Voices for the animals …. Hugo Weaving, Ondine and Brian Sherman. Photo: Voiceless
Herald columnist Paul Sheehan received two honourable mentions at an awards ceremony by animal-protection group Voiceless last night.
The inaugural Voiceless Media Prize, sponsored by novelist Bryce Courtenay and his partner Christine Gee, was won by ABC TV reporter Airlie Ward for Pig Cruelty, which appeared on Stateline, Tasmania.
The ceremony, held at The Mint in Sydney, was attended by many high profile identities, including lawyers, politicians, authors and journalists.
Among those present were authors Courtenay and Jeffrey Masson, Justice Ruth McColl and MPs Lee Rhiannon, Pru Goward and Peter Debnam.
Justice McColl launched Voiceless’s new publication, The Animal Law Toolkit, a practical and educational resource for law students, legal practitioners, academics and animal advocates wanting to get involved in the animal law movement.
Voiceless’s ambassador, Hugo Weaving, with co-founders and managing directors Brian and Ondine Sherman, announced and presented a series of grants awards.
Thirteen animal protection groups, universities and local councils received grants ranging from $2500 to $25,000 for their work in animal protection. The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia won the $10,000 People’s Choice Award for its project, Voices for the Voiceless, a series of 60-second radio segments about how people can get involved with animal protection.
ARIA nominated singer-songwriter Holly Throsby gave a performance on guitar and Masson read from his new book, The Face on your Plate.
Weaving said the two main avenues for promoting animal protection were changes in the law and expression through the media.
"Decisions can be made and the law can be talked about, but then obviously the media plays an enormous role in getting that information out," he said.
There were more than 65 entries for the media award.
Brian Sherman said in a speech: "Journalists work for the animals on the front line of the Australian community, raising awareness and lifting the veil of secrecy on issues that would otherwise go unnoticed. I am very excited that we have created this prize to specifically acknowledge and reward the important role of the media in animal protection. I hope that this prize, together with the strong growing community sentiment about animal protection, will ensure that there is greater media coverage of important animal issues."
Competition judge Emeritus Professor David Weisbrot AM was impressed with the diversity of issues covered.
The stories ranged from the soft and cuddly "new animal at the zoo" pieces to "disturbing images and stories about the maltreatment of animals" of which he said he needed to take a walk afterwards.
The judging panel included 2003 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature J.M. Coetzee, former NSW premier Bob Carr, Professor Weisbrot, who is also president of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and Voiceless managing directors Brian Sherman and Ondine Sherman.
The prize recognises journalism which is "the most intelligent, insightful and effective story addressing animal protection in Australia".
Pig Cruelty, an expose of the treatment on a Tasmanian pig farm, generated outrage. It forced Woolworths to revise purchasing practices and resulted in a cruelty conviction for the farm owner.
Sheehan was honoured for two stories "Hey, roo blue – the tale of a larrikin", published online as "The extraordinary life of a roo called Myrtle" and "A Bloody Mob of Hypocrites", which appeared in the Herald.
The former explored the relationship between kangaroos and humans contributing to greater understanding of these sentient being; the latter furthered debate on the treatment of kangaroos in Australia.
The Herald’s Erik Jensen was shortlisted for his exclusive story about the sale if an endangered antelope by Dubbo Zoo to a hunter intending to establish a game reserve. The piece resulted in then minister for the environment Carmel Tebbutt implementing a ban on animal sales at NSW zoos.
Also short-listed were The Sun-Herald’s Kate Dennehy for two pieces on rodeos, blogger Paula Goodyer on the double standards in public attitudes towards animal welfare and Sun-Herald columnist Simon Webster’s Cow uses gorilla tactics and Chook ad ban a bit crook.
The ABC’s Jennifer Byrne was master of ceremonies.