Ecosystem decline and the devastating impact of animal exploitation activities

Here are some key points from the writer’s submission to an inquiry by the parliament of Victoria, Australia into ecosystem decline. You can check out the submission by clicking on the image.

A summary of the submission can be found in the following presentation. An abbreviated version was used in a committee hearing on 11 May 2021.


Governments, industry and the community may be oblivious to, or seek to ignore, the adverse impacts on ecosystems of animal exploitation activities. This may be due to factors such as: (a) entrenched belief systems; (b) strong links between the farmed animal sector and environmental groups; (c) political pressure; and (d) sophisticated marketing and public relations activities of those seeking to profit from such activities.

Animal-based foods are a grossly and inherently inefficient source of nutrition. That inefficiency causes the current food system to utilise far more resources, including land, than would otherwise be required.

Land clearing is an obvious threat to ecosystems and has formally been recognised as such under the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s listing of key threatening processes.

Around 66 per cent of Victoria’s native vegetation has been cleared since Europeans arrived, much of it for animal agriculture. In percentage terms, it makes Victoria Australia’s most heavily cleared state.

We are facing a climate emergency that requires an emergency response. We will not overcome the emergency without implementing all available measures, including a general transition away from animals as a food source.

The climate emergency is dramatically affecting the natural environment and the animals who inhabit it.

The Australian farmed animal sector uses sophisticated marketing and public relations techniques in an effort to gain support on environmental grounds and to overcome negative perceptions of its dramatic impacts. It is essential to see the reality and ignore the marketing spin.

Species such as brown trout and certain pasture grasses have been introduced with devastating consequences.

Critically important marine ecosystems are being decimated by the combined effects of climate change and the loss of predator species that would normally control other species such as sea urchins, which remove kelp forests and seagrass meadows.

Logging is a form of animal exploitation in that it utilises animal habitat for financial gain. In Victoria, it has adversely affected the habitat of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, the vulnerable greater glider, and others.

Time is running out to retain a habitable planet. Loss and fragmentation of habitat are almost impossible to reverse in a time frame that is meaningful to the survival of threatened species. It is critically important to retain what remains.


Paul Mahony


The presentation was added on 1 August 2021.

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