History of Animal Liberation ACT
Animal Liberation ACT (ALACT) was formed in the late 1970s, around the same time as other Animal Liberation groups in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland.
Animal Liberation is, as the name suggests, committed to the liberation of all animals from all forms of human exploitation, oppression, and cruelty.
In the early 1980s ALACT campaigns focused on the treatment of farm animals in transportation and at sale yards and abattoirs. Improvements were achieved through the development of national codes of practice and the rescue of abandoned lambs born at local saleyards and abattoirs. Between the 1980s and 1990s most of ALACT’s farm animal actions were ad hoc. We helped prevent the establishment of both an intensive turkey farm and an intensive rabbit farm in neighbouring Yarrowlumla Shire (NSW). We also investigated treatment of cattle and pigs.
ALACT's most significant farm animal campaign has been on battery hens. This campaign began in earnest in August 1995. It resulted in two very significant legal and political wins in the course of the campaign. In February 1997, four hen rescuers were arrested during an action at Parkwood Eggs, an ACT battery egg factory. The ‘Parkwood Four’ were found not guilty of trespass because the Magistrate considered their actions to be reasonable and necessary due to the inherent cruelty of the battery cage system and the particular conditions uncovered. Unfortunately this result was later overturned by the Federal Court.
Our second win was the passage of legislation to ban the production and sale of battery cage eggs in the ACT. The legislation, proposed by the ACT Greens (with amendments by the Australian Labor Party), unfortunately has not been implemented. Due to national competition policy the ban on the sale of eggs in the ACT required the agreement of all other Australian states and territories. This agreement was not granted therefore the relevant legislative provisions have not commenced.
Raising awareness about battery cages, Floriade 2009
Animals used in scientific research
A major campaign by ALACT against monkey experiments at the Australian National University (ANU) in the late 1980s/early 1990s led to:
ALACT has been represented on most ACT Animal Experimentation Ethics Committees. We have also facilitated improvements in the treatment of animals used in ACT schools. For example, in the late 1980s we were able to draw public attention to the proposed classroom killing of a number of experimental rats who students at Lyneham High School had raised from babies. As a result the rats were either kept or re-homed instead of being killed.
Animals in entertainment
In 1992, ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to ban circuses which use exotic animals. This success resulted from the hard work of the Animal Welfare Working Group (AWWG) which developed ACT’s animal welfare policy, our campaigning against circuses and support from a sympathetic ALP politician, David Lamont.
The AWWG recommended the ban on circuses and the proposal for the ban was included in the original draft ACT Animal Welfare Policy. However, a subsequent ACT Government deleted it from the draft Policy and the ACT animal welfare legislation was drafted without it. Intensive campaigning by ALACT persuaded the ACT Legislative Assembly to include the circus ban, and the ban was passed with ACT’s first Animal Welfare Act in 1992.
The same Act also banned rodeos.
The ban on circuses with exotic animals has survived a number of threats. An ACT election in 1995 gave a working majority to the Liberal Party, which had opposed the original circus ban, in alliance with an Independent who was vocal about his desire to repeal the ban. Quick and concerted action by ALACT and the RSPCA ensured that the ban survived.
In 2000 the circus and rodeo ban survived a Competition Policy Review of the ACT’s Animal Welfare Act. Circuses with exotic animals visit Queanbeyan, a NSW town just over the border. ALACT regularly protests against these circuses. ALACT also monitors rodeos that take place in surrounding NSW towns.
Other actions by ALACT in the 1980s and 1990s relating to the use of animals in entertainment focused on the two ACT zoos both of which have now closed down. More recently, our concerns have turned to the increasing number of exotic wild animals being kept at the National Zoo and Aquarium.
In the early 1990s ALACT began campaigning for the compulsory desexing of companion dogs and cats. After 10 years of public education and working with government, it became compulsory in the ACT to desex dogs and cats through the passage of the Domestic Animals Act 2000 (ACT).
The Domestic Animals Act is in general a much more enlightened and humane piece of legislation than any similar legislation passed in other Australian jurisdictions, especially in regard to cats.
A number of excellent amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT) were also passed as part of the domestic animals package, including a ban on tail docking of dogs by anyone other than a veterinarian and for anything other than therapeutic purposes.
