The Hon. ROBERT BORSAK
[10.19 p.m.]: Tonight I speak about the concept of animal rights and wildlife conservation. I refer to an interesting position paper by the Wildlife Society, which is based in Maryland in the United States of America. The paper regards science as the framework necessary to understand the natural world and supports the use of science to develop rational and effective methods of wildlife and habitat management and conservation as one of the pillars of the North American model of wildlife conservation. I think we in Australia should adopt a similar philosophy. The Wildlife Society recognises the intrinsic value of wildlife and the importance of wildlife to humanity. It views wildlife and people as interrelated components of an ecological-cultural-economic complex.
The Wildlife Society also supports regulated hunting, trapping and fishing and the right of people to pursue either consumptive or non-consumptive use of wildlife. However, let me say—it is a stance fully supported by the Shooters and Fishers Party—that I share the society's concern that foundational elements of the animal rights philosophy contradict the principles that have led to the recognised successes of wildlife management in North America. These are the same animal rights people who seek at various times to impose their own philosophies on us in Australia.
Although a range of individual philosophies exists within the realm of "animal rights", most adherents have similar beliefs, including the belief that each animal should be afforded the same basic rights as human beings, animals should not be exploited for human purposes, and every animal has equal status, regardless of commonality or rarity, or whether or not the species is native, exotic, invasive or feral. The broad application of these elements of animal rights philosophy to contemporary issues of wildlife management does not do what the activists think it will. They promote false choices regarding potential human-wildlife relationships and false expectations for wildlife population management. This also erodes the confidence in decades of knowledge gained through scientific exploration of wildlife and their habitats.
On the other hand, we have the philosophy of the Wildlife Society, which focuses on quality of life for a population or species of animals, and does not preclude the management of animal populations or the use of animals for food or other cultural uses as long as it is justified, sustainable and achieved through humane methods. There is also a divergence of views evident in the fact that conservationists, for example, may value the protection of an individually endangered species more than the existence of individual common species. However, the animal rights mob advocates that individuals are viewed as equally valuable and deserving of equal protection. The Wildlife Society also points out that the animal rights viewpoint is silent on the massive land-use alterations that would be needed to feed the human population in the absence of consumptive use of animals, and the dramatic continued loss of wildlife that would follow as habitats are converted to and maintained in intensive agriculture.
We know that the Public Trust Doctrine, which is the foundation of many laws protecting wildlife in the United States, is based on the premise that wild animals are a public resource to be held in trust by the Government for the benefit of all citizens. Animal rights activists philosophically oppose this concept and advocate affording legal rights to all animals. The Wildlife Society rightly claims that if the Public Trust Doctrine was voided it would be almost impossible for wildlife professionals to manage endangered species, as well as overabundant, invasive, exotic or ecologically detrimental animal populations. Clearly, the philosophy of animal rights is incompatible with science-based conservation and management of wildlife.