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.”