Submission: Object the importation of exotic parrot species into Australia

As recently reported in The Guardian Australian edition, the Commonwealth Government is considering lifting a ban on importing exotic parrot species into Australia in a review involving, ‘Psittacine birds household pet and aviary birds’. A draft report ‘Import risk review for psittacine birds from all countries’ has been released and the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is now calling for public feedback.

Submissions can be made up until 11:59 PM, Saturday 19 September 2020.

Have your say and object this proposal, due to the serious animal welfare and biosecurity risks associated with lifting this ban. Please tailor your submission to have a greater personal impact. 

The Guardian’s media story can be viewed here: Federal government considers lifting ban on importing parrots 25 years after it was introduced.

Steps

There are a few steps required in order to make a submission – please don’t let this stop you from speaking up for the animals. Unfortunately, this is the process of the Australian Government. We have tried to simplify this process by creating the submission text for you (below), and providing step by step instructions to make your submission.

1. Register for Have Your Say –

1.1 Please read the governments privacy notice before you register and make a submission.

1.2 Before uploading the submission, you’ll need to register to the Australian Government’s Have Your Say portal. To register, please click here

1.3 After registering to Have Your Say you will be sent an email confirmation. Please check your inbox and/or junk folder – you must accept the confirmation to continue.

2. Save the Submission Letter to your computer

2.1 Copy and past the submission text below into an external document (Word, Pages, Notes, Google Docs, etc.) and save to your computer – remember where you have saved the document.

3. Make the submission

3.1 Now that you have registered, and have your Submission Letter ready, click Psittacine Birds Submission here.

3.2 Sign in and click “Take Survey”.

3.3 Fill in personal details (1-4).

3.4 For Question 5 select “I would like to upload a written submission as a file.”

3.5 For Question 6 upload the Submission Letter you have saved to your computer.

3.6 Complete the rest of the questions and submit.

Below you will find the submission text which you will need to copy and paste into an external document (Word, Pages, Notes, Google Docs, etc.) and save to your computer for the submission.

SUBMISSION – REVIEW OF IMPORTATION OF EXOTIC PARROTS INTO AUSTRALIA

Thank you for the opportunity to lodge a submission to the Australian Government’s, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s current review to consider the biosecurity risks associated with the importation of live household pet and psittacine birds into Australia in line with Animal Biosecurity Advice notice 2020-A04 under the Biosecurity Act 2015, including consideration of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, (EPBC Act), currently under a statutory ten yearly review.

I note through this review, the Australian Government is considering lifting the ban on importing exotic parrot species into Australia, following the suspension of these conditions in 1995, and will be taking into account current policy, new scientific information, and international standards developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Having fully reviewed and thoroughly considered all the broad immediate and cumulative associated risks and impacts, I am strongly opposed to the lifting of the 1995 ban.

It is deeply concerning to note that this taxpayer-funded review has in part been instigated by a minority who wish to keep and confine birds for hobby purposes or exhibition, in zoos, wildlife parks and conservation programs, in breeding centres and private collections, and those purchased from overseas. I note with alarm, that there will be no limit imposed on the number of birds imported under this category.

It is disappointing to note the Federal Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s own website includes what can only be described as pre-determined and foregone conclusions and outcomes regarding lifting the current ban on importing exotic parrot species into Australia. This includes website statements under Steps to complete this risk analysis such as, “develop import conditions” and “publish import conditions in our Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON)”, before the public submission period has concluded, before submissions have been considered, and before a final report has been compiled and published.

It is similarly disappointing to note that the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment which also holds responsibility for the vitally important portfolio of “Animal Welfare”, describes these “sentient” birds as a “commodity”, e.g., “This draft review has identified diseases of biosecurity concern for this commodity and we have undertaken risk assessments of these diseases.”  I also note with concern that the draft risks review includes no consideration at all regarding the “welfare” of these birds.

