Vets respond to environment report

Veterinarians around the country are responding to the latest State of the Environment report, which paints a grim picture of our nation’s environment under extreme pressure. The report, released in July 2022, found that “[o]verall, the state and trend of the environment of Australia are poor and deteriorating as a result of increasing pressures from climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction.”

The State of the Environment report recognises Australia is not the only country facing substantial environmental challenges, citing the findings of the World Economic Forum 2020 that “the top five global risks in terms of likelihood to cause significant negative impacts within the next ten years are extreme weather, climate action failure, human environmental damage, biodiversity loss and infectious diseases.” The report also warns that failing to address and reverse environmental damage in Australia is directly linked to our own wellbeing: “Our health, living standards, cultural and spiritual fulfilment, and connection to Country are all interconnected and negatively impacted by our deteriorating environment.”

Mandated by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the State of the Environment report is an independently authored evidenced based review released every five years, assessing the changing condition Australia’s natural environment across 12 broad themes including air quality, biodiversity, climate, and extreme events. Each theme is considered in relation to current outlook, impacts, pressures, and management, with the most recent report criticising Australia’s lack of an effective management framework to address and bring about lasting environmental change. Nevertheless, the report’s authors also stated that it is possible that “[a]dequately resourced, innovative, responsive and collaborative measures will foster investment and renewed action to turn things around.”

The West Australia President of the Australian Veterinary Association, Garnett Hall, supports the report’s findings and calls for change, having witnessed the environmental pressures upon his home state. “Here in WA, Lake Argyle (a listed Ramsar wetland) recorded its lowest water level in 30 years,” he said. “The reefs along our Pilbara coast have experienced significant coral mortality due to repeated heatwaves, and the report unceremoniously confirms that Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent.”

Hall points out that extreme weather is impacting veterinary practice, with increasing numbers of injured animals being brought to veterinary clinics. “In addition, our natural ecosystems and unique wildlife are under stress from habitat loss and invasive animals and plants,” he said. “We need our politicians on all sides to cast aside their historical ideologies and focus on being good decision makers, to seek the advice of experts and then implement policies that will improve the lives of all Australians, including our animals.”

Acting on climate change requires implementing better practices across all industries and professions, which Hall believes will not only benefit the environment but will also boost the economy. “Renewable energy, clean transport, agricultural innovation and mandatory industrial improvements are essential,” he said. “If done well, these will bring Australia a regional jobs boom, help protect the reputation of our farmers, and preserve Australia’s unique natural beauty for generations.”

Deputy chair of Vets for Climate Action (VfCA), Angela Frimberger, agrees with Hall and has called on the Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, and the federal government to prioritise environmental action and protection as a matter of urgency. “The State of the Environment report now discusses climate change in the present tense: it finds there is insufficient investment and coordination for the scale of the biodiversity challenge facing Australia, and that ‘rescue’ will be costlier and riskier than protection,” Frimberger said. “Climate change compounds the pressures ecosystems are already under – from land clearing, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species – and increases pressure on native species. Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world and has recorded the first mammalian extinction specifically due to climate change, with many other species also in serious danger.”

Frimberger is also concerned about the impact of deteriorating environmental conditions on the wellbeing of veterinarians, describing the increased numbers of injured wild animals requiring treatment as a result of extreme weather events such as bushfires and floods as an animal health and welfare problem. “Veterinarians are already seeing all kinds of animals being harmed by the effects of a changing climate,” she said, “but this also adds stress for members of our profession, which is already facing a workforce and mental health crisis.”

Along with VfCA, Frimberger is calling for “strong, rapid greenhouse gas emissions reductions” in the next decade to protect biodiversity and ensure the health of our country’s ecosystems. “This means ending new coal and gas projects and enacting strong, coordinated policy and laws to reduce emissions,” she said. “We know what is causing climate change, and there are solutions. This is a challenge, but with resolution, it is possible.”

Garnett Hall agrees. “We need to focus on reducing all pollution, including carbon emissions,” he said. “Reducing passive waste and eliminating tolerance of inefficient systems are excellent starting points. We already understand how this should be done and need to act to implement these solutions.”

If you would like to support Vets for Climate Change, please get in contact via their website.

The State of the Environment report can be accessed in full at


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