Media Release: Vets call on governments to put animal welfare ahead of fossil fuel interests in Beetaloo Basin

Veterinarians and other health professionals are heading to Canberra to call on the government to withdraw support for a massive new gas field in the Northern Territory. The project in the Beetaloo Basin and the Middle Arm Precinct in Darwin for processing the gas will obstruct Australia's progress to Net Zero and hinder global efforts to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Dr Samantha Phelan, a veterinarian based in Katherine says: “The Northern Territory is highly vulnerable to climate change. We already see many animal deaths each year due to heat stress. Birds can drop from the sky during heatwaves.”

“I regularly drive across the beautiful semi-arid savanna landscapes of the Northern Territory, and water really is life. The flow of underground ‘Beetaloo’ water supports rivers, springs, large waterholes and sacred sites locally, but also hundreds of kilometers away. The region is home to 353 vertebrate fauna, 691 invertebrate fauna and 1818 plant species. Fifteen species of fauna are listed as threatened (either critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable) in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. They may all be harmed or become extinct directly by fracking.”

“The ‘Beetaloo’ country is also valued for cattle production. Research in the US found serious evidence of harm to domestic livestock from shale gas drilling waste contamination, including cattle deaths, stillbirths and reproductive problems.”

Dr Helen Scott-Orr AM PSM, Vets for Climate Action board director, says: “If we continue to mine and burn fossil fuels, temperatures will continue to rise. More severe and extended heatwaves will damage pastures and water sources, putting livestock at risk and reducing food production. Our dogs and other pets will suffer heat stress, burn their feet on hot pavements, and risk death from exercise or being shut in vehicles.”

“Scientists predict more severe weather events, all of them causing losses in our animals. An estimated 625,000 head of cattle were killed in widespread floods in the north in 2019. Nearly 3 million wildlife were killed or displaced in the bushfires of 2019-20.”

Veterinarians will join other health professionals outside Parliament House in Canberra at 8am on 8 August 2023.

We urge government leaders in Australia to develop strong emission reduction programs that align with climate science, and to have the moral strength to withstand pressure from international fossil fuel companies, whether gas, oil or coal. 

For further information on VfCA, or interviews with Dr Phelan or Dr Helen Scott-Orr, please contact:

Steff Goldring, Acting CEO
[email protected]


Dr Helen Scott-Orr AM PSM is a former Chief Veterinary Office of NSW and former Commonwealth Inspector-General of Biosecurity.