I am very concerned about the current level of political interference with the 10-yearly review of the EPBC Act where political and powerful vested interests are being given priority over our shared environment and native species of fauna and flora, while the review is still current. This makes a mockery of our public submission processes and government’s unwillingness to consider public views and expectations. The above concerns I have raised further diminish my personal level of confidence that this review will be undertaken in a transparent or objective manner as is expected by the Australian public.

RISK REVIEW RESPONSES

In response to the Draft report ‘Import risk review for psittacine birds from all countries’, I submit the following responses.

The proposed biosecurity and risk management measures and any other measures to provide equivalent risk management outcomes, including; sourcing from approved countries, veterinary inspection, laboratory testing and quarantine, are narrow, limited in scope and completely inadequate.

There is an extreme level of serious risk to Australian birds and other species with the potential introduction and spread of contagious and serious diseases from the proposed lifting of the 1995 ban. These diseases include avian influenza virus, avian orthoavulavirus 1, internal and external parasites (excluding protozoa), parrot bornavirus, psittacid alphaherpesvirus1, psittacine pox virus and West Nile virus. 

Allowing imports from countries simply on the basis that they have been approved by the department as having satisfactory animal health services, providing a high level of assurance in the treatment, management and health status of animals exported to Australia, is totally inappropriate in the global age of Covid-19 and other pandemics and does not meet the Australian public’s expectations.

Nor is it appropriate that countries with a history of compliant trade in relevant avian “commodities” with Australia including, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States will be approved for the export of household pet psittacine birds without the need for further assessment. This is a limited, narrow and potentially dangerous and high-risk criteria

In June this year, Canada was the subject of an “an investigation after some 500 puppies – 38 of them dead were found on a Ukraine International Airlines plane at the Toronto airport, officials said Saturday. The surviving French bulldogs, a popular breed in Canada, were suffering from symptoms including dehydration, weakness and vomiting when they were found on the flight from Ukraine that landed at Toronto Pearson airport on 13 June, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a statement.” More recently, “a dog is dead following a flight to Chicago, and police say it and 17 others were found caged without food or water. The dogs were coming from Jordan when paperwork delayed their release. This comes after a similar situation just weeks ago.” 

To subject these birds to 1) extensive and lengthy confined travel in noisy aeroplane cargo holds where sensitive birds will experience excessive stress including from noise and draughts, 2) a range of tests for diseases of biosecurity concern, 3) post-entry quarantine at the Mickleham facility in either a standard room or live bird room meeting Biosecurity Containment Level 2 (BC2) or Biosecurity Containment Level 3 BC3 specifications; is cruel and can’t be justified on ethical or moral grounds under any circumstances. This is not about saving an Australian native bird species from extinction; this is about satisfying the human desire to own, confine and exploit exotic birds.

OTHER

I provide the following additional comments relating to this review, and I have concluded that at this time, it is not appropriate to lift the current 1995 ban. The associated serious biosecurity risks have not been adequately assessed or addressed by the proposed mitigation proposals and responses. Australia is currently facing numerous serious biosecurity risks and our focus must be concentrated on known and yet unknown risks, as well as vitally important recovery efforts towards our own decimated native fauna, flora and broad shared environment which has been continually eroded and seriously exacerbated by the recent 2019/2020 bushfires, noting we are now entering the 2020/2021 summer bushfire period.

It is now estimated that nearly 3 billion animals including 180 million birds, were killed or displaced by Australia’s devastating bushfire season of 2019/2020, either directly or indirectly, and which has been described as ‘one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history’.

The recently published study founded on work by 10 scientists from five institutions, commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the latest of several papers to map the devastating impact of the bushfires, included the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Newcastle, Charles Sturt University and Birdlife Australia, who have revealed the distressing scale of the impact on Australia’s native wildlife.

Given this monumental and unprecedented Australian wildlife loss, and our abhorrent and increasing record of fauna and flora extinction including, the current trajectory with vulnerable, endangered and threatened species, the Commonwealth Government should be investing all its efforts and resources into recovery and mitigation of further species losses, rather than importing other exotic species which may lead to biosecurity threats and a rise in further “pest” species competing with already vulnerable Australian species.

