Activist's home raided for farm footage

12 Jun, 2015 02:45 PM
The fact that the industry is so angry tells me that I must be doing something right

ANIMAL rights activist Chris Delforce’s Adelaide home has been raided during a joint NSW and South Australian police investigation into video footage of intensive farming practices, obtained via trespass at rural piggeries.

Police confirmed a large quantity of camera equipment and other items were seized by investigators during the operation.

Strike Force Schubach, led by the Cootamundra Local Area Command with assistance from neighbouring commands, also executed a search warrant at a home in the Sydney suburb of Ryde this week, as well as Mr Delforce's home.

A spokesperson from NSW Police said inquiries were continuing in relation to activities at pig farms across the State in recent years.

“Police have been investigating the alleged incidents, including intensive farming sheds being broken into and recording devices placed inside,” the statement said.

Mr Delforce was contacted but did not respond by deadline.

An internet petitioncalling for an "end to harassment by police (of Chris Delforce)" was launched on global activist networking website Care2 after news of the police raid surfaced on social media yesterday.

A post allegedly from the animal rights campaigner’s Facebook page and re-posted by a supporter said, “Today a search warrant was executed on my home by NSW & SA Police in relation to the publication of footage of animal cruelty taken from a number of intensive pig farms across NSW”.

“My phone and computers were taken. I will not be contactable for the foreseeable future,” the post said.

The petition, which had gathered about 750 signatures by 4pm on Friday, noted Mr Delforce was an award-winning director of the documentary Lucent and said he was “not a criminal”.

“He is a compassionate, caring member of our society,” the petition said.

“Police should spend their time chasing actual criminals, not animal-loving citizens. People that care for the wellbeing of animals are heroes not criminals.”

Australian Pork Limited declined to comment on the issue saying it was a matter for police investigation.

Mr Delforce’s documentary, screened late last year, claimed to explore “the darker side of Australia's pig farming industry through a combination of hand-held and hidden camera footage, highlighting the day-to-day cruelty accepted by the industry as standard practice”.

In an interview with Fairfax last July, Mr Delforce said he was an ACT-based web designer who exposed animal cruelty concerns, via his Aussie Farms website.

The Aussie Farms website calls for various piggeries to be closed down, including Blantyre Farms near Young in NSW where hidden cameras were detected by the owners, in the false ceiling of a furrowing house in 2013.

The piggery owner’s discovery resulted in a detailed police report, alleging at least three separate trespass incidents, around the placement and monitoring of the hidden camera equipment over several weeks.

A subsequent investigation by Young police included an incident shortly after midnight on May 12, 2013, when activists were confronted on the property by staff, resulting in an unsuccessful pursuit. The activists’ vehicle was also severely damaged during the incident.

At the time, Inspector Ashley Holmes of Young Police Station said two individuals from Animal Liberation were questioned over the incident.

“We have a great deal of suspicion but the necessary proof to lay charges and prove a case in court is lacking at this time,” he said.

Aussie Farms had pledged to "expose" footage from 100 piggeries throughout Australia by the end of 2014 - and by July had done so for 24 facilities in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

“The fact that the industry is so angry tells me that I must be doing something right,” Mr Delforce said last year.

“To me, and I think to most people, it’s a question of which crime is worse - animals being abused or someone jumping a fence to film it?

“If someone thinks that trespass is the worse act out of those two things, then I think there’s something wrong there.

Mr Delforce said the Blantyre Farms piggery owners “sent seven or eight men out to hunt activists in the middle of the night” and their car was also “destroyed”.

“There’s absolute genuine fear and I think at some point it’s going to happen, where a farmer is going to seriously injure or kill an activist,” he said.

“If you happen to be walking through your sheds because you heard a weird noise and you don’t know what it is, and suddenly there’s this dark figure standing there and you freak out, and you happen to have a gun and shoot him, maybe in that situation it’s not as black-and-white.

“But if you know there are activists in your property and in your sheds and you go in there with the intent to harm them, I think that’s entirely different to a spontaneous act of self-defence.”

Mr Delforce said the trespassing activists were unarmed because “the whole point of animal activism is non-violence”.

“No-one’s going onto these farmers with guns or knives or anything like that; they’re not going anywhere near the homes of these farmers,” he said.

“We can’t promote a message of non-violence if we’re going around bashing up farmers.

“No activist has any interest in the homes or the personal lives of these farmers - they just want to show what happens inside these massive sheds.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


12/06/2015 3:51:15 PM

If there is footage of genuine animal cruelty and not just routine management practices, the question needs to be asked why it has not been passed on to the relevant authorities to investigate and take action? If it is present and he is keeping it to further his extreme agenda, is he, himself not using the abuse of animals for personal gain?
12/06/2015 4:23:56 PM

Dear Makka, it's the "routine management practices" that ARE "genuine animal cruelty". That's the whole problem and also why the industry is so nervous about the public getting to see some of it. Animal agriculture in itself is cruel and unnecessary.
Shane Ervine
12/06/2015 6:10:12 PM

The only 'extreme' agenda would be the anima exploiters who enslave, imprison, exploit and slaughter innocent animals and treat them as commodities. The only 'personal gain' is from the side of the exploiter, not the person highlighting the cruelty and exploitation.
Amoeba Cheung
12/06/2015 7:44:37 PM

“Police should spend their time chasing actual criminals, not animal-loving citizens. People that care for the wellbeing of animals are heroes not criminals.”
12/06/2015 10:25:15 PM

Good comment Makka...the footage of animal cruelty normally captured doesn't always lead to prosecutions but is then used to inform consumers of how their meat is produced so people can make a choice as to whether they want to support these practices by buying the meat. The police don't always act on complaints so some footage is kept to publicise those practices. Whether right or wrong there wouldn't be any footage if producers were happy to share their farm practices with consumers via CCTV or other practices. That would certainly help stop the secret filming.
12/06/2015 11:45:44 PM

This is so wrong!!!
Rohan Williams
13/06/2015 7:24:16 AM

Also implicated in this debacle is Mark Pearson, recent employee of Animal Liberation NSW and now a NSW MP representing an animal extremist party. Mark admitted to The Land that he had received footage from Blantyre Farms in August 2012 but refused to identify the source. Surely he needs to be called to account also?
13/06/2015 8:03:29 AM

This is an outrage, if indeed animal cruelty is suspected. Once again, it appears that we are protecting the criminals and not the people who expose them. How did we get to this mindset?
13/06/2015 8:16:45 AM

To answer Makka's comment. Chris Delforce's film "Lucent" explicitly states at the beginning that all footage shown in the film is of standard practices. Although it is obvious that the animals are suffering terribly, it is not "cruel" in a legal sense, and so there is no point in passing the footage on to the "relevant authorities to investigate and take action". You can see for yourself here:
13/06/2015 8:40:56 AM

Makka, the answer to that is simple: because "authorities" are generally connected to the Ag department or are influenced by the industry that's responsible for the animal abuse. Just look at Barnaby Joyce's business-as-usual approach to the thousands of atrocities that have occurred on his watch. It's absolutely clear here that local farmers groups have leaned on police to perform these raids. The industry has no interest in cleaning up its act, merely to hide it from public view.
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