Good Friday, More Death

Another drought, another witch hunt in the form of dingo persecution. Another program to ‘improve’ the country through slaughter. I think this is called dysfunction: you keep on doing the same violent thing in the hope that somehow the issues you face will go away.

Young dingo in Queensland, Photo: John Murray
Young dingo in Queensland, Photo: John Murray

The Longreach region of western Queensland is rolling out their biggest and most expensive attack on dingoes ever.

According to the ABC report:

“Longreach Mayor Joe Owens says more than 30,000 square kilometres will be covered in a new wild dog baiting campaign, one of the largest in western Queensland’s history…. The $150,000 campaign is due to begin next week, with nearly 30 tonnes of meat being ordered for baiting.”

I expect that the money is coming from the drought relief funds. It is public money, and it is utterly astonishing that there seems to have been no public consultation on this. Discussions with dingo experts would have explained both the causes of the problems and offered some solutions. There are alternatives to the deathwork.

Consultations could also have addressed the matter of conserving endangered species in the area, and the role of dingoes in suppressing invasive species such a foxes and cats. We can expect a massive spurt of pressure on birds and other vulnerable creatures.

The ‘zombie politics’ reaction says if there’s a problem there’s an enemy, and that enemy must be persecuted and made to suffer, and that enemy must die. There are plenty of alternatives. Another way into dealing with problems is to try to understand their causes, try to implement practices that actually address the causes, and become adaptive. Landscapes change, climates change, markets fluctuate and consumer desires shift. Life changes, humans have to adapt. These are basic truths and it is difficult to understand why they are so hard to grasp.

Queensland has been at the forefront of cruelty in recent years, and this new program maintains that position. The other recent mass cruelty event in Queensland was the Charters Towers days of shame when flying-foxes were persecuted, tortured and killed. Noel Castley-Wright has made an excellent short film ‘State of Shame – Queensland’s Legislated Animal Cruelty’ (view here).

Flying-fox, courtesy of Nick Edards
Flying-fox, courtesy of Nick Edards

The big difference between Charters Towers and Longreach is that out on the pastoral properties most of the suffering will be take place out of sight of humans and their cameras. We will never know the full story of all this terrible suffering. We know it will happen, we know the shock and trauma will spread amongst the surviving dingoes, we know the poison will spread to other species who also get into it, we know the cascades of death will accelerate, and we know that these damaged ecosystems will be further degraded, losing ever more resilience. We can predict (and time will tell) that the next drought will be even more damaging.

Let there be no doubt: 1080 causes terrible, painful deaths. If you have ever wondered whether this is true, listen to the people who have witnessed its effects. Emma Townshend interviewed a few of them on her recent ‘Freedom of Species’ program about 1080 (listen here). These are people have seen animals die of 1080, and have resolved not to use it. They are admirable individuals who have confronted the suffering and decided it will not happen on their properties. The same program contains an excellent interview with Arian Wallach. Speaking as both a pastoralist and a scientist, she discusses the beneficial ecological role of dingoes as top predators.

Encountering this terrible persecution on Good Friday caused me to ask what a religious person might think about all of this. I remembered a heart-felt  comment that came to my site during the Charters Towers mass persecution. This is from Sharon Peterson. She describes herself as a Christian and an American.

“I’m a Creationist, so I see man as created by God and given stewardship over the Earth’s animals. That stewardship does not include cruelty, or senseless violence. Animals should be treated ethically and appreciated for their many unique qualities bestowed on them by our Creator. Just as He preserved man during the flood, He preserved every kind of animal. This shows Jews and Christians that God cares for all of His creatures. The Bible says, His eye is on the sparrow, which means He has compassion for even the smallest of His creatures.”

“No matter how we look at this, through humanistic or Biblical lenses, the answer is still the same. Man does not have the right to cruelly, and with great harm and mortality, attack animals.”

And then there are those wonderful words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. At a time when humans’ mass slaughter of animals was becoming very clear and very troubling, he wrote the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ (1834), with its famous lines:

He prayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.

The only good news on this bleak and sorry Friday was that not all the pastoralists in the Longreach region are taking part in the dingo baiting. Thus far, it seems, the law cannot force people to use poison on their properties. I imagine it takes a lot of guts to resist the majority view on poison, and as the article makes clear, those who refuse are already being set up as scapegoats for when the project fails. There is a lesson here: the ‘good shepherd’ not only takes care of his or her flock, but also protects the others who share in the life of the land.

There is great courage and dignity in refusing to join the deathwork mob. Pastoralists of honour, I salute you!

© Deborah Bird Rose (2014)

Resources:

The ABC Report can be found at:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-17/longreach-unleashes-150k-wild-dog-baiting-campaign/5396628

In response to some of the comments questioning various aspects of the viability of pastoralism and alternatives to broacacres baiting, I thought it would be good share a link to a site in the usa that focusses on predator-friendly pastoralism and desertification. I think they are working toward something very important. Well worth reading! (view here)

12 thoughts on “Good Friday, More Death

  1. Easter is a time of reflection and a time to think about the suffering and injustice of others. What better time to also think about the cruelty and injustice that we wantonly inflict on our fur, feathered, finned and cold bloodied brethren. The definition of humanity is ‘the quality of being humane’ I don’t believe we deserve that title.

