Animal Protection >
with Bede Carmody from 'A Poultry Place' Sanctuary
Bede Carmody is a journalist who has been actively involved with
the animal rights movement since he stopped eating animals on
January 1, 1994. Since August 1999 he has lived with rescued and
unwanted animals, firstly serving an "apprenticeship" by helping out
two friends at their 10-acre sanctuary (Atchin Tan) before branching
out and creating his own five-acre haven for animals.
Interviewed by Claudette Vaughan
Claudette: What prompted you to set up A Poultry
Bede: I guess everyone in animal rights at some
stage wishes they were in a position to do hands-on work with
rescued animals. In my case the dream became reality. I had
the opportunity of helping out some friends who have a 10-acre
sanctuary – it was only supposed to be for a year and has now
become a lifetime commitment.
I learnt a lot in that first year and despite the
heartbreaks which do happen I felt I was really doing
something worthwhile and rewarding. When the year was up I
realised I couldn't really move back to Sydney and resume my
previous life and be truly happy. So I took the plunge and
bought some land and began establishing A Poultry Place.
Poultry are the most exploited animals in society – being
abused for their eggs, their meat and their feathers – and of
course with that exploitation comes untold suffering and
cruelty. I thought by establishing a sanctuary I could do
something positive and beneficial for some animals at least,
and perhaps educate a person or two that animals deserve
Claudette: What kinds of animals reside at A Poultry
Bede: As the name suggests, the sanctuary is
basically devoted to providing a haven to rescued and unwanted
poultry – there's ex-battery hens, roosters, ducks and geese.
There are two resident donkeys (Tinker and Taffy) and a pony
(Billie), and of course there's Maisie, my faithful shadow.
Maisie was rescued as a young dog from a backyard and has been
with me for just over three years. She is extremely loyal and
has a great nature around the other animals, despite being
constantly bullied by her feathered sisters and brothers.
She's not too bad with humans either, once she realises they
Claudette: Paint a picture for us of your average
day at A Poultry Place.
Bede: I've been here for almost 12 months and I'm
not sure I know what an average day is yet. Generally the day
begins at about 6am with a coffee for me and good morning pats
for Maisie, then it's outside to let the animals out of their
night sheds. They are locked in at night for protection; they
have the day to range around till it gets dark, when they go
back into their sheds for the night.
The property is divided into four areas – the paddock for
Tinker, Taffy and Billie, and three smaller areas, where there
are chooks and ducks. This allows me to have the number of
roosters and drakes I have and avoid the fighting which occurs
when too many boys get together. There's basically three
groups of chickens and two groups of ducks/geese. Each day I
have to replenish waterers and feeders and at the moment
because the drought has dried up my dam I have to fill up
wading ponds for the ducks and geese. I'm lucky that I work
part-time from home so I get time during the week to clean out
sheds and do chores such as worming and delousing.
Claudette: Do you have any special animal husbandry
Bede: No. I haven't done any training, just picked
up stuff from my time at Atchin Tan and through reading.
Ironically, when I was a little kid I wanted to be a vet.
Perhaps creating and maintaining a sanctuary is the
manifestation of that.
Claudette: How well does a battery hen adjust to
life as a normal hen?
Bede: It is truly amazing to see how a rescued hen
changes. It's the ultimate reward.
I find rescue work very stressful; the actual rescuing part
is just the start. The first couple of days post-rescue are
usually fairly harrowing and yet at the same time rewarding.
You have to be watchful that they are all eating and drinking
and that none are being ganged up on by the others. At first
the hens tend to be aggressive towards one another because
they are trying to establish a new pecking order; once that is
established there are few altercations. You also need to be
watchful for any conditions which may not have been
immediately apparent upon their rescue. Of course the stress
you suffer is nothing compared to what they've been through.
Rescued battery hens are very inquisitive and are
constantly exploring their surrounds. They quickly start
displaying their natural instincts to sun-bathe, dust-bathe
and build nests – all of which they've never experienced
before. It's a real buzz to see their initial reaction to
straw because they have never seen it before and yet know
exactly what to do with it – scratch around in it and nest in
it. After a couple of days the pluckiest hens begin to perch
and eventually most of the others follow them – again it's a
natural instinct they are discovering for the first time.
The majority of hens have few problems adjusting to a
Claudette: In addition to the care of rescued
animals you are involved in campaign work around Australia
against intensive farming. Tell us about that.
Bede: I have served on committees overseeing AR
campaigning but that has now fallen away a bit because the
sanctuary work is the priority and I think I do a pretty fair
job at it. I still do as much as I can to help out;
professionally I am a journalist so I try to use my skills to
help out wherever I can—write press releases, leaflets and
edit newsletters. Most recently I've helped do some publicity
work for the national campaign to ban the sow stall for pigs
and also a little work on the KFC broiler campaign.
