Activism out of control

Maybe they’ve been protecting another kind of species, like a queen bee?

TENSIONS between extreme animal rights activists and frustrated piggery owners near Young in south-eastern NSW are fast escalating towards an ugly head-on collision.

Whether that inevitable crash takes place in a court room or a back paddock remains to be seen.

The public battle zone intensified this week when Animal Liberation NSW and ACT released inflammatory video footage obtained from repeated covert operations targeted at one Young property earlier this year.

The vision shows some practices considered unacceptable, which the owner admits to.

But the video largely aims to prosecute another trial by media conviction against hard working farmers, in the absence of expert commentary and facts.

“It’s probably taken them seven months to find the bad stuff and edit the video down to this,” one source said this week.

“And of course they haven’t shown any of the good things like people caring for sick piglets.”

As one observer put it, the animal rights’ group’s accompanying media statement contained “very personal and targeted language” directed at piggery owner Edwina Beveridge.

“It just keeps getting uglier,” another source said.

Among the statement’s inflammatory claims, it said video footage taken by hand-held and hidden cameras appeared to show evidence of forceful artificial insemination in a “rape shed”.

Typically, the activists failed to explain why, if they felt the “rape shed” and vision was so shocking and severe, they took so long to take real action or release these images publicly.

Maybe they’ve been protecting another kind of species, like a queen bee?

After discovering six hidden cameras at her piggery earlier this year, Ms Beveridge claimed to feel personally violated and terrified by the incidents.

The young mum and wife now believes animal activists have illegally entered her property at least eight times to try and find fault, while other piggeries have been targeted in similar attacks in the region.

But rather than believing the issue is over now and her family’s life can return to normal, she remains terrified by an enemy determined to operate in the dead of night and remain at arm’s length from legal scrutiny.

Believing the best way to catch the activists is red-handed due to largely futile laws, Ms Beveridge tried to invoke a citizen’s arrest after discovering the hidden cameras in April.

She set a trap and the alarm bells sounded on May 12 at about 12.50am, when the activists were disrupted in the process of breaking into the shed.

Ms Beveridge said she called the police first but before the law could arrive, a contingent of about eight volunteers from the piggery spent about fur hours searching valiantly for the intruders.

In contrast, the activists claim they were hunted by the volunteers after they innocently came to investigate conditions at Ms Beveridge’s piggery, in the middle of the night – like Mary Poppins stumbling on the Midnight Rambler.

Their car was parked about one kilometre from the piggery sheds and had its windows smashed and tyres slashed.

Despite the hive of angry activity, no eventual charges were laid over any of the trespasses or damage due to lack of sufficient evidence, to gain a conviction.

The activists claimed to know nothing about the hidden cameras at the time - but they’re now squealing about animal cruelty based on vision obtained in covert operations.

Nearing her wit’s end, Ms Beveridge has since sought an apprehended violence order against Animal Liberation NSW executive director Mark Pearson.

In addition, her industry body has tried other legal avenues to shut down the activist’s anti-pig farming website and launched a counter-information campaign using their own media production skills and internet publishing.

In response to the AVO application, Mr Pearson claims he’s never seen Ms Beveridge or stepped foot on her property - but he certainly claimed intimate knowledge of her business practices in this week’s media statement.

“Ms Beveridge has proven here the sort of violence she feels is acceptable, while trying desperately to prevent this footage from reaching the Australian public,” he said.

Regardless of their apparent good intentions, these butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mou ths activists are surely placing themselves at greater risk of encountering personal harm with each late night visit, especially given the frustrations of farmers like the Beveridges, who feel the law is failing to protect them from these repeated attacks.

Industry members and politicians are growing more and more concerned but they also say a huge legal gap exists around this type of animal activism, to protect farmers properly.

If they’re ever caught, offenders are slapped with light penalties for any subsequent trespass convictions after lengthy and costly legal battles.

