An animal rights activist who has been heavily criticised for her comments about the ongoing mice plague has responded to the backlash.
When approached by a journalist earlier this week, Aleesha Naxakis, a media officer for PETA, reaffirmed the organisation’s stance that catch and release programs are the best way to deal with such pests.
Her comments, have since drawn sharp responses from numerous people, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said the plea to save the rodents’ lives was “pretty dopey’.
Ms Naxakis told Yahoo News Australia that her comments have been misconstrued in headlines and has spoken out to “make PETA’s stance very clear”.
“Clearly we understand what’s going to happen to these mice and what is already happening and what needs to happen to resolve this issue,” she said.
“They shouldn’t be left to run around and destroy crops at the detriment of the mental health and lives of farmers.”
Ms Naxakis said the mice “are really simply trying to eat” and that farmers had been begging for the government for help since the issue arose last year.
“The government should have taken more humane population control methods - like catch and release and contraception programs - and put them into place a lot sooner before the situation escalated to what it is now,” she said.
Ms Naxakis admitted that a catch and release program no longer applies to the current mice plague because the situation is “so dire”.
With that option realistically off the table, the PETA spokeswoman said if a lethal response is deemed necessary that “it’s only ethical to do so as painless as possible”.
“We are not anti-farmer, we sympathise with the farmers and the people who live in these rural areas,” Ms Naxakis said.
“We truly believe that the government is responsible for finding better and more humane long-term solutions for the farmers and the mice.”
The government is currently seeking urgent approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for approval to use bromadiolone - a new poison outlawed in Australia that's guaranteed to kill rodents within 24 hours.
PM calls PETA plea ‘pretty dopey’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was hard to witness "the devastation and heartbreak" recently experienced by NSW farmers.
"It's just one thing after another ... and apart from the comments being very insensitive to the plight of those farmers ... it's pretty dopey," he said.
Last week, the NSW government responded to farmers' pleas for help with a $50 million relief package that includes rebates and a promise to chemically treat grain to protect against the vermin.
NSW Farmers Association say they're relieved the government has finally recognised the plague is a crisis.
"Communities are at their wits' end," President James Jackson said, with the huge financial losses and stress caused building on the impacts of drought, bushfires and the pandemic.
Mr Jackson said the announcement of the package is only a first step - farmers need more.
The rollout of the financial aid and toxic bait must be smooth and timely, he said, and the government must also consider reimbursing some farmers who have already drained their coffers to buy bait.
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