Claudette: Are there any techniques that you found
particularly useful in convincing people when running
Bede: The most important thing is to know the facts
and only tell the public/media the stuff you know is true and
that you have evidence to support. I also think it's important
for people to know their own limitations. Some people don't
like participating in actions or demonstrations but are more
than willing to write letters, run stalls and ring talkback
radio. It's important that people recognise their strengths
and that campaigns are designed to incorporate many different
strategies so as to include as many people as possible.
Claudette: Let's talk politics. You have worked as a
political reporter and also lobbied politicians on various
animal issues such as banning the battery cage and the NSW
Game Bill. Why is legislation for animals so difficult to
Bede: Most people don't view animals as being
relevant – they don't speak, they don't vote so therefore they
aren't represented. There are exceptions and some individual
politicians are happy to be a voice for the voiceless in
parliaments, but unfortunately they are still in the minority.
I think things are changing, albeit very slowly. For example
in recent years there's been lots of work done into the links
between cruelty to animals and violence between humans and
this is being recognised by lawmakers. The EU also seems to be
making a lot of legislative changes for the animals' benefit
and that kind of stuff is beginning to have a ripple-down
effect, though as I said there's a long way to go.
One of the major problems is that Australian politics is
dominated by two main parties – the Coalition
(Liberal/National parties) and Labor. Most of the politicians
who are sympathetic to animals are either from minor parties
(the Democrats or Greens) or Independent. Those in the major
parties who are sympathetic about animals usually seem to be
rolled by the others in their party who don't share their
concerns. To further complicate matters we have a three-tiered
system in Australia which makes it very hard to get positive
outcomes for animals. Look at the battery cage – to ban it all
the states had to agree to do it, despite the majority of the
population wanting it stopped.
What we need to do here in Australia, I think, is become
more active in campaigning on the consumer front. Overseas
organisations like PETA, VIVA! and Compassion In World Farming
are having great success at implementing change through
organising consumer boycotts and the like. It must be
remembered that politicians are elected by voters who are also
consumers, and if there is a mass movement against something a
clever politician will jump on the bandwagon and embrace the
Claudette: Who is responsible for defining the
living conditions of animals and why?
Bede: I think everyone is responsible, but
unfortunately when you talk about animals with people it
becomes very clear that most have double standards, and that's
if they consider them at all.
Many people who say they love animals will be outraged at
cruelty to dogs and cats and hate people in other countries
eating them, yet they have no qualms about the killing of
chickens, pigs, cows and sheep for eating. And when you try to
explain the conditions under which such animals are kept and
killed most of them don't want to know because "it's too
upsetting". Unfortunately our society has created classes of
animals—there's a class of animals called companions (cats and
dogs), and those classed as livestock which are food animals,
and they're made to be eaten.
Native animals are another example of the double standard.
There are many people who "love animals" and will put pen to
paper and protest Canadians clubbing seals and Africans
shooting elephants, but sit back and accept Australians
Such double standards need to be tackled in defining
animals' role in society.
Claudette: Why does the RSPCA enjoy a special status
in this country?
Bede: Well, the RSPCA has been around for many years
and is seen as the official animal welfare organisation, given
its powers to enforce the laws relating to animals, so people
treat it with reverence. I think also it is because other
animal groups, such as Animal Liberation, are mostly viewed as
being too radical. That is, they will ask people to stop
eating animals, whereas the RSPCA doesn't and is therefore
seen to be less confrontational and more mainstream and
therefore more acceptable.
Claudette: Where to for Bede Carmody now?
Bede: Well, I'm nowhere near finished establishing A
Poultry Place – the hens are still living in a temporary house
waiting for me to finance and build their proper house and
yard. (It's not ideal keeping them with ducks and geese
because of the way waterfowl dirty drinking water.) I've made
a commitment to the animals here to safeguard them and provide
for them for the rest of their lives so that is the ongoing
priority – to be able to feed and shelter them.
I'm sure there will be more animals, and indeed I have been
asked to take in all sorts, but I have to be realistic and
know my limits. No sanctuary can take all the animals who need
homes. There's only me here and in addition to doing the
various chores I have to earn an income to be able to support
them – there's no government assistance or anything of that
I think most journalists eventually think about writing a
book, and of course I'm no exception. I eventually hope to be
able to document my experiences and tell the stories of some
of the wonderful individuals I've had the pleasure of caring
for, in the hope of getting through to the general populace
that animals deserve better. It's hard work juggling
everything. It can be heartbreaking when you lose one of your
charges. It can sometimes be lonely and stressful, but at the
same time it is rewarding to see how animals respond to a
little love and kindness and begin to do what comes naturally
I have no regrets about making the decision to begin A
Poultry Place. Some people have children – I've chosen instead
to help out some fellow beings.
Donations to A Poultry Place are welcomed and can be sent
to Bede Carmody at PO Box 205, Murrumbateman NSW