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Conservation and animal welfare in action internationally

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Nicola Beynon, Senior Program Manager with the Humane Society International (HSI), outlines some of the things that her organisation does. HSI is the largest animal protection and environmental organisation in the world, their ten to twelve million members in the USA meaning they are larger than Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).    
They have some 40,000 Australian members and have operated here since 1984 as an independent charity with little government funding. In America, where HSI began, the organisation is similar to our Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) with animal shelters across the country.

HSI's overall mission is the preservation of endangered species and ecosystems and to work to ensure quality of life of both domestic and wild animals. The organisation also has an animal welfare strand and directly funds animal protection programs in (mainly Asian and African) developing countries.

Done mainly at a national level with some international work, Nicola’s focus is on the policies, laws and treaties that protect wildlife. As one example, HSI was successful in having the Grey-headed flying fox protected as a threatened species under federal and NSW legislation.     
This, however, does not protect them from being shot by orchard farmers since the law is not enforced. HSI is currently working with a coalition of conservation and animal welfare organisation to pressure the NSW government to bring the shooting to an end by providing financial assistance for netting the orchards.
It is very difficult to shoot and kill a flying fox quickly. They feed at night up in trees and their small brains are not an easy target, meaning most are peppered with shots and die painfully (see image left, provided by Nancy Pallin). Shooting has been banned in Queensland as it was considered to be cruel.

HSI has had a long campaign against the Japanese whalers and has in fact, taken the Japanese whaling company to the Australian Federal Court for breaching Australian legislation which makes whaling an offence in Australia’s Antarctic waters.     
As a result of HSI’s case the Federal Court issued an injunction ordering the Japanese company to cease whaling in Australia’s Antarctic territorial waters. Unfortunately, the company is ignoring the injunction even though they are in contempt of court and the present Government has not fulfilled pre-election promises to enforce the act.

Another court case in the media in relation to whales, first mooted by the Howard government in 2000 at an International Whaling Commission following a HSI recommendation, was for the Australian Government to bring action in the international court at The Hague that would seek to show the Japanese abusing their rights under international law by linking whaling to bogus scientific research. The current Rudd Government has said they will take such action if there is no change by the next International Whaling Commission meeting in June. HSI continues to pressure them. In the late 1990s.
Nicola at a media doorstop outside Federal Court after one of the whale case court hearings.

HSI began to look at habitat protection, launching a million acres program which sought to have that much habitat protected under state and federal laws. The organisation has achieved much more than that, using scientific nominations for endangered ecological communities.     
If the submission meets agreed criteria then the habitat becomes protected as endangered. Protecting habitat on private land is fraught as Robert Hill, then liberal Environment Minister found out when Brigalow Woodlands in northern NSW and southern Queensland and Blue Grasslands in Queensland were listed. The backlash meant further listings were very slow or not done at all. These days there is much more consultation with farmers, along with financial assistance.
Nicola with former Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill at the signing of the international Agreement for the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels

One of Nicola’s fondest memories was the campaign to have the great white shark protected under international law.     
This shark is sought after for its jaws, teeth and fins which made the campaign difficult when Asian fishing nations objected to any provision under the United Nations Convention for International Trade and Endangered Species that would affect fisheries. CITES is a treaty that regulates trade for listed threatened species with listings on either Appendix I to ban trade or Appendix II to control trade at sustainable levels. Done at a government level and requiring a two thirds majority of countries to vote for the listing, the great white shark was successfully listed, a great achievement for HSI.

The campaign to have southern blue fin tuna fishing banned under Australia’s federal laws is also run by HSI, albeit with less success, even though the species qualifies to be listed as critically endangered. The fish is part of a multimillion dollar industry, with one fish fetching up to $US250,000 in Japanese markets making it profitable to continue fishing it even when numbers are really low.

The HSI website can be found at www.hsi.org.au or they can be contacted at their Avalon office in NSW at 02 9973 1728.

They are indeed a big fish in animal and environmental protection.

Text: V.B. February 2010
Images from Nicola Beynon, HSI and Nancy Pallin

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