Animal Protection >
THE TIMES ARE A CHANGIN' –
with three directors of Animal Liberation NSW
Spend any time around Mark Pearson and the
directors of Animal Liberation and you soon come to realise these
people mean business.
Whether you're gum-booting across a paddock with them in the dead
of night on your way to a battery hen rescue or whether they are
working within the law with their new "special constable" rights
just awarded to them, the artifice of the Animal Liberation
structure is geared towards lasting results and effecting change
especially for those animals, the so-called "food" animals.
Over a quiet beer at the local pub recently they expanded their
philosophy about animal rights and we found out the low-down on the
live export trade in Oz, direct action, these "special constable"
rights in this new era where strategies from the past are modernised
in keeping with the times.
Pictured above from left to right: Bede Carmody, Mark Pearson,
Interview by Claudette Vaughan, July 2000.
CLAUDETTE: For years the police have been nothing
but antagonistic towards activists and at best indifferent to
the plight of factory-farmed animals. Is climbing into bed
with Police Commissioner Ryan such a wise choice for Animal
MARK: Yes, we think so because it will work in the
CLAUDETTE: How did it come about?
MARK: Well really it was a decision that came about
over a long period of time. Leone Manwaring, one of the
directors of AL was basically looking at the history – how
over time the organisation has gained more standing in the
community and how we were actually looked to by the government
for advice and submissions in regard to animal welfare. So in
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act we looked at the
section which mentions an officer can be a special constable
which is appointed through the courts and this officer has to
come from a charity or a company.
CLAUDETTE: So you got in contact with the
MARK: Yeah and they wrote back favourably. We
discussed all our concerns – particularly the fact that farm
animals were still receiving very little protection and if
this same type of cruelty was shown to a companion animal then
the person who was in charge of that animal would be
prosecuted and possibly go to jail.
CLAUDETTE: Were the police willing to assist you?
MARK: Surprisingly we were quiet amazed at the
enthusiasm. What I think that they did was look at the issues,
and as the community is now more willing to speak out about
animal welfare the complaints have also increased. The RSPCA
keep saying that there is more cruelty now than ever before
but I don't actually believe that to be true. I believe that
the consciousness of the community has shifted so much to an
extent that people are now willing to pick up the phone, write
a letter and say "Look this is happening and this is not
CLAUDETTE: This new relationship with the Police. Is
this the end of Direct Action as we know it?
MARK: I don't see this as a problem because
obviously the special constables that have been appointed
(there are 3)* cannot participate in that form of direct
action but if people are so concerned about animals – that
they are undergoing pain and distress – if these people felt
compelled to step over that fence to assist that animal and
then brought it to our attention then our special constables*
would have a duty under the Police Officers Act to respond to
that information. Now we have a leverage – an agency – which
is within AL and is an honest and appropriate response to any
information that comes our way. We must act on it. If not then
we are actually failing in our duty to the animals.
CLAUDETTE: Why is the live export trade so secretive
MARK: Because the industries involved don't want the
Australian public to know what's happening. Nor do the farmers
as a matter-of-fact. We've recently received evidence from
activists in the Middle East on the conditions that the
animals suffer both in transport and unloading and slaughter
over there which is completely against the Australian
standards of animal welfare. If word got out about it there
would be a public outcry and this would grow to such an extent
that the government would have to ban it.
CLAUDETTE: What countries are live exports going to
MARK: Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and the Middle East.
CLAUDETTE: Animal Liberation has always placed a lot
of emphasis on direct action as a tool for change. What's your
philosophy behind it?
MARK: What happened was we started to get farmers
telling us about conditions up in farms in the area around us,
which was Paul Keating's piggery at the time. Similarly at the
same time I met Patty Mark at the AGMs and watched her
strategies closely. I went down and spent a bit of time with
her and watched what she does which is clearly direct action.
What's important about direct action is not that it's just
direct action but it focusses on the individual animal which
is really what's central to what this organisation all about.
You can have hundreds of thousands of animals together but
Animal Liberation is about equal consideration for all animals
so that inspired me. I came back, we had some abattoir workers
contact us about the dreadful conditions of pigs arriving at
Scone abattoir and then we adopted some of the principles that
Patty Mark was using in Victoria.