At a time when the global world is experiencing the devastating impacts of Covid-19 pandemic and the growing emergence of evidence to confirm zoonotic diseases are emanating in part from the trade in wild animals, we should be acknowledging and accepting the science from conservationists and ecologists who confirm that the “Human encroachment into biodiverse areas increases the risk of spillover of novel infectious diseases by enabling new contacts between humans and wildlife …” and that we need to ban the abhorrent trade in and exploitation of wildlife. Globally and in Australia, we simply can’t take ongoing risks by being complicit in increasing the inevitability of the next pandemic.

We know that human encroachment into wildlife populations and biodiverse areas is greatly increasing the risk of infectious diseases through contact between humans and wildlife and as a direct result of human actions involving wildlife and their habitat. This spillover of viruses is highest from threatened and endangered species whose populations have declined largely due to hunting, the loss of habitat primarily through animal agriculture, and the wildlife trade. This human encroachment and activity multiply the risk of contagion.

When we remove wild species from disturbed ecosystems and put them into man-made environments with abnormal surroundings and stresses, interaction breeds strains of new and emerging diseases that can also infect humans. Diseases which are naturally diluted in the wild react very differently when humans disrupt the ecological balance. Introducing different species which normally don’t coexist in the same environment, allows viruses mutations to jump species.

We need to head the warnings included in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B that concluded that Humanity’s “promiscuous treatment of nature” needs to change or there will be more deadly pandemics such as Covid-19, based on analysis of the links between viruses, wildlife and habitat destruction.

In April 2020, more than 200 of the world’s wildlife groups including the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Zoological Society of London wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) calling on it to recommend to countries a highly precautionary approach to the multi-billion dollar wildlife trade, and a permanent ban on all live wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicine to prevent the spread of disease, and address “one of the major drivers of species extinction”.

Since its detection in China in August 2018, African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV), has spread rapidly around the world, notably Asia and some European countries, and has resulted in the devastating ongoing culling of many millions of pigs as well as extreme economic impacts. This deadly virus, for which there is no cure or vaccine, has been detected in Timor-Leste, just 680km north of Darwin and more recently in the Southern Highlands provinces of New Guinea where it is spreading rapidly.

The current and ongoing serious ASFV threat to Australia should be the focus of the Commonwealth Government, not a consideration of allowing the importation of exotic species which may lead to new biosecurity threats and a rise in further “pest” species competing with already vulnerable Australian species.

Currently, in Victoria and as of 26 August 2020, the relevant agencies are dealing with three different strains of avian influenza, commonly known as “bird flu” across six infected farms in Victoria including three egg farms with highly pathogenic H7N7 avian influenza, two turkey farms with low pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza and one emu farm diagnosed with low pathogenic H7N6 avian influenza. This has resulted in the culling of hundreds of thousands of hens, and thousands of turkeys and emus. Similar “bird flu” outbreaks have previously occurred in Victoria and NSW.

Currently across Australia, thousands of birds who are meant to fly freely, are confined often for life in cages. Many have no quality of life, and live a lonely existence in un-natural surroundings and enjoy no meaningful legal protections. I have serious concerns for the welfare and well-being of all caged birds who are confined for human entertainment, used for breeding or showing or sold as ‘pets’.

The ACT and NSW have Codes of Practice (CoP) for keeping birds in captivity, however, they are seriously outdated and inadequate. The NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 4 – Keeping and Trading of Birds has not been updated since October 1996. Nor, is it clear how these CoP’s are enforced. While Australian native species including native birds are supposed to be “protected” by law, and while some native birds bred in captivity can be kept as “pets” as long as you have a licence, other native birds such as the Australian Native Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, (Cacatua galerita) like Free ‘Toyota’ the Australian Native Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and 40 native bird species are exempt under the NSW Native Animal Keepers’ Species List 2016 and from regulatory schemes such as the exhibited animals protection legislation in NSW and therefore can be kept as “pets” without any licence or oversight under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and accordingly, have almost no welfare protections which invariably leads to poor welfare situations.

Thank you for considering my submission and I confirm my consent to publish my name and submission content.

End submission.