ANIMAL activists invading people’s properties can expect to face tough new sanctions thanks to new farm trespass laws passed by the Federal Parliament last Friday.
The new laws were passed as a result of widespread reports of animal activists engaging in disruptive actions against farmers and businesses involved in livestock.
On November 29th last year, about 55 activists from the animal activist organisation Bear Witness Australia and Aussie Farms entered the Luv-A-Duck processing plant at Nhill to protest the unethical treatment of animals.
They stole ducks from the plant and raised their banners on the roof of the processing plant.
The police were called to the processing plant, but upon arrival the activists huddled together in a small group before running off in different directions with the ducks.
In January this year, the activist group who took part in the Luv-A-Duk raid also published a map with the contact details of farms across Australia, which it claimed showed factory farms, slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities.
This has taken a significant mental health toll on many farmers, as they have had to cope with the possibilities of losing their livestock to raids carried out by activists, as well as surveillance cameras installed on their land without their knowledge.
The Nationals Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said the Federal Nationals had driven the changes to Commonwealth law, which will introduce new offences for incitement of trespass, property damage and theft on agricultural land.
“This legislation is a huge win for farmers, their families and regional communities not only in Victoria, but Australia-wide,” Ms Kealy said.
“It sends a clear message to animal activists that violating the personal information of farmers, including the publication of their addresses to incite trespass, will not be tolerated.
“Activists will now risk imprisonment of up to five years if they are found to have breached the privacy of farmers and their families,” Ms Kealy said.
The news comes as the Victorian parliament holds public hearings across Victoria to gather evidence from farmers on how the actions of animal activists are impacting their businesses and their livelihoods.
The committee has so far received almost 500 submissions to the inquiry, with a number of these from the Wimmera region.
“It is important that local producers have the opportunity to share their experience of unlawful animal activists trespassing on their property, threatening the welfare and biosecurity of their stock, damage and theft of property and the psychological impact of these intrusions on farmers, their family and workers.
“With other states leading the way on toughening up penalties for unlawful animal activist actions, it’s disappointing that the Victorian Labor Government is dragging its feet and is now the last state to act to fix our broken trespass laws.
“If Labor won’t take action now, I hope recommendations arising from the Inquiry reflect the strong views held by locals so the Government is forced to act to tighten up laws and penalties around unlawful animal activism and protect our farmers,” Ms Kealy said.
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) President David Jochinke presented at an Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism to ask for farm trespass penalties to be strengthened to $220,000 for individuals and $400,000 for organisations, and $1,000 on-the-spot fines.
The purpose of the inquiry was to determine if current laws are effective in preventing and deterring activists from trespassing on farms.
“Earlier this year, more than 70 activists stormed the Gippy Goat Café, intimated staff, entered stock yards, and repeatedly stole livestock.” Mr Jochinke said.
“The ringleader of this group received a grand total of two $1 fines.”
Another activist was found guilty of theft but received zero penalties from the court.”
“By their own admission, activists willfully defy the law without fear of consequences,” he said.
“They continue to invade family farms and even repeatedly attack the same farm over a series of weeks.”
“Tougher laws are required because trespass on farm properties presents particular risks that do not exist in other workplaces such as risks to personal safety, animal welfare, biosecurity and public health,” he said.
“Most importantly, farm trespass is akin to home invasion.”
“Farms are not only a place of work, but are the homes of our farming families.”
“After hearing the shocking stories of farming families harassed by activists, I hope parliament will have no doubt in their minds that we need tougher laws to protect our farming families and to deter invaders,” said Mr Jochinke.