CLAUDETTE: Has there been a cost to adopting an
unadulterated – without vested interests – voice for the
BEN: No. If anything we're taken more seriously now.
MARK: We found that people in government, for
example, had serious concerns about animal welfare and they
wanted to improve things for animal welfare. They realised
that they weren't going to win by science or that approach and
they realised that the RSPCA has been compromised as an agent
of government and industry now and they were looking to a
community voice to get their information out. By taking the
stance we have and going about it the way we do gives people a
chance to put their hands up and give us that information.
CLAUDETTE: What's your assessment of the animal
rights movement in Australia now?
MARK: It's obviously growing enormously – even just
in terms of the public acceptance of it. I think one good
measure of it is if you mention the name "Animal Liberation"
now and you don't get the baulking or the discomfort from the
public that we used to get. I think there's more of a respect
for us now because we've been out there shouting from the
rooftop and we've been winning issues but remained non-violent
and reasonable at the same time.
CLAUDETTE: What pisses you off, if anything, about
the animal rights movement?
MARK: Well, it's hard work. (laughter) On occasion
we get people who do come in and they're not willing to
observe for a while and learn from the people who have been
doing it. They've got strong views and they want to change the
direction of the organisation without really understanding
where we're at and the procedures that are in place – and
sometimes have agonisingly developed over the years. These
people can be obstructive but it's really just the odd
CLAUDETTE: What's your advice to animal activists
who want to up-the-ante on their own activism?
MARK: Always make sure that they do their homework
so that they know and have actually done their research and be
prepared for the most difficult questions. Of course, you
know, just coming in on the emotional level is fine but with
the backing of research it gives the activist the edge.
CLAUDETTE: Do you think that activists should became
more politically savvy for example?
MARK: Yes definitely. And become more savvy on all
levels about what the issue is and what the governments policy
is or similarly if they are going to take a front-line
approach. Being credible's important. If you don't know the
answer to something learn to say "I'm sorry. I don't really
know that at the moment but I'll go and find out and get back
to you." Make sure to get to the bottom of that particular
BEN: Be prepared to re-evaluate the way that you've
been doing things. Sometimes the tendency is to keep doing
things the way things have always been done and it's healthy
to have new ideas, new approaches to see how they work to keep
evolving. It's too easy to keep on doing the same old thing
because it's always been done that way.
MARK: Because the public is shifting too in the way
that they are responding to our actions so we need to change
so that the community keeps seeing the issue of animal
suffering in a new light also. As we've gone along we've
modified our campaign strategies.
BEN: Sometimes it's been best to drop direct actions
for a while and then bring it back.
CLAUDETTE: What about Australian abattoirs?
MARK: We've had this major breakthrough with this
abattoir in Young through approaching the Police Commissioner
and talking with the Police and showing them the evidence.
It's the first time the police are prosecuting a major animal
cruelty matter and in a place which will expose a whole area –
and where people haven't thought much about it before. The
so-called "quiet death" isn't the case at all. Even Animal
Liberation to an extent, never broke through into exposing
abattoirs before. Of course we advocate vegetarianism and
veganism but in terms of going into that dark corner and
having a look, well, we thought that is going to be the last
campaign that we will probably win when we get more people
becoming vegans and veggos but the times are a changin'.
BEN: This issue seems to have presented itself in
the natural course of things although there's a lot of work
involved but all of a sudden we've got 4 or 5 things happening
where previously you could say it's been in the too-hard
basket to crack open.
CLAUDETTE: Bede, is there anything you'd like to
BEDE: I'd like to say that what Mark was saying
before, that we've changed our strategies, so we've gone from
being an organisation that was known as a protesting
organisation – which it still is – but now we're also doing it
legally. There's pollies on our side and now we have the media
on side which hasn't always been the case. In this day and age
you have to have the whole package. By going out their and
ranting and raving leads nowhere. By using the legal channels
we follow up on our campaigns, we're using the people elected
to represent us in Parliament and we're making EVERYTHING
count without compromising the grass-root nature of our
endeavour, namely animal liberation.
CLAUDETTE: Is there a book in the making?
MARK: I think it's time for a book on Australian
abattoirs, don't you? What convinced me is Gail Eisnitz's
success with "Slaughterhouse". I read it and I didn't think
anything like that is happening in Australia but obviously it