  2. What gets me is that the sheep farmers do not do enough to protect their own flocks.
    They know there are wild dogs out there, but they wont spend the money on improved fencing inc electrical, use of guardian animals etc but are willing to have poison dumped all over their properties year after year.
    They never mention the stock losses due to floods or now more importantly the Drought.
    They have been using 1080 Baiting for decades, so how is it that there are more wild dogs about? Obviously 1080 is not working.
    Money should be more invested in protecting sheep than wasted in workshops, new groups, administration of all these, money wasted in wages that could be better used by employing professional shooters to remove the wild dogs from the equation and leave the dingoes.
    But the continual practice of putting and leaving sheep unprotected in the bush is financial suicide.
    Baiting is an expensive and lazy way of stock protection that is unsuccessful.
    The sooner the Govt wakes up to this, listen to the scientists and the evidence now in hand, the sooner the sheep farmers will see a better bottom line.
    But in all honesty, sheep are not meant for this country and the damage they do to the environment thru eating out grasses and causing massive erosion is destroying our environment and the fragile ecosystem within it.

  3. Not actually sure what to say, but I agree with Lyn Watson and Dingo Simon. so sick of the human race and their specicism. So sick of the Genicide of so many animal species. What HItler did to the Jews Pales in comparison.
    Thank you for beautifully worded work.

    1. You are so right. I know a lot of people feel uncomfortable with the comparison between genocide and speciocide, and i can understand that. but the comparisons really do matter because they are interconnected. especially in the matter of the desire to eradicate: eichmann’s basic idea was that he didn’t want to have to live in a world that also included jews and gypsies (and others). he was not unlike some of these pastoralists, some of these shock jocks, and others. one important conclusion, i think, is that it isn’t up to us individual humans or groups of humans to take it upon ourselves to decide to eradicate others – our place in the sun is only ever ethically and ecologically secure (if there is any security at all) when it is shared. we are interconnected, and we need each other even although we often don’t want to know it or don’t know how to explain it! thanks for your comment. cheers, deb.

  4. I think the poisoning if dingoes and wild dogs and aerial baiting is absolutely disgusting. Always in the back of my mind, knowing this is happening, knowing that possibly my taxes are supporting it. Wishing it wasn’t happening. Poor beautiful creatures. Poor country. We live in a form of hell.

  5. What do you think about the Livestock Protection Collars used in the US?

    It is still 1080, and for that reason banned in some parts of the US, but it is much more selective than spreading poison baits out over large land areas, since it only targets the “offending” individuals. The idea is that only some individual predators habitually target livestock while others don’t usually (I know this is true for foxes targeting free range piglets in Denmark), and territorial wild predators that don’t target livestock can serve as a line of defence against other predators of the same species, that do or may target livestock.

    However, the individual predators that attack livestock still get to suffer inhumane 1080 deaths, so the ethical advantage over broad 1080 baiting campaigns is primarily that it is selective.

    I personally think LPCs make much more sense than aerial baiting campaigns do. I do recognise the need to protect livestock against wild dogs. Not recognising that need won’t help getting rid of inhumane persecutions of wild dogs, because it will keep the farming industry (and politicians who appease the industry with Good VS Evil Epic Battle anti-wild dog lingo) antagonised as long as they feel under attack and perceive the need to protect their livelihood, and feel like their situation is not being understood. They do have that need, wild dogs are a real threat to them. What can be discussed is which methods are efficient, sustainable, acceptably humane et.c.

    Large scale baiting campaigns are IMO inefficient in the long run, expensive, inhumane and unethical, but just saying “Ban Them!” won’t work if it leaves the farmers feeling vulnerable and defenceless to predators attacks. There needs to be an acceptably (for them), effective, cost efficient alternative or the current strategies will just go on and on, regardless how unethical they are.

    1. dear anna, it is really to interesting to have this perspective brought into the conversation. i totally agree that pastoralists can’t be expected to bear all the brunt of systems that are dysfunctional. i think the dingo experts would say that after a period of re-stabilisation, the benefits of having a healthy dingo population on or near the property outweigh the losses, which, when the population is stable and functional, is minimal. the hard parts would be: 1) having confidence that the long-term benefits would be there, and 2) having financial assistance to make it through the rough patch. both of these things are achievable. there is the further issue, though, that some properties may no longer be viable due to climate change and long-term loss of ecosystem functionality (many causes).
      a previous essay discusses predator-friendly pastoralism, quoting arian wallach who is a leading figure in australia. arian’s website has a section under ‘opportunities’ on her website (http://www.dingobiodiversity.com/arian-wallach.html). a great link in the usa is holistic grazing (http://www.eldercreek.org/predator-friendly-grazing/).

    1. Yes i have encountered monbiot’s work. thank goodness there are people with his skills and insight working for the good of earth-life!

      1. But who listens, who thinks beyond the words, and actions, lives these thoughts?

        There appear to be so many concerned, but we don’t see it manifest in wildlife of all countries getting more of a chance. Habitat is not being saved, money still rides roughshod, even over those who pay lip service to caring?

        Flying foxes are getting a caning in all states of Australia, and when you look at what is supposed to be an enlightened people, you see old culture still being carried out in a world, where the wildlife is less, where stepping back is the sensible action but not pursued. [sigh]

        1. you’re right, charlie, and thanks for naming it. all the more credit to the carers who actually put their care and commitment to work for others!

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