OPINION Sophie Baldwin It’s not just cruel, it’s un-Australian

By Riverine Herald

IN MY job as a journalist it is my duty to remain open minded on anything I report and it is a standard I have always worked hard to uphold.

But this time I admit I am truly struggling to find middle ground when it comes to the Barmah brumbies.

How can it ever be OK to sit by and let an innocent animal, or any animal for that matter, suffer in such a cruel and inhumane way?

As a former dairy farmer if I had let my cows starve to death I would be prosecuted. And I should have been.

If I left the bodies to rot where they fell, the EPA would have been called in and I am sure I would have been prosecuted. And I should have been.

Cows have four legs and so do horses.

They both have a beating heart and an ability to feel pain; so what is the difference?

How can it ever be OK for a government department to hide behind an outdated law and deliberately let an animal starve to death?

It is un-Australian but worse, it is deliberately and maliciously cruel.

I have seen these starving brumbies, mostly mares with foals at foot, with my own eyes.

I have also seen the dedication and determination of the locals as they battle to save their beloved brumbies.

Pensioners such as Kaye and Gerry Moor are spending $100 a week on petrol as they patrol the park looking for suffering animals.

They have sat and waited, sometimes for hours, for someone from Parks to come along and fire the final shot to put these animals out of their misery.

They have heard the heartbreaking cries of foals for their dead mothers, and mothers calling for their dead foals.

They have spent hours untangling foals from unmaintained and falling down fences and to date have saved six foals and sent them away to the rescue service Hoofs2010.

And they have been feeding the brumbies in land adjacent to the park.

Their compassion is something of which all Australians should be proud.

The debate as to whether or not the brumbies should be in the National Park is for another time, the reality of the situation is Barmah has been their home for 180 years.

These horses are part of our heritage, part of the fabric that is Australia – they carried our soldiers into war and were invaluable in helping build much of our early infrastructure which has helped us to feed the nation.

In the context of modern Australia 180 years is a bloody long time.

Parks Victoria has done more damage to the Barmah National Park in the short period they have been managing it than the brumbies have done in two centuries.

No more sustainable logging, no more sustainable grazing, the Moira grasslands have significantly reduced in size and giant rushes and red gum seedlings are encroaching, not to mention the fire burden on the forest floor.

And please don’t get me started on flooding the bush, while our farming land turns into a dust bowl.

Is this seriously the direction in which we want our once proud, profitable and practical country to head?

Parks Victoria hides behind its bureaucratic claptrap refusing to answer specific questions, the RSPCA hides behind its bureaucratic claptrap and the debate drags on.

And every day it does more horses are suffering; and dying.

Everyone is consulting everyone else and getting nowhere – happy to be tied up in red tape and the ‘processes of government’ while the small but dedicated band of Barmah locals who refuse to be bullied into submission are going about their job.

Just not so quietly anymore.