In the mid 1990s ALACT began a number of projects, the purpose of which was to reduce the number of dogs and cats being surrendered to the ACT Dog Pound and the RSPCA refuge. We began compiling a register of people willing to provide foster homes for dogs and cats. We came to an arrangement with the ACT Dog Pound in which we tried to set up a lost-and-found register so that lost dogs who were being fostered by members of the public could be located by their humans through the Pound (without having to be impounded). And we assisted the Pound personnel in contacting owners they had been unable to contact (the Pound staff were only able to phone the “owners” during working hours).
None of these projects was very successful, and it now seems this was only because they were just a few years premature. The more recent widespread availability of email networks and the ACT Dog Pound’s own efforts to go on line with lost and found lists, impounded dogs lists (including photos), and “dogs wanted” lists, as well as a swag of other important information for companion animal keepers, has turned the whole horrific situation for lost and unwanted dogs in the ACT right around. The number of dogs being killed at the Pound has been massively reduced. A dedicated group of ALACT members work closely with the Pound to foster and re-home many dogs who would, under the old system, almost certainly have been killed.
Throughout the last ten years ALACT has also participated, through the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee set up under the Animal Welfare Act 1992, in the development of various Codes of Practice. The standard of care required by these Codes should help to prevent some unnecessary suffering among companion animals.
ALACT protesting against animals in pet shops, 2009
Wild native animals
From 1988 to 1994 we campaigned to against recreational duck shooting in NSW (it is prohibited in the ACT). ALACT sent teams to rescue water birds during the duck season opening weekend until in 1994 when the barbaric practice was banned in NSW. ALACT took small teams of people each year to wetlands where large numbers of birds were known to be killed.
In 1998, joining forces with rescuers from Albury-Wodonga and northern Victoria, we saved birds and hindered shooters on Lake Hume. In 1989, we did the same but also covered the urban wetlands of Horseshoe Lagoon in Albury, where we successfully prevented the slaughter of hundreds of birds. In 1990, we returned to the Hume but in 1991 we carried out a very successful rescue at Lake Urana in Southern NSW. In 1992 we joined the NSW team at Barren Box. In 1993 and 1994, we returned to the Hume.
During these expeditions we rescued a substantial number of wounded waterbirds. Many of these had to be euthanised but at least they were spared the alternative of dying slowly of their wounds. We also saved many birds just by being there – shooters spent more time abusing us and talking to each other about us than shooting birds.
ALACT assisted the ACT Wildlife Foundation in its successful campaign for the sterilisation and translocation of kangaroos from Government House in 1992, where their population was considered to have grown too large. We were, however, less successful in our attempts to prevent the slaughter of kangaroos at the Royal Canberra Golf Course, next door to Government House, two years later. Intensive lobbying, a survey of ACT kangaroo populations which showed that kangaroo numbers were down elsewhere in the ACT, numerous NSW property owners offering to take the kangaroos, a fierce media campaign and a month of 4am vigils at the Golf Course in December 1994 were all ignored by the ACT Government. Eventually the Golf Club allowed the kangaroos to be killed while we were not there and without the RSPCA being present as was required by their licence. This resulted in the cancellation of their licence some 50 kangaroos short of the number they had originally been given permission to kill (120).
Through the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, ALACT has participated in development of a Code of Practice and a government Policy on the care of orphaned and injured native wildlife in the ACT. In many respects it is a comprehensive code which may help prevent a great deal of unnecessary suffering among orphaned and injured native animals.
One significant achievement for wild animals in the ACT is that the steel jaw trap was banned under the Animal Welfare Act in 1992.
In the early 1990s ALACT undertook colourful winter protests outside the few ACT shops that still sold fur. While most shops have ceased selling fur in the ACT, every now and then we have to revive the protests when this barbaric and cruel animal product is spotted in a shop window.
ALACT campaigned against the 1996 release of the rabbit calicivirus disease in Australia, and actively blockaded the proposed ACT release site on the proposed day of release. Unfortunately, the infected rabbits were simply released at an alternative site.
ALACT has campaigned against the use of 1080 poison in the ACT and in southern NSW for a number of animals including foxes, feral dogs and dingoes. In 2003 we campaigned against the shooting of brumbies in Namadgi National Park and instead advocated their humane capture and removal.