In the meantime, the damage inflicted on industry and individual farmers’ reputations using illegally obtained video footage far outweighs any subsequent, belated penalty.

Terrorism laws sit at the other end of the scale, which are generally considered too harsh and extreme for this activity.

Claims that some politicians are considering 'ag-gag' laws, like those introduced in several US states to try and get illegally obtained video footage handed over to proper regulators without unnecessary delays, have also been met with disapproval by animal activists.

Some have signalled they’ll merely unleash more weapons, like remote controlled drones carrying high definition video cameras, to patrol farmers’ properties or livestock feedlots, if tougher laws are enacted.

So where and how does it all end?

Given the lack of legal protection and ever expanding moral badgering and frustration farmers are suffering at the hands of determined animal activists, one can only imagine what could happen if a midnight confrontation or attempted citizen’s arrest went horribly wrong, in a back paddock somewhere.

And one can only imagine how that same scene would unfold, if animal activists decided to venture about 250kms west of Young to a little town called Griffith, to prosecute their high moral internet, media, farming campaigns on some of the more hands-on farmers, in that particular region.

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9/11/2013 4:43:19 PM

The IQ of these goody-goody two shoes animal activists must be down around room temperature if they think they can continuously keep goading farmers like they have been doing over the last couple of years. Those who want to break into farms illegally should remember that most farmers have some form of earthmoving equipment and if goaded sufficiently will use it at 2.00 AM. No one wants to see a scenario like that, so it would be smart for the activists to stay legal and don't push the issue to break point.
9/11/2013 8:01:45 PM

Surveillance without a warrant or permission from the owner is a criminal offence
10/11/2013 1:10:39 PM

It is absolutely disgusting that these activists are free to keep trespassing on private property without any reprimand. Be funny if they run into a big guard dog in the piggery sheds.
10/11/2013 8:08:50 PM

get a restaining order as no one from any gov dept will help you
11/11/2013 11:10:35 AM

It's funny that anyone should question the iq of activists as they continue to outsmart these redneck farmers time and time again. They will not stop until every single piggery has been shut down so you'd better get used to it! They are doing what's right, farmers are doing the wrong thing. It's as simple as that. If you cannot see that then there is something seriously wrong with you
11/11/2013 11:47:04 AM

Why don't farmers invite the activists on to film a day in the normal operation of the property. If there is nothing to hide why not open the farm door. Why don't the farmers embrace openness and show the reality of what they do. Industry produced videos of piglets running around bales of straw are obviously a distortion, so instead of trying to shut down debate why don't farmers embrace transparency? If animal cruelty happens "every now and then", why don't owners report their employees to the RSPCA for prosecution? I have never heard of this happening... Why?
Bill Pounder
11/11/2013 12:43:35 PM

Never heard of the RSPCA following this one through. Maybe mates get treated differently when they punch and hit horses, in public, on film. /police-builders-clash-on-cbd-pic ket-line-20120828-24x5z.html
11/11/2013 12:49:11 PM

David running around at night , covert like, with the SWAt or Mission Impossible themes in their heads is so much more HARD-CORE.It might be just too pedestrian for the zealots to be invited through the front door.And who could stand the sermonizing ? Govegan as the average working person needs sleep & the unemployable don't not surprised they got away on foot.Have they got a good supply of getaway cars? Is it all farmers doing wrong because your some sort of voodoo nutter who can look into the hearts men & see what darkness dwells there?
11/11/2013 2:13:07 PM

If the farmers aren't doing anything wrong then they shouldn't have anything to hide
11/11/2013 2:26:21 PM

I am glad there are animal activists. ,Some of the cruelty inflicted on animals in intensive farming and live export is disgraceful. By all means show people the truth about farming .If farmers have nothing to hide- why worry .
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Canberra CommentFairfax Agricultural Media Canberra correspondent Colin Bettles tackles the big national rural and agricultural issues which will impact regional and rural Australians.


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