively, or not at all on issues that affect companion animals.

Animal Care Australia has published a score card listing the issues that were debated in Parliament in the last term, and which way the parties spoke on those issues. Unlike published Party Policies, which are often changed or altered, even after a party is elected, the record in Hansard in permanent and demonstrates the party’s actions, not just their promises.

“ACA supports good animal welfare science to continually improve welfare standards in legislation,” president of Michael Donnelly said.

“Animal Welfare needs to be protected from, and held independently outside of political agendas, especially extreme animal rights ideologies parading as welfare advocates."

While assessing a parliamentarian’s comments on animals, ACA looked for support for horse owners, riders and drivers, as well as therapy animals and horse rescues. Horse racing and feral animals are outside of ACA’s purview, but ACA still reviewed all of those debates to find comments relating to our recreational horses – and there was much to draw on.

Some of this may surprise you. The most vocal supporters for horse ownership and equestrian events came from the Liberals and Nationals – they spoke in Parliament 13 times in support of working animals (such as ridden horses, police horses and therapy animals), while Labor was only positive seven times and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party spoke up in support twice.

The Greens and Animal Justice Party never spoke positively about ridden or driven horses, only speaking in opposition (the Greens once, and the Animal Justice Party five times).

When it comes to Brumbies, the Animal Justice Party opposed aerial culling only twice, while the Coalition opposed aerial culling nine times. AJP did not support the Coalition’s proposals for higher welfare methods of trapping, catching and rehoming brumbies to be retrained for station hands, and equestrian sports.

In addition to this, the Coalition moved initiatives of free training opportunities, and financial support for professional horse and livestock workers during the extended lockdowns in Victoria.

Labor supported these initiatives, along with Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. Greens and Animal Justice Party both abstained from voting on any of these proposals, as their policies do not support animal businesses or industries, let alone riding schools or stud farms.

“Be careful casting your vote based on a single issue, especially one that is an emotional trigger,” Ms Nadazdy said.

“Look at which other parties are also supporting the issues most important to you, and what else they will or won’t do. In this year, more than most, a careless vote could spell the beginning of the end of all equestrian sports in Victoria.”

Animal Care Australia recommends voting below the line, taking the time to number your preferences to prevent your vote being overridden by group voting ticket preference deals.

The score card will help you decide what order you want to see those parties in.

The 2022 Victorian election is on Saturday, November 26.

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